It was Dec 7, 2005 when I entered the Melur office for my very first working day, not really knowing what was expecting me. What would be my work? How will be my colleagues... and not to forget: is there a dresscode and do I need this very official business outfit?
So, on the first day I dressed up very nicely in a new costume - a rose skirt and a suiting blazer in the same colour. But honestly said, I feel much more comfortable in a pair of jeans. And only 5 minutes later I met my colleague Sascha and was more than happy to see that he was waering a t-shirt and jeans.
The second question - how and who will be my colleagues - was answered very fast as well: there were only Russian speaking persons and me. Fair enough, I learned some 3 years for 2 hours a week Russian at school and 6 months for 2 hours a week during my year in Scotland... so let's start using - and foremost improving - my by then still very poor Russian skills. Of course, my colleagues - all with typical names like Olga, Anna, Swetlana or Konstantin, spoke German as well. Not to forget about our fabulous director Sergey. I did not only find myself in the middle of Russian speaking colleagues, but also the whole material was in Russian and the chats during the breaks and in the kitchen were in Russian as well. And yes, it was indeed quite hard in the beginning to feel as a part of their team, but within no time we were growing together and I was not only improving my language skills, but I also learned a lot about the Russian soul and cordiality once they "approved" someone to become their friend, and about how to drink vodka best :D.
And what about my work? In the beginning I was meant to study the back office programme, but then Sergey decided that I shall put together my very first and very own excursion tour through Austria including Vienna, Salzburg and Innsbruck. From Olga I got some advice which hotels to pick, Sergey told me about the trainticket service and the transfer companies, as well as about special services like excursions or dinner evenings in the cities.
Only some days later I got handed over the ski services. Melur had some deals and contracts settled - they needed a work over and a calculation to get the sales rates. So, I created an Excel file (oh, wow... :D) with the purchasing and sales rates for skipasses, skiing schools and ski rentals. For the missing regions, I started to contact and contract new partners. So, my first steps in contracting were done.
So, with these very first 'exercises' was already very clear in which direction I would go within Melur. And step by step I was actually growing into my job, which was and is my big passion and which has been my dream since I was a little girl, when I told my dad - studying together a travel catalogue - that one day I would like to be the one to put the hotels (and services) into a catalogue and hence into sales for clients.
And yes, I helped to produce the very first Melur summer catalogue 2006! I asked the hotels to send photos in high quality and details for the descriptions. Also, I translated our Russian hotel descriptions into English, created the first English price list (we called it Confidential Tariffs) and refined our hotel descriptions adding important details - which was perfectioned and completed then year after year with always new information. So, the very first contacts to the hotels were established.
Sascha, by then being still responsible, for contracting, went for negotiations to the mountains and I stayed in Vienna and did the follow ups, the refined negotiations for last details - and finally also the contracts to be calculated and put into our sales price lists.
After two winter seasons, Sascha changed his position within the company, and it was my turn to take over the product department - including the contracting tours to the mountains to get the know the hotels, and of course the personalities behind them, personally and I am more than happy to meet all - or at least a very good share of them - still every year, having established already great traditions like the 10 o clock appointment and tea with Christof in the Villa Excelsior Hotel in Bad Gastein, the Spritzer with the Berner brothers in Zell am See at the end of a working day, a bread with speck in the Hubertus Pension in Zell am See, or an excellent steak accompanied by a well selected red wine with Johannes in the Parkhotel Soelden. These are just a few of them, but there are so many and I am year after year looking forward to my mountain tour to personally discuss the present season and to see what we can do and reach together in the upcoming season(s). So, over the years I built very friendly and professional relationships, always aiming to grow together - or to go through a crisis (like we already experienced it some 12 years ago or again.... now). A big THANK YOU to all our partners sticking with us and to make the best out of the situation, as sad and hard as it may be at the moment. Together we will get through it :).
Of course, the product portfolio is growing year after year - we are adding new destinations - like the Italian mountains in 2014, the Italian beaches in Emilia Romagna and Sicily in 2015, or Osttirol and Marche region only 2 or 3 years ago - and new hotels in the destinations to keep the portfolio interesting for our partners. With adding the Italian beach product to our portfolio, I started to spend up to seven weeks in late summer&autumn in Italy for contracting and to work with my team and colleagues in our Rimini office which we opened in 2014. A big THANKS to my colleagues for the great support, their professional work and the great team work - and for supporting me as their quite demanding boss :D.
We needed to grow our team and needed and still need to grow our portfolio, as we were enormously growing in 2010 when we started to work for and with one of the biggest tour operators of Eastern Europe - TEZ Tour. Suddenly, we needed to handle big charter programmes.... and so contracting was broad to a very different and higher level.
While Melur and my colleagues were busy until then to serve mainly the Russian speaking market, I started to grow partnerships with partners from all over the world, that brought to me the Arabian countries, to important fairs and workshops in Europe, and in 2019 even to South East Asia. It is and was quite difficult to convince long existing travel agents or tour operators to start working with Melur.
Especially during the last months we invested in a new online booking system (powered by Juniper) and relaunched our homepage, that helped and helps us to get in touch with smaller agencies to global players to ready to work with us once tourism can restart... of course, profiting from the different situation-adapted
and flexible conditions that should help to make the best out of the upcoming winter season and then, of course, the summer season. And here again, I get and got in touch with AMAZING and lovely people, meeting them personally (hopefully soon again), or at the moment exchanging messages,making video calls or usual phone calls and making 'plans' for the future.
Last but not least, I could grow with some interesting marketing projects within Melur, like launching landing pages including posts on our social media accounts, guiding fam trips, holding presentations in the different countries of the world, launching H2H (Human to Human) magazines, holding webinars, or starting this blog at the beginning of the Corona crisis.
With all the business, my job is all about PEOPLE. Great people: perfect hotel partners, amazing partner clients - and of course our Melur staff. I LOVE the discussions, the great work and development together, but not less the many laughs and parties together. In two words: the good times, that make us stay together also in not so good times....
When on Monday, we had a glass of wine together, Sergey told me that he was proud of me and that he could see me growing year after year and that I never stopped improving. I appreciate these words very much and I am very thankful that he gave and gives me the possibility to really grow, realize projects, and to be part of this crazy and so great Melur team. And yes - to say it in Sergey's words - cheers to another 15 years to come! ❤️