A silver lining that leads to the Eternal City


A silver lining that leads to the Eternal City

August 6, 2020

The way people work, learn and play across the world has significantly changed as individuals, organisations and governments respond to the outbreak of a global pandemic. The world over, people are wondering what the new normal might look like. There is much uncertainty, the news cycle is relentless and we now talk about pre-COVID-19 times.

In 1634, English poet John Milton (1608-74) wrote ‘Did a sable cloud, Turn forth her silver lining on the night?’. Believed by some to be the origin of the famous proverb ‘every cloud has a silver lining’.

The silver lining for the alumni team at Macquarie Business School has been the shift to delivering events online, which has resulted in many more opportunities for our alumni based overseas to participate and attend events that in the past were held in person at our CBD or North Ryde campus. And it’s this silver lining which leads us to connect with alumna Amy Doherty.

When the Marketing Club at Macquarie Business School staged their recent virtual event, Amy who is based in Rome, was more than happy to share her expertise as part of an alumni panel for the club’s event ‘Marketing transformation: COVID-19 and the resulting shift’.

Originally from Victoria, Amy visited Italy for the first time when she was 14 years old and fell in love with its history and people. This was the start of her love affair with Italy.

After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts majoring in Roman history & Italian from the University of Melbourne, Amy moved to Sydney and held a variety of roles in account management and business development.

Wanting to take her career to the next level, she enrolled in a Master of Management at Macquarie. She recalls that she chose Macquarie over other universities “as I loved the amount of face-to-face teaching and interaction possibilities which I found superior to other options that were available at the time”.

Commencing study whilst working fulltime is a difficult juggling act, and often the busy study times have a strange way of colliding with peak periods at work. Amy knew that it would be important to keep a good work/life balance during her studies, as well as making sure she applied her studies to her workplace wherever possible, so that the learnings went beyond the ‘theories’ and became part of day-to-day business practices.

After graduating from Macquarie in 2011, Amy was head-hunted for a position in business development with Sydney Festival. Whilst enjoying the excitement and challenges the new role presented, her desire to live and work in Rome since the age of 14 was too great, and she decided to take the plunge and move to Rome.

So in September 2013, armed with her two degrees, two suitcases and ambitious plans, Amy departed Sydney bound for Rome. Opening her own business had always been a dream of hers and in October 2013 she founded her private tour company Luxe Associates Travel. She has also managed to achieve her official guiding licences, no mean feat for bureaucracy laden Italy. “It’s a legal requirement in Italy to hold guiding licenses, and they are incredibly hard to achieve. I’m one of only approximately twenty-five native English speakers with an official guiding licence of Rome,” explains Amy.

Experiencing significant growth and success in the first few years of operation saw the business develop a range of private tours within Rome, and then branch-out to other Italian cities including Florence, Venice,  Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast.


Inside the Colosseum, opened in AD80 by Titus with 100 days of games, including gladiatorial combats and wild animal fights.

“Real travel is not about the ‘tick the box’ visit to sites like the Vatican; it’s about the local knowledge and insider’s tips that allow travellers to experience the unique – like wine tasting after an exclusive opening of the Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel just for you … Most tourists don’t get to experience once in a lifetime moments like this!”

Whilst 2020 was set to be Luxe’s best year yet, the pandemic has wreaked chaos on the domestic and international travel industry in virtually every corner of the world, with Italy one of the first European countries to deal with the onslaught of Coronavirus and high death tolls.

“I knew it would have an impact on my business” explains Amy, “however I had no idea about the scale of the outbreak and the loss of life that would ensue. It has been extremely difficult to watch the human suffering.”

Amy remains optimistic and sees so many parallels with various crises in the Roman Empire, let alone the direct parallels of various pandemics throughout history.  “Humans have survived and those that did it well were the ones that had the ability to innovate and change in times of crisis” she notes and goes on to share that “a pipe dream of mine is to complete a Doctorate comparing the corporate world of today with the ancient Roman political, business and social worlds. There are more similarities than what we realise! If we learn from history, we can also avoid their mistakes and be ahead of the pack in business”.

Whilst having to shut down her operation virtually overnight, it has given Amy much needed time to put into action many of her strategy and business skills obtained during her studies. She has used the ‘down time’ to reflect more analytically on her business “which I rarely had time to do before as I was so busy actually running the business and  coping with the volume of tours” says Amy.

“This time has allowed me to fine-tune the business to get it to the next level. We’re re-doing our website, looking at SEO and collaborator opportunities in more depth, developing new tour offerings throughout Italy and making sure we position ourselves as the best provider of bespoke, private tours in Italy. We’re also focussing heavily on video as a medium to connect with and inspire clients and have been busy filming for tours throughout Italy with our guides.”

Her optimism seems warranted, as at the time of writing, Italy has managed to bring the virus to heel. Italians have become confident in their ability to control the virus that many experts believe there won’t be a massive ‘second wave’ of infections and deaths. “So much fear was struck into us in the first wave. Now when you’re out and about, you can see that locals and visitors alike are following the rules – they are social distancing, people are wearing masks”.

In asking Amy about a highlight from studying her Master of Management, she pauses for a moment and responds” Probably the syndicate groups – some amazing, some not so amazing” she says with a smile in her voice, “but it was always a mini-reflection of the workplace. One piece of advice for syndicate groups – either have your meetings standing up or make sure you stick to a set time otherwise they can go on forever without being productive. It’s about efficiency and team work”

Her advice to current students is to not bite off more than you can chew. “It’s better to do fewer subjects and take longer to complete your degree than burning out along the way. Education and true learning is a marathon, not a race. Give yourself time to reflect on what you’re studying and also cut yourself some slack!”, adds Amy.

And for fellow alumni who run businesses impacted by the current climate?

“Hang in there. Take the time to analyse your business and your clients so you’re able to respond to the new post-COVID world.  It’s important to maintain a presence with clients so they see that you’re still very much a ‘going concern’, however be careful not to push sales or indeed be ‘too’ present as your clients are worried about other things right now. For example, currently in the travel industry it’s about inspiring people to travel as soon as they’re able to and making sure that they’re seeing that you’re actively working for them during the down time so you’re ready to provide great, new services and offerings when they’re ready. It’s about trust and reliability in this current climate coupled with showing your clients that you’re positive about the future.

Whilst it will be some time before Amy welcomes travellers from Australia, for those wanting to relive their travels in Italy or get a taste of what’s on offer, why not check out Luxe Associates Travel website or follow their facebook page  A warning for alumni who are foodies … photos may contain images of gorgeous Italian dishes!

Words: Josh Fry

If you’d like to give back and share your professional and personal journey with current and future students and alumni, please complete our online volunteer form and we’ll be in touch.

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