This week, we caught up with David McKenna, the CEO of Rocky Mountaineer whose love for North American scenery is almost as strong as his penchant for Jack Kerouac.
What’s your main goal for this year?
At the top of my list of goals is to continue to recover from the impact of the pandemic. This starts with building confidence in our ability to operate safely, so we can get back to sharing some of the best scenery in North America with travellers from around the globe.
What’s your favourite thing about working in the travel industry?
The people – both guests and employees. Across the industry and around the world, there are some truly wonderful and colourful characters who remind us of our passion for travel and the joy that comes with it.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Spending time on our family ranch and travelling the globe to experience new cultures.
Have you managed to do any travelling since restrictions began to ease (domestic or international)?
I’ve travelled quite extensively throughout Canada during the pandemic, working with industry partners and the federal and provincial governments to support the recovery and rebuilding of tourism.
I was also able to take a real vacation with my wife, Julie, to Mexico this past fall. We were thrilled with how comfortable that trip was and how appreciated our visit was by the local community.
What’s your favourite travel company, besides the one you work for?
It is not a travel company per se, but I am a huge fan of the work of Keith Henry and the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada. Their work is opening our eyes and hearts to some of the amazing and meaningful cultural experiences in development and already available here in Canada.
If you could invite three famous guests (dead or alive) to a dinner party, who would you choose?
I would invite Nelson Mandela – Julie and I had the opportunity to visit South Africa, and his leadership and empathy are a model that we all can learn so much from. I would also invite Jerry Garcia as he was a brilliant musician and soloist, and every good dinner party needs great music. The third invite would go to Jack Kerouac to make sure someone could write the story of the conversation over dinner.
What’s something positive you’ve witnessed or experienced since the global pandemic hit?
Never being one to waste a crisis, I am very impressed at how our industry has been so nimble, introspective, honest, and thoughtful on how to emerge from this pandemic.
I believe the organizations that are fortunate enough to survive will. They will emerge much stronger, more efficient, and with a greater focus on their people and maintaining a healthy balance sheet.
What’s your advice for others in the travel industry on coping with the global pandemic?
There is no doubt this has been an incredibly challenging time for people working in the travel industry. The best advice I can offer is to be honest and transparent with your teams, guests, and family. And also be optimistic we will emerge from this pandemic stronger.
What book and/or TV show can you not get enough of lately?
Yellowstone. I am a rancher and now work for a train company… enough said!
Do you have any travel goals for 2022?
I am most looking forward to a trip to the United States to see the Rocky Mountaineer team there and experience our newest rail route, Rockies to the Red Rocks, which travels between Denver, Colorado, and Moab, Utah.
I look forward to exploring Moab and the surrounding area more. There is great mountain biking and off-roading tours, scenery unlike anywhere else, and I look forward to taking the flight-seeing tours our guests can experience between Moab and Las Vegas or Salt Lake City.