Tran Trong Kien, Chairman
Tran Trong Kien has been known as a pioneer in many adventure tours in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. He ran local tours to fund his medical studies before establishing his own tour operator in 1994. Over the past 25 years of establishment and development, Kien has lead his business to become Thien Minh Group – one of the biggest travel and hospitality groups in the region. Kien is also current chairman of Vietnam Tourism Advisory Board (TAB), Hue Tourism Advisory Board (HTAB), Vietnam Tour Guides Association (VTGA), trustee of Fulbright University Vietnam, Vietnam Tourism Association (VITA), board member of Vietnam Institute of Directors (VIOD), member of the Private Sector Development Research Board (IV Board) of the Advisory Council for Administrative Procedure Reform and ex-member of Asia Commercial Bank (ACB), VP Bank and Vinaland.
Sandra Leach, Founder
Company founder and Director Sandra established SLC at the end of 2002 following a successful 20-year career at Austravel that spanned the UK, Germany and USA. Sandra dreamt of a results-focussed representation agency. Bringing her unrivalled contacts, exceptional sales and marketing knowledge and an unwavering passion for travel to the table, Sandra set about building a strong, sharp and enthusiastic team who could deliver just that.
“One of the best trips of my life was to Vietnam and Cambodia in 2010. Cycling around Mai Chau was a highlight – I fell off into the rice field about 30 seconds later… I also spent a wonderful afternoon riding around some of the quieter temples of Angkor Wat – I didn’t fall off. From the age of about 8 I wanted to visit Rio de Janeiro – I finally made it in 2018 and it didn’t disappoint.”
Image: Sandra discovering Angkor Wat on horseback
Chris Farwell, Managing Director
Chris began his career in finance with PwC in Canada and Australia where he became a Canadian CPA, CA. He was previously the CFO for Buffalo Tours and is now the Managing Director for Vamos Tours. He recently joined the board as representative of SLC’s majority shareholder TMG Europe.
“I got into travel as I’ve always loved travelling and what was shared with me in my travels so I wanted to share that with the rest of the world!”
Image: Chris & Mel at Niagara Falls
Gill Davies, Business Development Manager
Gill joined SLC after starting her travel career at Flight Centre, where she sold worldwide travel and managed the opening of a new store in the heart of Camden. Managing the launch of SLC into Asia shortly after joining, Gill has been instrumental in SLC’s expansion over the last decade and became a shareholder of the business in 2012. Today she oversees our new business development as part of SLC’s senior leadership team. With a BA in Music from Cambridge University, Gill still has a love of classical music, and is most likely to be spotted on Saturdays at the Hove seafront park run having recently discovered a passion for running.
“It was a charity hitchhike to Morocco when I was 20 that first gave me a love of travel. Our 10 day adventure through France and Spain saw us spending a night in a Chateau in the Pyrenees, a day on the beach near Bilbao, and endless hours spend patiently at the side of the road waiting for our next ride! I’ll never forget the generosity of the people who helped us to make that journey.”
Image: Gill at the Taj Mahal, Agra, India
Elen Thomas, UK Market Manager
Elen’s career spans 10 years working both in-house and in agency PR roles, managing broadcast and digital campaigns for clients, before moving into her current UK Market Manager role for Tourism Western Australia. Some of Elen’s earliest memories are of travel, but it wasn’t until Australia bowled her over at 22, that she had her first taste of working in travel and loved how impassioned and everchanging the industry is.
“Some of my earliest memories are of travel, fireflies dancing through the night on Greek Islands and walks through towering landscapes in Scotland. It wasn’t until Australia bowled me over at 22, that I had my first taste of working in travel. Getting to know the stories, structures and people behind these incredible experiences on offer magnified my fascination. I love how impassioned the industry is and that it is always evolving“
Image: Elen swimming with whale sharks on the Ningaloo Reef, Western Australia
Matt McCausland, Account Director
Matt joined SLC after 17 years with STA Travel in the UK. During his time with STA, he initially headed up the Contact Centre before moving into Learning & Development. In L&D he took on a variety of roles including overseeing a robust Induction programme for all new starters & developing a Management Development Programme as well as delivering training around Presentation Skills, Coaching & Development, Overcoming Barriers to the Sale, Rapport Building & Customer Rapport. Matt then moved into Wholesale & worked with a number of clients, principally in Europe, Asia, South America & the Middle East, to distribute STA Land & Air product globally. Matt has come on board at SLC as Account Director & is really excited to focus on our client engagement & explore how we can further grow our service proposition. He is passionate about travel and is often to be found planning next year’s Summer holiday. Matt enjoys going to galleries, concerts and theatres in his spare time but his young kids are more likely to ensure he’s located in a playground at the weekend.
