Maria Hiini — living the dream

Graduate pursuing career highs

by Mike Isle

A former Lincoln High School student with a passion for travel is living the dream and already flying high as a travel consultant.

Like many young people, Maia Hiini saw a career path in travel not as a journey but a destination.

However, to arrive at that destination requires careful planning and, for Hiini, again like many young people, it was first a question of where to start.

Hiini turned to the Ara Institute of Canterbury. She studied the New Zealand Certificate in Travel at Ara, and this helped her define and get her dream job. “It opened my eyes to all of the possibilities and opportunities out there. I went into the course thinking I was going to be a flight attendant, but after a couple of months I decided I actually wanted to be a travel consultant,” she said.

Hiini said a major advantage of the programme was in facilitating industry connections. Visits by travel industry representatives were a highlight. “We were constantly meeting and hearing from people working in the industry, and that kept us inspired to work hard and finish the qualification to the best of our ability.”

Every year, Ara students host a Travel and Tourism Breakfast and Expo, and it was at one of these that Hiini met her new boss.

Hiini was snapped up by Orbit World Travel in Christchurch, whose manager Melanie Veal is also an Ara graduate. “I always attend the travel expo. We’ve got a long and successful history of Ara graduates joining our business — Ara is really a great source of superbly trained travel professionals,” Veal said.

“Orbit is one of New Zealand’s largest travel management companies. We are also the corporate arm of the House of Travel Group so we can offer leisure opportunities too. We often find our people transitioning between the two sectors and getting that broad range of experience before specialising in an area they love.”

Hiini started in a reception role but soon became a short-haul leisure consultant. “It gave me good exposure to the leisure market, which was exactly where I wanted to be at that time. I learned a lot about products, destinations, systems and how to communicate with people from a leisure perspective. It was a great learning curve for me.”

A transfer to the Orbit’s corporate short-haul team was another positive move. “I really enjoy the job, my clients and my colleagues — the working environment, makes it so enjoyable.”

Hiini has set her hopes on becoming an Orbit top 20 short-haul consultant, and eventually a team leader.