Interview with Cindy Hoddeson, Director, North America Monaco Government Tourist Office

Monaco | Slow Travel Story

Tell me about yourself? Personally and professionally

Cindy Hoddeson | Slow Travel StoryI was from a generation where many women were receiving additional education post-high school and, as a result, more of us started to develop new careers. However, some of us were still of the mindset that you had to be prepared in case something happened. Our mothers were of a generation who were homemakers. So, I wasn’t pushed as my brothers was to have a career. Having come from a home of divorced parents during a time when was still taboo, I knew I had to do something to change my future. I studied Science at Emory University, and I realized it was not my passion. My real passion was in cultures and languages. But I never thought of that as something that could ultimately, one day, contribute to my professional life.

Upon completion of my Bachelor’s Degree, I felt lost. I ended up spending a year in Israel…postponing decisions. After learning another culture and language, I came back to the States and did my Master’s in Community Organization. My short career as a Community Organizer didn’t last very long. Then, I stumbled upon an advertisement from a company looking for a travel agent with knowledge of Israel. So, that was my first move into the travel space. I came from a time where we didn’t think of travel as a great profession that needed skills in marketing and segmentation of different audiences. There weren’t many hospitality programs that exist like today. With this first job, I started to discover things that piqued my interests. Then I worked with a Japanese company that specialized in Meetings and Incentives (MICE). Finally, I decided to move on and answered a blind ad, which said “MICE knowledge and French language.” It could be anything, but as luck was in my favor, it ended being the Monaco Government Tourist Office. The funny thing is, a couple of years back I had done a motivational trip for my Japanese company to Monaco. Little did I know that one day I would work for. And here I am, 29 years later, at the Monaco Government Tourist Office.

In my personal life, I just love discovering different cultures and places. I have had the pleasure of seeing unusual places such as Nicaragua, Mongolia, and much more. I like meeting people, I was a slow travel, in my personal life 30 something years ago.

I like meeting people, I was a slow travel, in my personal life 30 something years ago.

What’s your responsibility at The Monaco Government Tourist Office?

I’ve had the great pleasure to see my responsibilities evolve over the course of 29 years. The Monaco Government Tourist Office in New York constitutes a government office. We belong 100% to the Monaco Government. To attract other markets, we also have representation offices in Russia, Italy, Germany, India, Japan, Singapore, Australia, and Brazil.

When I joined, I was the Manager of Meeting and Incentives Sales, then I moved up to become the Director of Meeting Incentives Sales. About three years ago I became the Director for North America. Our office is small, so everybody needs to know a bit of everything. Because of this, I holistically understand our market, both on the leisure and B2B side. Our office is responsible for USA and Canada. Our goal is to drive business from North America to Monaco. Several years ago, we started to enter the LGBTQ market. We have not penetrated to the degree that Thailand and Sweden have, but we’re getting there. I think we’re going in the right direction, and some wonderful people in the industry have been helping us. Because just like any other market, there’s a market inside a market.

I talk a lot about Slow Travel. As the director, what are three things people might not know about the country?

There’s nothing wrong with Monaco’s iconic sites, but there are a lot of places that people does not know about. Let me break this down for you.

●      The Via Alpina trail

Monaco is a part of the Via Alpina circuit (which originates in Trieste and ends in the Place du Palais). The trail invites visitors to start their four-hour walk in the Place d’Armes and walk up to the belvedere situated below the Tête de Chien hill. It’s similar to the American Appalachian Trail. What people do not know is that the Via Alpina circuit goes through Austria, France, and the last portion of the trail comes down to some of the beautiful beaches in Monaco.

●      Monaco is focusing on Sustainable Development

Monaco has a lot of buildings. Hence, when you see a place like this you don’t think of it as being very friendly to the environment. However, many people don’t know about the many things Monaco has done in the area of sustainability. For example, all public vehicles are either hybrid, biofuel or electric. Moreover, plastic bags are illegal in Monaco. Visitors can take advantages of exploring the country by walking or taking our affordable public transportation (Approximately 2 Euros).

●      We’re into outdoor and indoor food market

That’s another place where visitors can hang out while enjoying homegrown food. Today, many restaurants are sourcing ingredients that are homegrown. For example, some of the hotels are part of a program called Mr.Goodfish. It is a campaign on the sustainable consumption of seafood products.

Additionally, people don’t know that we have our own craft beers. It’s called the brasserie of Monaco. You can try some of their beers for free!

What are the most significant challenges, as a woman, holding a high powered position like you?

I do feel that in our workforce we’re still experiencing gender inequalities. I think more and more women are entering a position of great responsibility but frequently we are not paid the same as men. I believe things are changing. But in some areas, especially hotels, there aren’t many female general managers.

The great thing is that women heavily dominate the area of travel. I feel fortunate to be in the company of some very talented women from whom I have learned quite a lot, over the years. And at the end of the day, the bottom line is, are we being judged by our performance or our gender? Sometimes I think women have to work harder to arrive at the same position as men. I think men are much better regarding some of the politics. They’re not shy about asking for a promotion, while women are more hesitant. They [women] assume if they’re doing a great job it automatically applies to receiving a raise while in most cases this is not happening. We have to learn to be our own PR people and ask for the next better position.

What are your recommendations for women who want to start their career in the tourism industry?

I think one should be passionate in whatever they choose. Today, there are many excellent schools with programs in hospitality. Other than formal education, networking is essential. Learn from other people who have been in the industry longer than you. I believe everybody should develop their brand and find what their strengths and weaknesses are.

Any book recommendation?

Keeping current is crucial. Read as much news as you can. This will tells you what’s going on in the world. Also, read publications that represent things that are contrary to your belief. Being well informed is one of the best things I could suggest to people. I think life is one of the best textbooks.

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