Anne Dollendorf, director Canada, German National Tourist Office, says “I just knew that this was the place I wanted to be”; offers advice – do things and don’t look back
This month, TRAVELHotNews.com continues our series of industry profiles by taking a closer look into the life of Anne Dollendorf, director Canada, German National Tourist Office.
Born and raised in the very small German-speaking village of Burg-Reuland, Belgium, Anne Dollendorf had a “very safe, kind of protected childhood.”
“I mean small when I say small, like 800 people,” she reminisced. “There was a whole great wide world out there.”
Raised by her grandparents, Dollendorf recalled being surrounded by close family and friends throughout her childhood. As the first and only grandchild, she was “spoiled rotten,” she said with a giggle. “Everything was for me and I didn’t have to share anything.”
Having what her mother would describe as a “complete transformation of character” in the later years, as a child Dollendorf was comfortable and happy to stay in her small village forever. When she looks back now, she is still amazed at some of her life decisions - at the travel that she has done so far, and especially with her decision to move to Canada.
“For someone who didn’t want to leave the village that’s kind of strange,” she admitted. “I was a very quiet child. My mother often wonders what happened. ‘You are so totally different now. What happened to this quiet, shy girl who didn’t want to go anywhere?’”
After high school, Dollendorf moved to Brussels where she studied tourism and hospitality.
|Colleague Vanessa Gromer and Anne Dollendorf
“It is one of the so totally underrated cities in Europe compared to the other big European capitals,” she explained. “London and Paris have these images…that everything is happening in London and Paris, but Brussels is a really good place to live in. The food is just amazing. The food is great and the mentality is great. It is a mixture between being totally relaxed and still professional enough to get things going in the business. It is sort of like you can sit on the Grand' Place in Bruxelles and you will have people talking Italian and Spanish and English and French and Dutch next to you. It is just very, very international.”
Languages open doors
Speaking mostly German with her mom and both German and French with her family, Dollendorf said that growing up with different languages can make a person a little more open-minded. “I was told once by an American friend that he thought our ability to adapt was just amazing, especially for a small country.”
Her first corporate gig
|Anne Dollendorf and husband
During university in Brussels, Dollendorf was introduced to her future husband through a mutual friend; the couple has been together ever since. Post school the couple moved back to Germany. Dollendorf went back to university in Germany, because at that time her Belgium diploma was not recognized there. She thought, “ok, if you don’t recognize my diploma from Belgium then I’ll have to get one here,” which she did.
“In Germany I did business administration then finished my studies and ended up with tourism and PR. I wanted to go into an advertising agency. That was actually what I wanted. I got a job in a PR agency, which specialized in tourism. The PR agency side of my job was something that I did until the day I moved to Canada. I had always been with agencies, never worked with the corporate side, so this is my first corporate job.”
Although leaving PR “wasn’t the plan”, Dollendorf assured TRAVELHotNews.com that she has no regrets.
Her first job in PR had her working with the Australian Tourism Commission, and she knew right from the start that “sometimes things just feel right, and the way you interact with people just feels right.”
When she joined the agency for the first time in Germany, she confessed that she didn’t have a clue about PR.
“I didn’t want to be in PR, I wanted advertising and I didn’t know what tourism was, not at all,” she said. “There’s nothing more rewarding then finding out ‘yeah I made the right decision, and I was right. It was good that I took the risk.’ It’s all about risk-taking at the end of the day.”
The North American virus
Arriving in Canada in 2007, Dollendorf explained that her life here is still fairly new. Although the move wasn’t so easy for her husband, “not at all,” she joked, neither one of them has been disappointed with their decision to pack up and leave Germany.
After visiting Canada for the first time while tagging along on one of her husband’s business trips, Dollendorf quickly realized that she had it bad - the North America virus, that is.
“You either have it or you don’t, you either fall in love with the continent or you don’t. My husband says, ‘my god, they gave you the double dose.’”
“I came to New York and then Toronto. I put my foot on North American ground and I loved this continent from the very beginning. I remember that in 1986 I came to Toronto and I was walking through Cabbage Town and I told my husband, ‘one day I want to come live here.’ It took me twenty years though to get here, but this was what I wanted.
“Just before I finished my studies and just before I started working for the Australians, we got to spend a year in California, also on an assignment, and that was it. I knew that somehow I would not finish my life in Europe. I just knew that this was the place I wanted to be.”
After coming back from California, she started working for the Australians at the Australian Tourism Commission in Germany. “I would have come to this country sooner, but it was so great to work for them. We had so much fun,” she explained.
Let’s call it fate
After changing agencies, she started working for the Canadian Tourism Commission, and “we’ll basically call it fate,” as she finally got her reason for moving to North America.
Other than her few visits to Toronto and Montreal, Dollendorf didn’t know much about Canada, especially anything about the West, the Northwest Territories or Atlantic Canada.
