Exploring the diverse career journey of Bonnie Smith

FCTG Careers   |   September 18, 2023
Exploring the diverse career journey of Bonnie Smith

Bonnie's career journey is a shining example of how with the right attitude, drive, and passion for adventure, there are no limits to what you can achieve at Flight Centre Travel Group. Today, she is the General Manager of Corporate Brands, South Africa.

Bonnie started her Flight Centre Travel Group (FCTG) journey in 2004, making this her 19th year with the company. Like many other Flighties, she began her career as a Travel Consultant at Eastgate Flight Centre South Africa. What she thought was going to simply be a destination on her career map, Bonnie soon realised that with the opportunities available at FCTG, she was in it for the long haul.

With a passion for both travel and sales, Bonnie exceeded in her role as a consultant and progressed into the Team Leader role in her store after only six months. Flexing her strong leadership skills, Bonnie then went on to manage two stores across the next two years, Rosebank Mall and Killarney, eventually leading the team to an award win at FCTG's Global Gathering (global awards conference).

Guided by her ambitious and youthful spirit, Bonnie wanted to explore more of the world, while still developing her skills. Presented with the perfect opportunity to do so, Bonnie moved from South Africa to Flight Centre New Zealand in 2007 and stepped into an Area Leader role.


Bonnie during her time in New Zealand.

“This was a huge step in my career and without a doubt helped me really grow both as a leader and as a person,” reflects Bonnie.

However, after a year and a half, Bonnie decided to step down from this position to reflect and grow. Bonnie spent her five years living in NZ working across many roles. She joined the People and Culture division as a trainer before stepping up into the Team Leader of the Learning Centre. During this time, Bonnie discovered her passion for systems. Backed by her strong leadership background, she took a leap and joined the IT team as a Change Manager for new systems and was instrumental in the roll-out of several key systems.

After missing home, Bonnie made the move back to RSA as the Head of Learning and Development. However, after six months, she craved the operational side of the business and began working as an Area Leader for the red and white brand once again.

“This was finally the right time for me to be in this [Area Leader] role. With all my knowledge of systems, training and leadership – I was more than ready to push the boundaries,” says Bonnie.

As Area Leader, Bonnie transformed her teams, even winning the award for Most Improved Area globally at FCTG’s Global Gathering in Cancun in 2014.

“It was one of the best moments of my career – celebrating on stage with all my people,” reminisces Bonnie.

After two years, Bonnie was ready for her next challenge and with some strong encouragement from Andrew Stark (Managing Director for South Africa at the time) moved into an Area Leader role for one of FCTG’s corporate brands, Corporate Traveller. Bonnie loved it from day one.

“Being an Area Leader in Corporate vs. Retail is foundationally the same, however, working with corporate clients was something new and exciting – and I loved that,” says Bonnie.

Six months into the role, the business was going through some of the biggest system changes in the company’s history and Bonnie soon found herself in front of Andrew Stark yet again. No wonder Bonnie considers Andrew one of the biggest influencing factors in her career, as after turning down the role thrice, he convinced her to run the project for RSA.

Whilst working on the project, Andrew reached out once again, this time, about a new opportunity leading the IT team in RSA. Despite having little knowledge in the IT sector, Bonnie’s strong leadership skills and passion for processes and systems meant she was perfect for the role and took on this new challenge (whilst also leading the systems change project) where she remained for the next five years.


Andrew Stark, Sam Van Gool and Bonnie.

“It was one of the most exciting journeys of my life. I was working with a great team of experts and we together pushed all the boundaries,” says Bonnie.

Bonnie and her team’s hard work paid off, winning the top small country Global Award in Berlin 2018 as the Top IT team.


Bonnie and her team celebrating their award win at Global Gathering, Berlin in 2018.

In early 2020, Bonnie was keen to jump back into the operational side of the business and took on the role of General Manager for FCM in South Africa before being placed into lockdown a month later.

“This was definitely the hardest part of my career to date – taking our people through the retrenchment process and fighting for our business to stay alive,” remembers Bonnie.

“We got through it though and managed to really bounce back. The highlight for me during those difficult times was bringing our people back as the travel boom hit us, as well as retaining our customers through an extremely challenging time for the industry.”

Having led FCM for the past three years, Bonnie continues to profess her love for the brand. More recently, in August 2022, she took on the position of Managing Director for both corporate brands, FCM and Corporate Traveller, where she remains today.

“My current role has its challenges but I am very lucky to have two incredible SWOT (executive) teams of people working with me, who love what they do and do it with pride and passion. It makes my leadership journey that much easier,” says Bonnie.

“My number one piece of advice to anyone in the company is to work hard and you will be rewarded. You can do anything and work anywhere with FCTG but you have to put in the work, passion, determination and dedication. It won’t come easy but in the end, it will all be worth it!”

We look forward to watching Bonnie as she continues to lead the Corporate businesses in South Africa backed by her passion for leading people, working with customers, and growing both personally and professionally.

“The passion I have for this company means that I always know my future is bright. I am not going anywhere so I will just keep on taking on the next challenge,” says Bonnie.