Women in Travel: Kim Portrate

Women in Travel: Kim Portrate

We talk the Big Apple, life changing career moves and early morning runs with the chief marketing officer for Helloworld.

Can you tell us a little about your career progression? How did you get your start in the travel industry?

I’ve been lucky enough to work across a range of sectors with a number of very inspiring people who embraced innovation and change.

After starting out as a brand manager at Unilever and moving through a variety of marketing roles in beer, beverages, telecommunications and financial services, I moved to New York in 1998. The Big Apple gave me an opportunity to hone my skills as a connector of consumers and brands and after seven amazing years I returned home to work for Carat Media on tourism accounts.

I was fortunate enough to work on the Tourism Australia account while at Carat and, after four years as the Director of Insights and Innovation for the agency, I crossed the ditch to work as the GM of consumer marketing at TA.

I stayed in that role for six years, executing some of the world’s biggest and most memorable tourism campaigns from There’s Nothing Like Australia, See the Movie See the Country and the YouTube Symphony Orchestra.

My experience at TA was the catalyst that led to my current role at Helloworld Limited nearly two years ago where I continue to explore the ever changing world of travel and tourism.

What would you say is your defining career achievement or the thing you are most proud of?

Development and delivery of Tourism Australia’s ‘There’s Nothing Like Australia’ campaign in 2010 that included the first Australian Government user generated content initiative. It was the largest user generated content campaign ever executed in Australia at a time when user generated content was only just taking off.

Not only was it a ground-breaking first in the social space, it generated 23,000 different pieces of content in just four weeks. And from a traveller’s perspective, we were showcasing Australians’ Australia to the rest of the world – allowing the locals to show travellers what they do on their Australian trip.


What have been the biggest challenges to success you’ve encountered professionally?

My role at helloworld is an exciting challenge and opportunity because it is about using marketing as a core driver to change an established market structure. In two years we have transitioned from a company with multiple brands to one united by a brand. I am already proud of what we have accomplished to date, especially brand awareness growth.

Two years ago helloworld was unknown. Eighteen months later 34% of the Australian travellers are aware of the brand. Success like this only happens when there is a great team in place across the business.

Every part of our business has made a contribution to this result – from finance to franchisees – and we have still only scratched the surface of what’s possible for our new retail travel brand.

With the benefit of wisdom, what advice would you give your 21 y/o self when you were starting out in your career?

I hand on heart believe that you need to work in the categories and with people you like. We spend so much time at work, the one thing that will keep you motivated is spending your working day with a subject that keeps you on your toes and passionate about what you do.

People often say how lucky I am to work in the travel industry, and I couldn’t agree with them more. My job and my team’s job is to inspire and help people book the holiday of their dreams or spend time with their loved ones on holidays and that makes you feel pretty special at the end of the day.

I also think that you should never take no for an answer. Sounds a little pushy I know for a 21 year old, but just because one person says no that doesn’t mean it can’t be done.

As far back as my time at Optus I had people telling me that you can’t bundle different products, like mobile phone and land lines, and I asked the question why not. With persistence, and the support of senior managers, I worked to petition the ACCC to be allowed to deliver the first bundled telco mobile, landline and data– which has now become the category norm.

So just because you get a no doesn’t mean your ideas can’t work. If you truly believe that what you’re doing is right for your customer then soldier on and solve the issues you’re presented with.

How would you describe your business/management style? What sort of things are most important to you professionally?

I like to think that I am the type of manager that uses vision for the future based on experience, solid data to support a chosen path and a little bit of gut-feel to take a chance to deliver better experiences for customers. Once you know where you want the business and the brand to be in twelve months’ time, it’s all about getting in and get things done.

I like to ask lots of questions, challenge the status quo and take a step back to think through whether this  is really the way we should be doing things. Taking calculated risks is really important to growing both the business and yourself professionally.

I am lucky enough to be surrounded by a team of inspired, creative and hardworking people whose starting point is how to overcome a business challenge before them.


Who are the people you admire most professionally or in any field/walk of life?

I have a huge amount of respect for Perth plastic surgeon and Australian of the Year recipient Dr. Fiona Wood because of her pioneering spray on skin treatment for burns victims after the Bali bombing.

Seeing a problem that needed to be solved, and powered by a belief that there is always a better way to do things, she changed countless lives for the better. Her work made the road to recovery a lot better for those burn patients when no one imagined it could be.

What do you do to unwind when you aren’t working? What is most important to you outside the office?

Walking the dog and spending time with my teenager – which is a full time job in itself! –is most important to me outside of the office.

For you, what’s the best aspect of working in the travel industry?

The energy of the people that work in travel is phenomenal and pretty contagious too. The fact that every day we make life a bit better for people planning a holiday, give expert advice about a place they haven’t been to and enable them to take on adventure outside their normal lives is really rewarding.

To hear our customer’s share their life changing stories after they return from a trip makes me realise we’ve done the job the way we need to.

What one thing gets you through a stressful day?

The best medicine for me has always been an early morning run. If I know I am going to have a hectic day, or week, I make sure I am up early and I hit the streets with my headphones and music blaring.

You can see the other ladies from our exclusive Women in Travel series here:

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