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Meet the incredible women of Contiki inspiring inclusion this International Women’s Day

Women of Contiki

Happy International Women’s Day! This year’s theme for the day is ‘Inspire Inclusion’ and we figured what better way to do that than to shine a spotlight on the incredible women of Contiki. From the female-led MAKE TRAVEL MATTER® Experiences, to the many female travellers joining us across the globe, Contiki is a place where women can explore and excel. But none of it would be possible without the women working behind the scenes.

Did you know 63% of senior leadership positions across Contiki are held by women? They’re the ones manning our ships, leading our operations and marketing teams, heading up our customer care services, and ensuring that Contiki is always the fun time we promise it’ll be!

Here are the journeys of our female leaders within the business, and we hope you’ll find some inspiration and give them a round of applause.

international women's day

Image source:Contiki

Kelly Jackson, Managing Director EMEA for Contiki

“I joined Contiki 16 years ago, and it has been a career-defining journey of wanderlust. I am so lucky to work amongst so many phenomenal women at Contiki. We don’t just work together; we fix each other’s crowns, creating an atmosphere of mutual support, respect, and encouragement.”

“Many of us have been around for a long time, and the memories we have created bind us. As I reflect on our incredible team, many names come to the forefront – remarkable individuals who embody strength, wisdom, and each one a powerhouse in their own right. I cherish, and hold deep admiration and respect for these women.”

Kelly Jackson

Image source:Kelly Jackson

Melissa DaSilva, Contiki US President

“At our core, both as a brand and also the individuals who make up our teams, we believe that travel makes better humans. We know that travelling opens your eyes to new cultures and beliefs and helps to encourage acceptance and celebration of those different than us, but it also shows us how we are more alike than not. I think that same sense of openness is pervasive within our organisation.”

“I am extremely proud to have built a team of predominantly female leaders. More than 75% of our management team in North America is women of diverse backgrounds. We have done this by creating an environment of trust and support, where everyone on the team is encouraged to engage in robust dialogue, share their vulnerabilities so we can collectively support and improve the situation at hand, and promote a healthy work/life balance.”

“If you are invited to ‘sit at the table’, it was for a reason, so use your voice. Don’t tell people what you think they want to hear, tell them your opinion, based on your knowledge of the situation. Diverse perspectives make for a better outcome, always.”

Melissa DaSilva

Image source:Melissa DaSilva

Tasha Hayes, Operations Director and Sustainability Officer

“I started my career with Contiki as a European Trip Manager in 2012, and after three years of leading hundreds of travellers on epic European adventures, I began my journey in Operations, taking on my current role in 2019.”

“Contiki has always felt like an inclusive and diverse place to work as the brand quite literally focuses on opening the eyes of our travellers as they discover new places, cultures, languages, and food. Our Trip Managers come from different parts of the globe and bring with them a plethora of different experiences that ultimately shape who we are as a brand, which is a beautiful thing. We make it a priority to invest in diversity training so that our team develop a more inclusive mindset and approach to how they run their trips.”

“Your career journey, and life journey, is never over, so keep cultivating knowledge and holding it close to your chest. At Contiki we never want to stop learning and that’s a message we share throughout.”

Tasha Hayes

Image source:Tasha Hayes

Natasha Lawrence, Commercial and Product Development Director

“I’m lucky enough to have one of the best jobs in the world: designing incredible trips with our product teams all around the world. As a team, we live and breathe finding the new places, experiences and stays that mean our travellers discover the very best of the destinations they visit.”

“My favourite part of my job is uncovering a new partner to work with who will deliver the Contiki magic. It could be a rooftop bar in Lisbon, an overnight cruise in the fjords of New Zealand or a safari camp in the Kruger National Park in South Africa. We are out hunting and recommending all the cool stuff, so you don’t have to!”

Natasha Lawrence

Image source:Natasha Lawrence

Rachel Storey, Global Brand Director and DEI Champion

“We’re so passionate about Contiki being a place where anyone can feel at home. It’s amazing to see we have such a high number of female leaders internally, in such a dedicated team from all walks of life. But we also practise what we preach externally, which is why we have such a robust DEI strategy.”

“I’ve had an amazing adventure with Contiki for over 10 years, and now, as Contiki’s Global Brand Director and DEI Champion, I’m so proud of what we have achieved, like a win at the 2023 International Women in Travel Award – and the Pink News award in the travel category.”

“My life has been changed by all the women of Contiki – from the amazing global and CML leaders who’ve supported me, mentored me, and taught me so much, To my dedicated colleagues across ops, product, media, and marketing – all around the globe. And, above all, the female Contiki travellers who I’ve met over the years. These women’s lives have been impacted forever by Contiki and the magic of travel – just as mine has. Seeing them have these incredible experiences at such a formative stage of life is so rewarding. It keeps me motivated every day.” 

Rachel Storey

Image source:Rachel Storey

Vanessa Del Bel, Global Contiki Contact Centre Manager

“Contiki feels like a close-knit group, all working towards one common goal: bringing amazing experiences to our travellers. But the people are the main reason I love working here. We make up an inclusive and diverse group, with people from all over and different backgrounds coming together in our workplace, creating a warm and welcoming environment.”

“I believe this is reflected on our trips as well. My most inspiring Contiki trip (I’ve been on several) was the Kenyan Highlights, where most of the travellers were solo women, and we all felt safe and comfortable thanks to our Trip Manager and crew. It was great to experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip surrounded by kind and supportive women; and returning to the office where the atmosphere is much the same.”

Vanessa Del Bel

Image source:Vanessa Del Bel

Toni Ambler, Managing Director

“I’ve grown with Contiki over the last 11 years from someone in my late 20’s living it up in London and happy to be on a plane every second week to LA or Costa Rica, to now a Mum of 3 little girls, happily drinking red wine over a good book and in bed by 10pm. I think what’s special about a company like Contiki is that whilst you as an individual grow over the course of your career, this company also makes it its mission to grow with its talent.”

“What has inspired me most are the women I have been leaders of for the last decade. Their grit, determination, commitment, and above all, passion, has been what has inspired  me and what continues to inspire me. As the next generation of leaders, they have led me to change the way I lead.”

“My three little girls at home have changed my life as well, they’ve changed how I think about women in business. I want them to grow up knowing they can be and choose to do whatever they want to do in this world, and not have to worry about compromising who they are in any way at all.”

Toni Ambler

Image source:Toni Ambler

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