Julia Bary, the director of sales and marketing at the Mandarin Oriental Paris
, works closely with Virtuoso travel advisors to create memorable experiences for clients in Paris. She has attended Virtuoso Travel Week for many years, including this year, to connect with advisors and talk about what’s new at her hotel and in Paris.
We talked to Julia about how she got her start in the travel industry, how she works with travel advisors, and why she loves Paris.
How did you get your start?
I studied political science, unlike most of my colleagues, who studied hospitality business. Once I had my master’s degree, I started looking for a job and found a recruitment ad for a position in a hotel. I had no clue what the job was about, but I thought I could somehow use my diplomatic skills a different way. It was instantly the perfect fit for me.
What might a typical day look like for you?
On a typical day I get to the office by 8:30 am after taking my daughter to school. The minute I set foot in the hotel come other priorities, like travel advisors from all over the world. My day usually goes with the time zone. In the early mornings, I get calls from Asia, then Europe. When I go to lunch, New Yorkers are waking up. I chat with advisors from the West Coast on my way home at night. Add a few PR, revenue, and digital marketing meetings here and there, plus a couple of site inspections for travel advisors, and there is not much time left in the day.
Our job is very simple: It is to make the lives of travel advisors easier and the booking process fast and efficient. The cherry on top is when we can make [the advisors] shine. They know their clients and their needs, and we know the product inside out – this is teamwork. I personally travel six to eight weeks a year to meet with advisors at their offices or during trade shows like Virtuoso Travel Week. The aim of these trips is to tell them what they cannot see on our website – what is new, what is coming up, and more. In other words, to keep the buzz and maintain the relationship. Most of the time I try to organize meetings as informally as possible, depending on where I go. I know the agents meet with sales reps almost every day all year long, so a little fun cannot harm.
Among my favorites are Drybar for blow dry salon appointments and barber shop meetings. We also host two to three agents a day in Paris, as this is the best way for us to showcase the hotel and the only way for them to experience what we really sell: service and emotions.
This year, my travel plans take me to Moscow, London, Miami, Tokyo, Las Vegas, New York, and Madrid. It’s the best way to get the pulse of our business, and our industry is all about relationships.
What is a favorite memory from your job?
A few years ago I helped organize a trip to Paris for a family from the U.S. It was a reunion of four generations for Thanksgiving and a surprise for the grandmother’s 80th birthday. The family had been counting the days to this trip, saving money to fly business class and stay in a palace hotel: a lifetime dream.
On their very first day in Paris, the grandmother fell on the street and broke her ankle. She was immediately hospitalized, and the doctor said she had to stay there for at least two days. The family was devastated.
We felt helpless but thought we could bring a little bit of joy to the hospital. After all, service is what we do best, and this can be done anywhere. In no time the [general manager] gave his approval and off we were to the hospital in a minivan stuffed with cushions, bathrobe, slippers, carpets, flowers, linens, and a table lamp – we can all agree that lighting is awful in hospitals.
In less than 30 minutes, her hospital room was chic and cozy. The nurses were speechless – and also so amused as they helped us.
Before we left, we gave her the room service menu and advised her to order 90 minutes in advance because of traffic. The family was stunned, and we all got personally involved for lunch and dinner deliveries.
Fortunately, she was authorized to spend her last night at the hotel, and as you can imagine she was treated like royalty. In our business, we are fortunate to create lifetime memories. We have very wealthy clients and clients saving for years to live such a moment. When the grandmother/matriarch left the hotel, she told me she would cherish her trip to Paris until her last breath. I cannot recall a more joyful moment in my career.
What is a challenge you face in your job?
Right now, the biggest day-to-day challenge is convincing clients that there is no better time to visit Paris. But the news on TV has made things challenging.
I was born and raised in this city, and I love to stroll the streets on weekends with my daughter and husband, have dinner at a nice little terrace, go to the market on Sundays, and more.