Hilton Vice President of Operations Australasia, Heidi Kunkel.
Hilton Vice President of Operations Australasia, Heidi Kunkel.

HM chats with Hilton Australasia’s Vice President of Operations, Heidi Kunkel, for a look back at an illustrious career which has taken her all over the world and back again.

What was your first job in the accommodation industry and how long were you in it?

My first job was at The Regent Hotel in Sydney in 1991 and I worked as a Floor Steward, welcoming guests on arrival at the hotel. It was tough times for the industry in Australia and hotel occupancy was heavily impacted. I decided to follow my dream and relocate my life to Japan to immerse myself in the culture and study the language, so I headed to Japan and loved it so much I lived and worked there for 3 years.

Can you tell us a funny, embarrassing or memorable story involving you from the early part of your career?

Working at Ayers Rock Resort was an incredible and memorable experience and we were fortunate to meet so many wonderful people. Ernie Dingo visited the resort one day and I was working at Sails in the Desert Hotel as Concierge. My job included coordinating, tagging and organising the huge volumes of luggage which arrived along with the thousands of guests who arrived from all over the world. As I was walking briskly up the path to the entrance of the hotel, Ernie stopped me in my tracks and said “Heidi, you have to stop running….. slow down!” Despite Ernie’s advice, I’ve been running ever since!

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to young people assessing whether hospitality or tourism is right for them as a profession?

Do what you enjoy. Follow your heart.