Midweek Interview with Next Story Group’s Alex Billing

We recently shared a blanket in front of the fire with Next Story Group’s regional vice president of operations, Alex Billing. Oh, and we interviewed him too.

The challenge for the industry is…

I think it comes down to finding the right people at the right time. Attracting good candidates with not only the required skill set, but ones that have the right measure of enthusiasm and passion is always going to be a key challenge for our industry.

The things I like about my job are…

The diversity! Every day is different. I am very lucky that I work with remarkable people and my job allows me to experience different destinations all over Australia.

And my frustrations are…

More often than not, there simply aren’t enough hours in the day to accomplish everything. Time management skills are imperative to maintain productivity and also a healthy balance.

If I didn’t work in travel, I would be…

A geologist. I was intending to study geology at university before I started down the hospitality road and was enticed by hotels.

My favourite airline is…

Virgin Australia. I travel with them almost every week and rarely have any issues. The teams are always friendly and I can count on my hand the number of real delays or issues I have had encountered over the years.

My proudest moment was…

Though I derive a large amount of pleasure from my work, nothing makes me prouder than the achievements of my children. Both my daughters give me so much joy and are my constant source of pride.

The naughtiest thing I ever did was…

Hmmm, how much do I give away here… aside from a few youthful escapades, I have been pretty good. However, I am thankful social media was not fully operational in my formative years.

I try to relax by…

Playing a round of golf. While a bit of a cliched older man’s game, it is remarkably relaxing. I think it’s mainly the social aspect I enjoy – hanging out with friends – rather than the frustrating game itself.

Aside from this, I definitely value time with my family and my bulldog, Duke. He is the only other man in the house, so sometimes we like to chill out watching the cricket together.

The last time I feared for my life was…

Not at all life threatening, but on a recent trip, I had a curious reef shark swim up to me in the open water. When all you have is a flimsy snorkel between you and a rather intimidating looking animal, your fleeting thoughts can get a little dicey.

If I can, I always try to avoid…

Making promises I can’t keep. Transparency is key in building trust and communication is vital to establish a fully functioning business. Also, mixing wine and spirits is not a great idea. This is great reminder for anyone in the travel industry and especially for any industry newbies.

I really wish I had…

More time. Nothing new here, but the need to balance work, family, friends and your own time is as hard as ever.

The best advice I’ve ever received was…

Hire people smarter than you. As a leader, the need to surround yourself with a strong team is extremely important. Hiring the right people and supporting them is key to the success of business.

I don’t understand why people…

Email when a phone call would do. Too many people email exclusively these days, so we are forgetting the value in voice-to-voice communication. I am guilty of this too, however, sometimes we need to just pick up the phone and have a chat.

My greatest weakness is…

Honestly, procrastination. I have had to actively work on since I was in school. I think I am far better at managing it now, but I still need to work on it constantly.

And my greatest strength is…

I tend to let things wash off my back pretty quickly. In a 24/7, high-pressure industry like travel, you can’t have thin skin. I think being able to absorb feedback and shake off offence without getting too hung up is a positive character trait.

If I won a $1 million lottery (aside from travelling), I would…

Invest in my children’s future. Knowing they will have a jump start to be what they want to be would be a fulfilling goal.

If I was Prime Minister, I would…

Make OTAs pay tax in Australia and remove collusion in the hotel industry. For example, rate parity.

If I could be someone else for one day, I would be a…

Professional golfer. It seems like a great way to spend your time and get paid handsomely.

I’ve always wanted to travel to…

South America. It has always been a dream of mine to walk the Inca trail and visit places like Machu Picchu. The ancient South American cultures have always fascinated me. That is certainly top of the bucket list once my kids are a bit older.

My favourite holiday was…

When I was a kid we travelled to Club Med Lindeman Island. I have especially fond memories of that trip. More recently, my family and I spent some time on Castaway Island in Fiji. It is an absolute paradise on earth. The day we left, we were already working out when we could go back!


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