with Gavin Landry, Director the Americas, VisitBritain
Congrats on your new position! Quite a change from your last one! Yes, in my last position I headed up the New York State tourism, for over four years. I’m tremendously excited about the move, it’s a great group of people all dedicated to making tourism in Britain thrive. We’re actually 9% of the entire economy, cutting through so many business sectors.
You’re American, but you have a very British first name. Yes, I found out recently through the DNA test 23 and Me that I have British heritage. Back in the ‘60s in New Jersey there weren’t too many Gavins I can tell you!
Where were you born? In Reading, in Eastern Pennsylvania. When I was 10 we moved to Virginia, then I went to school in North Carolina and to Cornell in New York. I went on to work in hotel management jobs around the country.
You certainly have a huge new territory. Yes, at VisitBritain we have very large regions. I have North and South America, with offices in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto and Sao Paolo in Brazil.
How many times have you visited Britain? Dozens. Including a couple of memorable visits to Loch Lomond, in Scotland. It’s just gorgeous in the fall.
What’s the best part of the job? Probably all the British phrases I’ve learned. You don’t take the bull by the horns, you "grasp the nettle!” I love that! [Note: a nettle is a stinging plant in the UK, and you have to be pretty brave to grasp it!]
What did you want to be as a kid? A vet, partly because I grew up with a lot of animals. But once I got closer to deciding my career path I decided the four extra years of education it would take me wasn’t all that appealing.
What was your first ever job? Caddying when I was 11 or 12. On good days I’d carry two bags and get out twice.
What’s the scariest thing you’ve ever done? When I disobeyed the sign at the Grand Canyon and went beyond the rope to the edge of the Canyon and stared into it. The adrenaline was pumping and it occurred to me that this was a very stupid idea.
Any guilty pleasures? I’m pretty boring. I collect turn of the century art pottery. I’m just shy of being a Life Master at the game of bridge. I like a good meal, I like to travel.
What’s your favourite airline? American Airlines - and British Airways of course.
What do people not know about you? I’m a classically trained chef, though I couldn’t be employed in a kitchen. But I do love to cook.
What was the last thing you bought (apart from something to eat)? A reversible black/brown belt from SageBrown on Jermyn Street in London.
When are you happiest? When I’m at home with the love of my life Marea and our animals -- one dog and five cats, all rescues.
What would you tell your 20-year-old self? “Do the right thing and things will happen the way they are meant to.”
Who do you most admire in the industry? I want to be Fred Dixon when I grow up. He’s the CEO of NYC & Company. He’s great at his job and super nice at the same time.
What’s at the top of your bucket list? I don’t have one per se, but Marea and I have talked about travelling to Japan and going to Cuba and retrace her roots.
What is your greatest extravagance? The rare occasion I eat a donut or a pizza with real cheese on it.
How do you stay fit when you travel? I exercise in the hotel gym and do lots of walking, sometimes 10 miles a day.
If you could sit next to anyone on a long-haul flight, who would it be? One of three: writer Malcolm Gladwell, the philosopher and activist Dr. Cornell West or scientist Neil deGrasse Tyson. It would be incredibly interesting to see how they think.
Do you have a favourite charity? We give to the Brooklyn Animal Rescue Centre. We like to stay local with our charity donations.
What will be the biggest challenge for the industry in the next 12 months? These days it comes down to global concerns such as security and safety. And not just in the U.S. or Great Britain.
What do you hope to be doing in 10 years? Working for VisitBritain – and hopefully by then we will have cracked the nut and raised visitor awareness of the charms of our cities outside London such as Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.