Shelly Chandhok is the Country Manager Visit Indonesia Tourism Office and Director Destinations OMPL Group. She is an alumnus of Modern School, Barakhamba Road and Lady Shri Ram College for Women. Travelling has allowed her to discover who she is by giving her the opportunity to blend in and inspire herself from emulating the best in others. Over her 16 years in the tourism and destination management landscape, she has picked up a few tools and emulated a few she found useful– open-mindedness, responsibility, drive and curiosity.
In the last seven years as Country Manager Visit Indonesia Tourism Office, Shelly has attempted successfully to bring in a pan India outreach in operations. Eschewing any single responsibility, her work included maintaining key relationships for represented destination clients, managing relationships with agents, tour operators, airlines, ambassadors, the Ministry of Tourism, and the government, in addition to strategizing market plans.
She is a member of FLO, Mumbai Chapter through her organization, in addition to being a member of Skål International, a travel professionals’ organization. Shelly is also one of the founding directors of Annapurna Charitable Foundation (ACF), a foundation her family along with her set up in the hope of creating an equitable society. She has strived to work towards increasing young girls’ access to education, creating employment opportunities in the tourism sector and rebuilding lives in disaster-stricken areas.
2020 and 2021 were challenging years for the travel industry. In your opinion, how will travel trends change in 2022?
With booster programmes well underway in many parts of the world, international travel is about to become much easier as countries relax their entry requirements. Restriction free destinations are going to be the direction people will move in. There is a huge demand for luxury as there is still some uncertainty associated with travel. And all-inclusive luxury is the order of the day. Workcations, staycations and wellness have seen a huge rise. It’s all about the experience. Positive impact travel is here to stay.
At work, which is your most challenging activity and why?
Even before the current crisis, changing technologies and new ways of working were the need of the hour. The coronavirus pandemic has made this question more urgent. We’ve had to adapt to rapidly changing conditions and to match workers to new roles and activities. This dynamic is about more than remote working. It’s about how leaders can reskill and upskill the workforce to deliver the business. We have had to ‘unlearn to learn’.
How important is it for a destination to have a solid gastronomic offering?
There is a strong relationship between tourism and gastronomy. It is a popular and promising destination attribute that impacts a destination’s competitiveness. Food is significant to the tourist experience, but moreover it has become an important source of identity evolution in postmodern cultures. The integration of local gastronomy and tourism is a critical component of contemporary destination marketing strategies.
Was a career in the travel and tourism industry something you always dreamt of? What is your advice to those aspiring to work in the same industry?
Travel has always fascinated me. I find meeting different people and understanding their cultures very exciting. There’s a certain newness and freshness to each experience and I’m essentially an explorer at heart. On a lighter note, I feel I may have traveled with Vasco de Gama or Christopher Columbus to explore new routes. To sum up I would like to say, ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore’ – Andre Gide
Which cities are your favourites for: 1) food 2) history 3) fashion?
I don’t go beyond our shores for this. I’m a true blue Indian and I have a natural leaning towards all things India.
Food – Delhi and that too Purani Dilli…find me another place with such mouth-watering delicacies
History – Udaipur…so much of it. It’s an eyeful; each street and each building has a story to tell.
Fashion – Mumbai: it’s an amalgamation of all our cultures, ethnicities, styles and beyond.
What are some of the new measures your team has put into place to deal with the post-COVID-19 situation?
Risk management plans are constantly in place as this is a function of the COVID- 19 experience. It is important in the short term to pool our resources to improve planning and take concerted action to future-proof. The key question is how to ensure we offer a sustainable product while balancing the tangible need to support businesses to recover from travel stoppages. Balancing these objectives is our primary focus.
What would you do if you weren’t in the profession you are currently?
I would probably have been a baby cuddler. The experience of being around one so young, huggable and innocent is indescribable.
When are you happiest?
I’m happiest surrounded by children. I find their gurgling laughter infectious and their innocence restores my faith in the world.
What makes your current organisation stand out from other brands you’ve worked with?
While we pride ourselves in driving sales, capturing market share and establishing luxury brands with a year-on-year growth in revenue, what is most important is that we take on clients with a sustainable vision. Through our NGO, Annapurna Charitable Foundation we’re educating the girl child and rebuilding lives in disaster stricken areas. We believe this is our legacy work.
You’ve had such a successful career – what would you say has been your career highlight?
It has been a great journey, but I feel my Oscar moment is yet to come. To quote Robert Frost, ‘I have miles to go before I sleep’. We’re doing some legacy work with Annapurna Charitable Foundation in girl child education and rehabilitating families in disaster stricken areas. I definitely have a lot more to achieve…
If you had to plan a one day itinerary for guests looking to explore Bali, where would you send them?
Ubud is always at the top of the list. But just a day. It’s not even a start. There’s so much to explore with the rice fields, coffee plantations, the food experience, art and crafts. One day…I wouldn’t know where to begin.