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South Africa now has their first female Contiki Trip Manager, meet Melissa Walton!

At Contiki, we’re proud to say that 65% of our Europe Trip Managers are women, and they are leading travellers from all over the world on their amazing trips! However, travel in other parts of the world is still a male dominated industry, so numbers are slightly lower there. But, recently, Contiki’s South Africa division recruited their first female Trip Manager! 

So, in honour of that, and in honour of International Women’s Day, we’re highlighting Melissa Walton and her passion for travelling and sharing the world with other curious globe-trotters. 

How long have you been a Contiki Trip Manager for?

“I started as a Contiki trip manager in March 2023, so I am just approaching my first year.” 

How did you hear about the job and why did you want to do it?

“My parents gifted me a Contiki trip for my 21st Birthday as I really wanted to go to Europe. When I was looking on the Contiki website and saw the career tab on the bottom and clicked on it, and when I read the description of a Trip Manager, I knew I had to apply!”

“So, instead of going on the trip, I applied for the job, and then a few months later I was in Europe. I then moved over to the South African branch as I have a huge love for nature and my country!”

safari travellers on Contiki

Image source:Melissa Walton

What excites you most about travel?

“I am a huge foodie so I would have to say trying the food is definitely on the top of my list especially when it comes to Italy with the pasta and pizza! Otherwise, it is definitely ticking off those bucket list places. There is something magical about going to a place that you have seen on TV or heard about and then finally getting to experience it yourself.” 

Do you enjoy meeting new people and having new experiences?

“Yes, I love it! I also love experiencing the different dynamics of each group and every group is never the same making the job extremely fulfilling and exciting!”

What do you think the most important aspect of your job as a Trip Manager is?

“Definitely being able to think on your feet. No matter how many times you’ve done a trip there is always something new that will be thrown your way. Sometimes you really must come up with the weirdest or most out of the box plans and look calm when doing it (while really you are stressing so much!) It’s exciting to have a job that challenges you each day, and each day is different!” 

safari travellers on Contiki

Image source:Melissa Walton

It’s my understanding that travel is a mostly male dominated industry in your region – is this true? How does that make you feel?

“It definitely is a male dominated industry. However, I feel very hopeful for the industry as it’s beginning to change extremely quickly and becoming more equal; and if it’s changing that’s all that matters! We’re seeing more female safari guides which is really encouraging to see, there are also many organisations focusing purely on empowering women in the industry. Contiki also has some extremely powerful women as our local guides who make our trips so special and impactful.” 

What would be something you’d tell other women to get them into the travel industry? How do you think women can empower each other to enter male dominated spaces?

“The travel industry is one of the most amazing industries to see places and meet new people. Not only do you get to explore the world, but you get to have a job that is different each day and helps you grow as an individual. You get to help people achieve some of their biggest dreams and get to show them something amazing and different every day. Contiki has some extremely encouraging women in the business so you never feel alone and there is always someone to help you along the way. You truly feel part of a family and they are extremely inclusive.” 

“I think women can empower each other by encouraging other women to get into the industry and discussing any difficulties they may be worried about with each other. The more women we encourage to get into the industry the faster it will change into a more equal industry.” 

safari travellers on Contiki

Image source:Melissa Walton

Had you ever been on a Contiki before?

“No, I have never been on my own Contiki before but definitely would like to be a traveller one day! I really want to go to Vietnam, so maybe I will book one there!” 

What do you enjoy most about running a trip?

“I think it’s definitely being able to see people ticking off some of their big bucket list items. There’s nothing better than watching someone lay eyes on a lion for the first time, or finally spotting the leopard we’ve all been dying to see on the safari!”  

“Since moving back home it has also been so special to show people my own country and its beauty. People often come to Africa with low expectations and it’s so lovely to be able to exceed their expectations and show them how stunning South Africa really is. It’s especially rewarding when you leave a country, and someone says they will definitely come back here!” 

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Even though women around the globe have made many strides of progress, why do you think it’s important that we continue celebrating International Women’s Day?

“I think it’s important to always look back at what you have achieved as it’s great encouragement and makes you strive for more. It’s important to carry on celebrating International Women’s Day so that women feel appreciated for the efforts they have made and the difficulties they have overcome. It is also good to continuously celebrate women so that younger generations of women can see what they can achieve and strive for.” 

safari travellers on Contiki

Image source:Melissa Walton

Is there anyone in particular that you are celebrating this International Women’s Day?

“I want to celebrate our local women guides in South Africa. These women have been in the industry for ages and have really been leaders in bringing women into the industry. For example, we have Ella who is the leader of our township tour in Knysna.” 

“Ella has managed to start her own business running township tours even though it isn’t common for women to start their own businesses in her area. She also is extremely encouraging as with the funds she makes from the township tours she takes in orphaned children and looks after them. Ella plays a fundamental role in these children’s lives and assists them in getting out of the poverty systems ensuring they are educated and well looked after. Ella has been able to take in 16 children to her safe house and changed their lives. She is certainly one of the most inspiring, kindest and most powerful women I have ever met.” 

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