Pauline Suharno is probably Indonesia’s biggest travel industry influencer and advocate.
For a glimpse of what she’s up to – and it’s a never-ending list – just look at her social media accounts on Facebook and Instagram. Busy as she is wearing so many hats, the spunky woman boss regularly finds time to share about her latest movements and insights, whether it’s her impressions of Expo Dubai during a business visit, her engagements with NTOs and travel leaders, or announcing the latest event or webinar that travel agents should partake in.
When I see my members or my staff get the benefits from what we are doing, then I'm already happy. That itself keeps me going.
Beneath her warm and dynamic demeanour is a lady full of steely determination and quiet resilience, a leader who took charge and strived to improve the lives of the people around her.
Not only did she endeavoured to continue the legacy of the travel agency business Elok Tour founded by her late father, she even took on more hats during the pandemic, including becoming the head of ASTINDO (Indonesian Travel Agents Association) and FATA (Federation of ASEAN Travel Associations). “I feel like I was even more busier during the pandemic. I have four to five meetings in a day.”
It is evident that she is always advancing the cause of her fellow travel agents by constantly staying in touch with and offering support for ASTINDO members during the tough two years.
The past two years have severely tested the travel industry, therefore helping agents digitalise and adapt is one of the key aims for ASTINDO and FATA under her leadership, says Suharno.
For ASTINDO’s most recent fair in March 2022, for example, Suharno actively sought out sponsorship from NTOs, the tourism ministry and bank and insurance partners to subsidise this travel agents. “Agents only had to pay S$600 (US$434) for the four-day fair and to access the online platform. We understand the hardship the industry is going through so we try to bring down costs.
Suharno admits that she could have called it quits for her business during the pandemic, but yet she chose not to. When asked what kept her going as a leader, her reply firmly lies with her people. “My staff and ASTINDO members need us not only to survive but also to thrive. They need to earn money for their family. Travel agents, especially the small ones, also need to survive for their staff.
“When I see my members or my staff get the benefits from what we are doing, then I'm already happy. That itself keeps me going.”