In a highly competitive, multibillion-dollar industry, it’s hard to be top dog! Except of course, if you’re Paramount client Julie King & Associates! Having twice now taken the title of ‘Best Tourist Office – International’ for their represented destinations (not to mention being included in the top 5 finalists for the last six years!!), Julie King epitomises what it takes to be at the top of the tourism industry. Her eponymous firm specialises in the full gamete of tourism consultancy and promotion streams: marketing, PR, digital service and sales representation for destinations and luxury hotels, tourism, and hospitality consultancy services, and influencer management. JKA has delivered over 152 consulting projects in 22 different countries, and her clients include tourism boards for highly coveted destinations such as Japan, Seychelles, Dubai, and Catalonia.
We sat down with Julie (and adorable office pooch Hamish!) to hear about her unorthodox entry into tourism and to glean some trade secrets into her incredible success across several industries.
Julie, what does JKA offer that is different from other tourism agencies?
We find that similar agencies specialise in destination or hotel representation and many with a focus on specific regions of the world. Alternatively, some agencies only offer hospitality and tourism consultancy. However, there are not many that are truly global, and provide the scale for the diversity of services in both the above areas.
Our global expertise provides clients with 32 years of experience in tourism consulting, with representation spanning 36 countries, and 22 years of expertise working with 14 international government bodies. In addition, I also have over 13 years’ experience working for and opening Luxury Hotels.
We have a sophisticated influencer management system that gives our clients access to 900 million influencer profiles globally and sophisticated reporting. We are specialised in contracting influencers and celebrities globally, and we have extensive TV and Radio production experience.
Finally, what makes a difference to our clients is that they are dealing with a mature and knowledgeable team with a minimum of 20 years’ experience. We act as an extended arm of their brand, and our testimonials speak for themselves.
Before JKA, you achieved some incredible success in the hospitality industry, including opening five 5-star hotels. Tell us about some highlights.
I started out in the Hotel Industry at 17 years old. I trained in all hotel operations from the kitchen to restaurants, banqueting, housekeeping, and laundry. My first full-time job was a Floor Housekeeper in a 5-star luxury hotel in Scotland, and within five years, I was the youngest Executive Housekeeper in the top hotel in Edinburgh. My purpose during this period was to raise the profile of housekeeping as an aspirational career path and change its image, which I successfully achieved.
After eight years in Scotland in hotels and three hotel openings, I needed an international challenge and took off to Dubai. In Dubai, I opened two more hotels and worked my way up from Executive Housekeeper to Corporate Rooms Division Manager within a year.
After 13 years, I had a wonderful opportunity to change direction into Hospitality and Tourism Consulting and took a side step to progress my career, starting as a Junior Consultant and within four years was running the business as General Manager.
Your modus operandi is clearly to jump into something and work (work, work!) your way to the top. What has been at the core of your success?
Determination, passion, and fear. I love what I do, and from a young age, I always set out to challenge myself and prove that I could achieve great things from this industry. I have been pushed out of my comfort zone more times than I can recall, which has pushed me to pivot my career. Fear has driven my success with determination, and although things might be uncomfortable at times, it has taken my career path to a new level each time.
Having worked in the hospitality and tourism industry for over 32 years, and then living and working in Dubai for 14 years, providing exceptional service has always been at the helm of everything I execute. In Dubai, a city with such visionary leadership, where everything is possible, at times we said yes to what felt like the impossible, making sure we instilled that culture in our teams. The Arab culture is very special, and I had some of the best lessons of my life in relationship building and looking after our clients, all of which has been pivotal to our success today.
You have an incredible network of highly successful women around you. What is the value of having a close circle of women that you regularly meet with?
It took me a long time for me to realise the importance of finding a business support group in the shape of an advisory board. I was independent, determined, focused, and thought I could do it all myself. I joined the BusinessChicks PowerPlayers program for entrepreneurs over two years ago, and I have seven incredible women in my group who meet monthly and inspire me every day to be a better version of myself. We share incredible experiences to take each of our businesses to the next level. In addition, I engaged a female business mentor this year to add more accountability to our strategy moving forward.
You are Scottish but have lived a good part of your life in the Middle East. What brought you to Australia?
I made a decision to move to Australia in 2010 to be with my future husband after living and working for 14 years in Dubai. Initially, I was going to open a branch of the business I managed in Dubai, but an opportunity came up with one of our clients to tender for their business in Australia. My partner convinced me to go for this; I won the account, and then the rest became history.
You are at the pointy end of the tourism industry. What are some must-see/do travel experiences we should consider for our next holiday?
There are so many wonderful destinations to choose from, so which to choose very much depends on the holiday experiences travelers are seeking.
For a more relaxing holiday, where you can find your own private beach, surround yourself with incredible nature, and hop between islands that each hold very different experiences (adventurous trekking and a wide variety of water-based activities like fishing and sailing) or simply just enjoy the wonderful spa’s and cuisine, I would recommend Seychelles, a destination that is both undiscovered by the Australian market and very special!
If you like to get out and explore, there are few destinations where diversity of experience exists in such an accessible way. Japan has many faces and to best understand how they differ, and it helps to know about what makes its various regions and Prefectures unique. Getting out into the regions completes a richer, more immersive cultural experience of this fascinating country.
UK/Europe continues to be where many Aussies escape to during Winter. The UK, France, Greece, and Italy remain top picks, but Spain, Portugal, Croatia are definitely increasing in popularity. I would always recommend a stopover on the way to and from Europe, and Dubai is an ever-changing destination that offers something for everyone from culture to adventure, family fun to wonderful culinary experiences. Each time you visit Dubai, you can have a completely different experience. Sri Lanka and South America are also becoming more popular with the Australian market.
Thank you for your time Julie