In 2004 the Canadian Tourism Commission sent her with a group of German journalists to mark 125 years stamps the highway “and that was it,” according to Dollendorf.
|Anne's first postcard of Canada purchased in the Yukon
“It was the first picture I bought when I arrived in Whitehorse. That changed my life. It turned it upside down. Here I am.”
It wasn’t until she received a text from her colleague Alex, who immigrated to Halifax a short while before her that Dollendorf realized how big the move really was.
“I remember the first time I really cried. I moved in April, him in January. He was sending me a text message in London, while waiting for his flight, BA 787 to Halifax. ‘This is it Anne. See you in Canada.’ Still to the day I get tears in my eyes.”
The more you know about Anne Dollendorf…
TRAVELHotNews.com: What did you want to be as a child?
Anne Dollendorf: I wanted to be a doctor because my grandfather was a doctor. I wanted to help people.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What was the weirdest/funniest job you ever had, before PR?
AD: I didn’t work ever when I was young, because I was spoiled rotten. I was fifteen years old and I remember one of my friends had a job as a waitress, not in a bar but in a gelateria, where they sell ice cream. My grandparents thought, “Oh my God, that poor child is standing behind a counter selling ice cream to you – no, no, no, we don’t want her to do that.” I never worked. I started my first job when I finished university. So, no funny jobs…no jobs at all.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What type of manager or boss are you?
AD: I am a boss that has the same behavior or attitude that I would like somebody else to have with me. I could say now, this could sound arrogant though, that I am a natural-born leader, but more in Germany. When you go to school you have this one person amongst you who is the ringleader, I was always that person. Believe me sometimes when I was going overboard with “you do that and you do that,” a couple of times, I found myself in my room alone because nobody wanted to play with me anymore. I learned that the hard way. Now, usually it is my colleagues who suggest something and I go with it.
TRAVELHotNews.com: Do you consider yourself a workaholic?
AD: I used to be a workaholic. In the beginning when I worked for different agencies, I had 14- and 16-hour days, but I liked it so much. Maybe it is a character and personality thing, but when I really like something, love something, I find it hard to see the boundaries. We have a saying in German – you have to hit me on the head and say, “stop it” otherwise I don’t stop. I just keep going.
TRAVELHotNews.com: Are you a morning person or an evening person?
AD: I was never a morning person…I am still cranky to this day – cranky, like totally — don’t talk to me (giggles).
TRAVELHotNews.com: What do you do to de-stress?
AD: I do a lot of reading, anything from cosmopolitan, to crime, suspense stories, to poems…Although I haven’t read poems in quite a while, I can lose myself in a poem, as well as lose myself in a law, kind of suspense thing, as well as an opera magazine or [how to book]. Right now, I am reading T.C. Boyle’s “The Heart Dost Wake” and Patricia Cornwell’s “The Scarpetta Factor.”
TRAVELHotNews.com: Are you a cat or dog lover?
AD: Cats – God, I am the biggest cat lover on earth. Everything in my house is about cats. I have millions of pictures. I bring cats [figurines, photos, etc…] back from every single trip. I have cats from Egypt. I have cats from Burma. I have cat pictures and I have drawings and I have calendars of cats and plus, I have two cats.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is on your travel bucket list?
AD: I am very much in love with Africa. What I would also love to do is go back to Jordan…That was magic. I would also like to go to Syria and Oman. Last year we went to Atlantic Canada, this year we’re going to go to the Rockies. Next year already on my list, is Newfoundland.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is one of your favourite travel experiences?
AD: The Dempster highway [Yukon, Canada] was a big highlight. Next, it is certainly Jordan. My father is from Egypt, so naturally I have a feeling towards it.
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is in your travel survival kit?
AD: What I always have with me no matter what – my credit card. (Laughs) If you have a credit card and money, you can do anything. That is the only thing – my credit card.
|Taken at Anne's going away party
TRAVELHotNews.com: Have you set any goals for yourself for the future?
AD: No. Again, I am a very emotional person. I go with what feels right for me. I can tell you in five years, I want to do something that I like – in my private life and in my professional life, but what that is, I cannot tell you. I will know in five years. I can tell you that everything that remains the same scares me to death. Honestly. If you tell me you have to do this for the next fifteen years or until retirement, you would probably scare me to death.
|Anne Dollendorf and outgoing director, Ulla Hennigs-Pfau
TRAVELHotNews.com: What is a motto you live by?
AD: There’s a famous German philosopher named Arthur Schopenhauer who said, “Change alone is eternal, perpetual, immortal.” This is my motto.
TRAVELHotNews.com: Do you have a mentor?
AD: Probably my first boss from the agency where I started out in PR and tourism. I had no experience in PR nor in tourism and he gave me the biggest account – the most important account for the agency. I owe him a lot. I am where I am now is because of him.
TRAVELHotNews.com: If you could give advice to your sixteen-year-old self, what would it be?
AD: No advice – just go for it. Just keep going. Something good/something always turns up. Probably, I would say, do things and don’t look back. Go forward, because as people say, ‘don’t ask yourself what plan B would have been like. You chose A, so forget about what plan B would be like.