“I think people who work in travel can sometimes get jaded and lose sight of what drove many of us to join the industry in the first place. It’s really easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day of lead in process, flight capacity, price matching, etc, etc and forget that we work with a really exciting product that is a constant daily source of inspiration for millions of people around the world on any given day. Some of those experiences that have really stuck with me are: my 19-year-old self as a Camp Counsellor for Camp America in rural Pennsylvania, chatting to farmers at the local bar who would bring their pigs in with them…an overnight train from Jaipur to Delhi chatting to our fellow commuters and being awoken with chai tea as dawn broke over the craziness of Delhi’s Old Town…drinking Caipirinhas on Ipanema Beach watching the sunset behind Christ the Redeemer…The sights, sounds, tastes and colours are what inspires me every day to see more of the world.”
Image: Durdle Door, Dorset
Kate Bifield, Head of Destination Marketing
Kate brings over a decade of marketing and communications experience which was gained across the media, banking, government and tourism industries. She first joined SLC in 2017 on a short term contract to run the Tourism Western Australia account, she rejoined in 2019 to oversee new business marketing plans and proposals. Kate’s addiction to travel has led her to almost 100 countries, when she’s not collecting passport stamps she’s trying her hand at home renovation.
Image: Kate in the Dead Sea
Mala Mistry, Senior PR Account Manager
Mala trained as a journalist and worked across TV & radio, before making the move into PR more than 10 years ago. Since then, her PR career has spanned the travel, lifestyle and charity sectors where she has developed and delivered PR strategies as well as run campaigns for brands such as SEA LIFE London and the London Eye. Most recently Mala worked at the APT Travel Group, where her passion for travel PR really took hold, and where she was introduced to SLC through her work on the Kimberley, Western Australia project.
“I picked the travel bug after I graduated, making sure to visit two to three places a year. But the destination that really blew me away was Iceland, a lover of sunshine the appeal of a holiday in Iceland didn’t warm my soul… how wrong I was! The landscape was mind-blowing and being a foodie, I wasn’t sure what to expect of Icelandic cuisine but their fresh bakeries and seafood were delicious. A place I can’t wait to revisit.“
Image: Mala in Iceland.
Lizette Castillo-Nunez, Trade and Marketing Manager
Since childhood, I have always been very curious and passionate about exploring many different countries and discovering other cultures and ways of life. This passion led me to work in the travel industry and to become a result focused, proactive, quality driven marketing and PR professional with now over 20 years’ experience in the UK and international markets.
Highly skilled in the planning and execution of marketing campaigns, digital marketing and events. Extensive experience in nurturing partnerships with media and private and public stakeholders adhering to marketing plans.
“Coming from the longest and thinnest country in the world, Chile, I believe this naturally gave me the itch to travel from an early age, having grown up surrounded by the beautiful Andes Mountains, rivers, lakes, the Pacific Ocean as well as the driest desert in the world. Both my passion for travel and my work have allowed me to travel to many other countries including Tanzania, Jamaica, Argentina, USA, Spain, Cuba and many others.”
Image: The iconic Torres del Paine, Patagonia – Chile.
Rebecca George, Market Manager, Australia
Rebecca’s career in tourism spans almost two decades, her most recent adventure joining the SLC team in 2020.
In 2002 Rebecca completed a Bachelor of Business in Tourism Management and International Studied at UTS in Sydney. Since then, she has worked in sales and marketing roles for a number of tourism products. More recently, she moved into representation. Like most of us, she’s passionate about tourism and driven to achieve results for her clients.
“I caught the travel bug on my first trip overseas when I was 17, for the next ten years, I would work hard, but save harder for my next adventure. After having children, personal travel was not as frequent (flights are expensive with four children), but I’ve always got a trip on the horizon. I often have to pinch myself when I travel for work – we’re so lucky to be able to travel to such incredible places and call it work! I couldn’t imagine being in any other industry.“
Image: Rebecca and her family at Park Güell in Barcelona.
Vanessa Rengger, Market Manager, Australia
With a passion for the tourism and travel industry, Vanessa joined SLC in January 2021 bringing over 20 years’ experience in achieving successful outcomes across multiple industries. Known as a strategic thinker, Vanessa has highly developed communication skills, and most importantly is a natural relationship builder. Her tourism career started in Cairns, Tropical North Queensland leading her to travel south and take on a national sales role with Accor Hotels. It was Vanessa’s 7.5-year tenure with the world’s first fully fashion branded hotel, Palazzo Versace, Gold Coast that solidified her career. In more recent years, Vanessa has been contracting to InterContinental Hotel Group, Supporting the sales and marketing team on projects to highlight the re-opening of Hayman Island Resort. Vanessa loves to travel with her family and as soon as a safe ‘travel bubble’ opens, they will be back to experience a part of Asian they have not seen before.
