Every Monday, the Chronicle fires 10 questions at a Whanganui local. This week Logan Tutty talks to Carla McKinnon, owner-operator of House of Travel Wanganui.
Talk to us about your upbringing and how you first got involved in the travel industry.
I was born and raised in Whanganui and soon after leaving school moved to Portland, Oregon, which fuelled my interest in travel. I'd always seen myself working in the travel industry – so when I returned from overseas and the opportunity of working as a travel agent for House of Travel arose I jumped at the chance. Crazy to think that was 17 years ago.
How difficult has this last year been for your industry?
If I'm completely honest, the last year can be summed up as soul destroying. Few industries have fallen as far and as fast as ours. Covid-19 has decimated the travel industry (hopefully only temporarily) and we've seen so many lose their jobs because of it. This last year has been my hardest year yet.
Since international travel is off the books for the foreseeable future, what New Zealand locations have been popular for domestic tourists?
In the North Island we've seen a massive interest in the likes of Martinborough and Waiheke Island but the biggest winner has to be the South Island, specifically the West Coast, Queenstown and Stewart Island. Kiwis are definitely making the most of campervan holidays and experiencing the Great Walks our beautiful country has to offer.
Where are some places in New Zealand you feel are under-explored/utilised by Kiwi travellers?
The Catlins is a "hidden gem" with its natural beauty, sandy beaches, wildlife and green rolling hills. Stewart Island is a paradise - beautiful, remote and truly untouched plus it's one of the best places to see the famous Southern Lights. And lastly but not least - the Chathams – a place to enjoy a relaxed lifestyle with an abundance of seafood.
What are some of your favourite countries you have visited over the years?
I have been very fortunate to have lived in and travelled to some pretty amazing places, and picking just a couple for the top spot is tricky. Some real standouts for me though would have to be Vietnam (oh my, the flavours!), France, Argentina and top city being New York.
What country have you not visited yet that is on your bucket list?
Last year I had three amazing trips locked in - Japan, a family trip to Sri Lanka and the Maldives plus a hosted group to India – all of which couldn't go ahead. So without a doubt, these four countries will definitely be sitting at the top of the list when borders reopen.
What are some of your favourite things about Whanganui?
Whanganui is so pretty, it's always sunny and it never takes me any more than 10 minutes to get anywhere. I'm very proud to call Whanganui home.
Looking back on your life, what advice would you give to your 25-year-old self?
Figure out your own measure of success, learn to love yourself and don't send the 3am text. Just don't.
How do you like to spend your spare time when you have it?
You'll find me hanging out with my two beautifully crazy boys – usually near water. Lake Wiritoa is the current favourite. I love to get out and run, and I'm also partial to enjoying a yummy rosé with good friends.
You're hosting a dinner for some people you look up to. Who is coming and what are you going to cook?
Princess Diana, Robin Williams and Ed Sheeran and I'd have to treat them to my signature spinach cannelloni.