Contiki Holidays CEO and global citizen CASPER URHAMMER’s love of travel gives him fresh ideas for new ways to travel for millennials. Contiki Holidays offers more than 300 trips around the world for travelers from ages 18 to 35.
Contiki Holidays CEO Casper Urhammer
HOW DID YOU FALL IN LOVE WITH TRAVELING?
I was born and raised in Denmark where we have a culture of traveling a lot. It’s a small country with a big personality. My ancestors were Vikings, so traveling is in my blood. I even carry my Viking heritage around my neck. My Viking heritage is wedding rings from my family dating back many, many generations ago, welded into Thor’s hammer, from Northern mythology, which signifies strength and power.
My wedding ring been carried in my family for hundreds of years. We’re explorers. It’s not a conscious choice that I fell in love with traveling. It’s just part of who I am and what I grew up with and what’s in my blood.
HOW HAS TRAVELING CHANGED YOUR LIFE?
When I talk about travel, it is an education in life and in cultures. It is about making
the world a better place. You become culturally wise and emotionally intelligent.
These are things you cannot learn otherwise. It’s hard to become emotionally intelligent by sitting in a classroom reading books.
While classroom work is incredibly important, you also need emotional intelligence and the cultural sensitivity and “savvy-ness” that come from travel. I’m not a citizen of Denmark or a citizen of Switzerland. I’m a citizen of this planet, as we all are. We ought to explore it because it makes us better human beings.
WHAT’S YOUR TRAVEL PHILOSOPHY?
Very much in line with Contiki’s philosophy for food, mine follows the same. I’m a firm believer in the saying that “Food is a big carrier of cultures.” So my way of experiencing countries is through tasting some of the local food.
HOW DO YOUR EXPERIENCES INSPIRE WORK?
Being in the travel industry, I’m always mindful of what a good experience is for our travelers. I always stress that it’s most important that our travelers have a good time. So I’m always looking for that one thing that will make a customer’s journey and experience a little better – like a good restaurant, perhaps. Aside from just travel, I look into other
aspects of business that drive Contiki into a better company.
This is such a “passion business” with so many offices and employees and travelers to take care of; you can’t really have a work-life balance. So I have decided to make it one. I have my life and that involves work and private life. My wife is a part of what I do. If I’m
traveling, she joins me now and meets me in a destination. We’ve made a lifestyle of
it. If I don’t make a lifestyle of it, I won’t be able to do a good job.
When I’m in Europe, I get up in the morning, and catch up with our business in Australia and New Zealand. Then I start working in the time zone of Europe, and when they finish, America and Canada start working. When they go to bed, Australia starts all over again. It’s never ending. It’s always peak season and daytime somewhere. I have a lot of energy so I’ve always loved working.
WHAT’S THE BEST WAY TO EXPLORE A NEW CITY?
On foot. I’d never been to Tokyo before, and we had a good three hours before business so we just walked, putting about 12 kilometers into our legs. We found a good restaurant for dinner; the wagyu beef was grilled to perfection and it came with a little sauce that tasted like magic. That was such a cultural experience – an authentic Japanese restaurant found through an alley and up three flights of stairs with people from all walks of life having a good time and a fantastic meal. To me, that’s a local experience.
WHERE IN THE WORLD WOULD YOU LIKE TO RETURN TO AGAIN?
I used to live in Barcelona so Spain is my staple country where I always have a good
time when I go back. I like the food, the language, the culture, and the people.
Travel while you’re young because that’s when you can have an open mind and when you’re willing to embrace what the experience has to offer. When you’re young, you see things in a different way so, chances are, you’ll come back slightly changed with a different view, not just of the world but also about friendships and many other things. I see it with people who travel with Contiki.
My nephew’s a good example. He went with Contiki when he was 19 years old. He had never traveled on his own, and he left as a young boy and came back as a young man with new friendships, determined with what he wanted to do.
He then booked a one-way ticket to Australia to meet with his newfound friends who are his best friends now. He traveled around Australia for six months and when he came back, he knew exactly what he wanted to do in life. What a blessing for a 19-year-old guy to have learned this so early on. So get out there and get out of your comfort zone. Learn about cultures, make friendships, and embrace it. And get a Contiki Holidays trip.