“Lucky for me, it was my first job in the Tourism Industry that gave me the opportunity to experience other countries and cultures which developed my love for travel. I became hungry to explore parts of the world I had not seen before and found a deep love and connection for Asia, in particular Vietnam. My first visit was in 2005, my honeymoon, and my husband and I spent six fabulous weeks travelling around Vietnam, vowing one day we would bring our children back to experience this alluring South East Asian country. We fulfilled our promise in 2014!“
Image: Vanessa & Family – 2014 Ho An, Vietnam
Petra Schickling, Europe Leisure & MICE
Petra has been working in tourism since 1992 with initial focus on North and Central America and Asia. Since 2006 she has run her own representation agency working a variety of clients from Luxury hotels and resorts to destinations across Germany, Benelux, Scandinavia and finally and continental Europe.
Whilst Petra looks back fondly on the successes, she also sees the opportunities we have for our partners in the future. She remains grateful to have embarked on this path, one which she still travels with the same enthusiasm.
“My parents loved to travel and took me and my brothers at a very young age to foreign countries. I was thoroughly infected by this and loved the thrill of flying and the fascination of different cities, countryside and different cultures. The farther away one goes the better the experience used to be my opinion! Only recently I have started exploring Europe and fell in love with Ireland.“
Image: Lough Eske Castle, Co. Donegal, Ireland
Maria Popova, Account Manager
Maria joined SLC after graduating with a Tourism and Events Management degree from the University of Westminster. Throughout her years in the company, Maria has been involved in looking after a variety of projects and clients here for PATA and SLC’s Australian client portfolio. Today Maria manages the Onyx Hospitality Group account as well as Creative Travel and she also oversees a small team of employees focused on clients from Asia, Indonesia, Middle East and USA. Apart from travelling, Maria also has a passion for photography and in her spare time she likes to explore new places in and outside of London where she can practice her hobby.
“I grew up in a city in Bulgaria which was not popular for tourist visits from other countries. I was 14 years old when I first met people from another country who spoke a different language. My interest in learning new languages and different cultures around the world quickly grew and soon I became part of a Youth Development Centre where I was assisting with and taking part in various exchange programmes. I continued to develop my passion for travel through university in England with my Tourism and Events Management Degree and later work in the travel industry.”
Image: Maria in Sri Lanka
Annabelle Molina, Trade Marketing Executive, UK
Annabelle brings over eight years of experience in the international education sector creating study abroad programmes and promoting international education opportunities across Europe.
The overarching aim of Annabelle’s career has been to encourage young people to get out of their hometowns and embark on adventures abroad. She brings a wealth of experience in international events and programme management working with an array of universities and schools worldwide.
The most fulfilling part of Annabelle’s job has been to see young people changed by their experiences abroad and return home with new ideas, goals and dreams for the future.
“I was bitten by the travel bug early in life, as a child I was able to spend multiple summers with my older sibling in Manhattan, NYC which gave me a window into a world different from my own. Since then travelling has become a staple part of my life allowing me to visit an array of places.
My favourite trip was a road-trip across the Southern States of the USA, the food and hospitality blew me away and I first-hand learned the true meaning of Southern hospitality. I was inspired to travel to the South of the U.S. due to my interest in civil-rights history and desire to learn more about the American South.
My desire to work in travel stemmed from my own personal experiences travelling and the desire to encourage others to create their own memorable experiences in lands afar.”
Image: Annabelle in Austin, Texas
Joanne Lefevre, Project Manager
Jo has been working at SLC since 2009. During Jo’s year backpacking in Australia, followed by 2 months in Asia, she knew she had to make travel her day job! Having lived and breathed travel for many years Jo now spends more time dreaming about exotic getaways whilst chasing after two young daughters.
“I was inspired to work in travel after spending a year backpacking all around Australia on a work visa followed by 2 months backpacking in South East Asia. Once I returned home I knew I had to make travel my day job! “
Image: Jo on the beach in the Maldives
Ha Dinh, Accountant
Working for 4 years as an accountant in Hanoi, Vietnam, Ha came to the United Kingdom to complete her MSc of Accounting at the University of Hudderfield before joining SLC Representation as an accountant. Ha loves exploring new cities within England, going to places such as London, Oxford, Liverpool and loads more!
“Local experiences, new culture exploring and enjoying the beauty of nature inspire me to travel. If possible, doing something off the beaten track would be great for my trip ”
Image: Ha in front of St Paul’s Cathedral, London
Sayuri Hiroi, Business Development
Having studied in the USA, Sayuri began her career in the hotel industry in Vietnam working in sales roles in several international hotels and resorts. She has worked as a project lead and business development professional for a number of years, growing the sales and revenue from major accounts for her clients.
“To see new things, to understand different cultures and to meet new people is what inspires me to travel. Every destination has its own charm and history. To learn and understand it makes me richer in mind. I have friends in many different countries after studying in the U.S. and I visit them to reconnect and also see where they grew up. Travel is one of the best ways to connect people to people and inspire me in my life.“
Image: Sayuri admiring the awesome view at Castelo de Monsaraz, Portugal.
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