Why did you decide to establish Oneworld Travel Group?
Ever since securing my first job in the travel industry in Foshan in southern China after completing my degree, I knew that I would always have a passion for travel. When I moved to the UK after marrying my husband, setting up my own business really helped me to set down roots within the community.
Over the last 17 years, the thing that has struck me most is just how unique everyone’s travel dreams and aspirations are and for me, that has been such an important part of establishing, growing and expanding the business to four shops across the north of England. No two customers are the same and it is putting together these bespoke packages, often for very special occasions, which we excel at. There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing customers return from their honeymoon all full of smiles having enjoyed a great Oneworld experience!
Can you tell us more about the ‘Chinese Whispers’ tour?
Chinese Whispers is all about introducing people to the amazing diversity of China. In just over two weeks we take people to seven municipalities and provinces and show them some of the top sights, smells, flavours and sounds the country has to offer.
Not many people realise it, but with a population more than twice the size of Europe, it really is important to travel to different parts of China to get a sense of how unique the history and culture of each region is. With ‘Chinese Whispers’ we want to help people who are driven to see a bit more of China and delve a bit deeper into what China is really like. The tour has been exclusively negotiated and arranged between Oneworld Travel and one of China’s largest tour operators but it’s suitable for anyone really. We are glad to be able to offer the tour for people with a variety of dietary requirements, including kosher!
Where for you are the must-visit spots?
I think everywhere in China is a must see! For people who have never visited before I would say there is no way they could leave without seeing the Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an. The Great Wall may be one of the Seven Wonders of the World, but I think the scale of this is just as impressive!
Beyond the set-piece tourist destinations, you can enjoy amazing cultures of every region! And with the ‘Chinese Whispers’ tour we will take in Beijing, Shaanxi, Guangxi, Sichuan, Chongqing, Hubei and Shanghai so you really get a good taste of all the regional differences. Oh, and did I mention the pandas in Chengdu? They are so cute and it’s great to support the conservation work happening there!
What tips would you give to tourists visiting China for the first time?
I think some people visiting China for the first time can become a little overwhelmed by the sheer pace at which life goes by. Chinese cities really are open 24 hours and it’s not at all unusual to see groups of people dancing in public squares or out shopping at 8 or 9pm at night. The key is just to take it in for what it is.
China is a unique experience and I don’t think there is anywhere in the world quite like it. If you come with an open mind, China will be just as open to you. Other than that, I always tell people to take a business card from their hotel. A lot of taxi drivers won’t speak English, so it’s always good to have something you can give them so they know where to take you if you get lost!
How have you found your time as a councillor in Wakefield? What drives you to serve in office?
It’s been a really steep learning curve coming into the council and learning all about the procedures and processes than make the organisation tick over. I think it’s taken a bit of getting used to the formal ways in which things need to be done but I’ve found it absolutely worthwhile as I’ve been able to make more and more of an impact.
I never imagined that I would one day stand for public office when I first moved to the UK, but the thing which has driven me has been my growing dissatisfaction that large areas of my city have been ignored for decades. I’m a strong believer in the positive social and economic opportunities of engaging proactively with the wider world and with my background in travel, I have experience in reaching agreements with partners overseas. Eventually I decided that if nobody else was going to do something then surely it was down to me!
What has been your most memorable moment as councillor so far?
Undoubtedly it has to be reporting to the full council meeting at the end of December about the ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted rating achieved by a school in my ward where I am a governor. It was a very difficult time across the district for the provision of education and children’s services and being able to deliver that glimmer of positive news gave me just a little bit more optimism that improving outcomes was possible.
Can you tell us about your conversion to Judaism?
For me, my life has opened up on a new path and the teachings of Judaism seemed to provide a deeper resonance which told me that I was doing the right thing in converting. While for many, this may seem an unconventional conversion, I have found that there are in fact a great deal of similarities between Chinese and Jewish values and this has felt like the most natural path in the world. I believe that we should all be open to the spiritual journeys life can take us on and for me the values of Reform Judaism provide me with the strength and guidance I need in my daily life.
I was recently delighted to be elected as the treasurer at Sinai Synagogue and am currently planning to expand its outreach engagement programmes and look to increase our membership.
You are a great supporter of UJIA North East, what drew you to the charity?
Having been involved with Sinai I have been able to visit Israel and see the wonderful educational programmes the charity is supporting for both for Israeli and Arab children, and I really wanted to support the charity as much as possible. I even took part in a cross Israel bike ride, raising over £5k and got to know some of the local Jewish community from Leeds. As the only female rider and with my distinctive looks I certainly turned heads!
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