Olivia Lewis, Associate Vice President – Sustainability
January 13, 2021
- What is your backstory?
I have never been someone who knew what they wanted to be ‘when they grew up’. However, I’ve always loved writing and I spent most of my family holidays as a child pretending to be reporting live from location with my parents’ camcorder and wondering how I could become either a Blue Peter presenter or an author. After many attempts at trying to be awarded a Blue Peter badge, I soon realised that the chances of presenting the show were slim.
After graduating university with an events management degree which included some modules in PR, I spent a year gallivanting around South East Asia and Australia. When I returned, I fell into my first travel PR job at Explore Worldwide which was helped by the fact I’d been travelling, knew how to structure a press release and that I’d swotted up on their responsible tourism credentials. Aside from my day-to-day role there, I was a member of the Responsible Business Forum, which is where I learnt a lot about the importance of sustainability within the travel sector and was heavily involved in the company’s sustainability initiatives. I also went on a personal crusade to ban disposable coffee cups in the office after watching Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s War on Waste programme and worked with Surrey University to provide lectures to MA students on Sustainable Tourism.
In June 2017 I joined FINN (then Brighter) as an account manager and this is where I have strengthened my knowledge on sustainability, particularly through working with Intrepid and the Belize Tourism Board. It’s also where I’ve learnt to think beyond travel, and how to delve a little deeper to uncover a story and adapt it as needed for the right media. I’m really proud of the broadcast coverage I have delivered for clients, particularly over the past year – most of which has had a business or political-led angle due to the Coronavirus pandemic. Broadcast is an area I still find exciting and there’s nothing more satisfying than securing TV or radio interviews for clients.
I’ve had some amazing opportunities during my time at FINN, such as working out of our NYC office for two weeks, being shortlisted as a ‘Rising Star of Travel PR’ at The Travel Marketing Awards in 2019 and having to completely push myself out of my comfort zone by speaking on the closing panel at the influencer conference, Traverse. Sadly though, the closest I have got to getting my hands on a Blue Peter badge is working on a radio day with Michaela Strachan who said she had one in her handbag and that I could have it if I wanted. I politely declined the offer and it’s a regret I will have to live with.
- What brings you joy?
The place where I feel at my happiest and most content is when I’m skiing. I love being in the mountains and how peaceful it is. If I won the lottery, I’d head straight to The Alps and set up camp there. However, the pandemic and everything that we have dealt with over the last year has made me appreciate the little things that bring me joy, catching up with friends, spending time with family, going out for dinner, walking, and cooking my favourite meals. The various lockdowns have also meant I’ve rediscovered old hobbies – although I’m not sure me playing the same three chords over and over again on the keyboard brings my housemates that much joy.
- What does your new role involve?
Essentially my role is to lead on client accounts, take responsibility for the delivery of account work while ensuring we meet (and exceed) clients’ requirements and objectives, by thinking both creatively and commercially to make sure that everything we do has a purpose and helps with a client’s bottom line.
I’m also responsible for developing the team I work with, improving internal processes, new business pitching and I oversee FINN Travel UK’s Twitter and LinkedIn channels. The sustainability element of my role is new, and this is where I will provide clients and the broader FINN team with insights into current sustainability issues affecting the travel industry. I’m so lucky that we have Fiona Jeffrey MBE as our UK Senior Partner advising on responsible tourism and the incredible Jane Madden who is our Global Managing Partner for our Sustainability and Social Impact Practice based in Chicago – she says that ‘sustainability is just good business’ which makes total sense to me. I’m genuinely excited that we can leverage my role as well as our wider sustainable team to ensure clients are either part of the sustainability conversation as well as advise on tangible changes so that destinations and travel businesses are operating in a more responsible manner. With COP 26 taking place in Glasgow this year and a new US president who cares about climate change about to be inaugurated, there are lots of positive possibilities ahead.
- What are you most looking forward to this year?
Aside from hoping we get some kind of ‘normality’ back, I’m looking forward to a holiday. I was lucky enough to make it to Portugal in September for a few days last year when there was a travel corridor, but like many, I had lots of trips cancelled. I’m also hoping I can finally celebrate my 30th birthday with my family and friends (and hug them all) as we were in the height of Lockdown 1 when I reached the milestone last year.
- What trends should we keep an eye on?
I think one of the main trends we’ll see as travel restarts is that destinations and attractions around the world will be able to benefit from reducing overtourism because of added safety protocols. Prior to Covid-19, some destinations were becoming victims of their own success; the Philippines had to close down the island of Boracay for six months to rehabilitate it and the Peruvian Government was forced to regulate the number of tourists allowed into Machu Picchu after UNESCO threatened to place it on its ‘List of World Heritage in Danger’.
We will see people seeking out wilderness experiences, spending time in the great outdoors, but also attractions will have to limit the number of visitors or implement technology and procedures to ensure people keep a safe distance. Globetrender has coined this ‘anti-social sightseeing’, and the pandemic will have shifted travellers’ perception of where they go and how they travel, and this could be a real area of opportunity for destinations and attraction to implement positive changes to keep people safe.