Discova Women in Leadership: Costa Rica Country Manager Yumiko Sato

May 16, 2024

The idea of travel has always captivated the imagination of Discova’s Costa Rica Country Manager, Yumiko Sato. As a little girl, she remembers regularly taking her parents’ Atlas book, looking at where all the countries were located, and thinking how wonderful it would be to visit some of them one day. 

When it came to choosing a career path for university, Yumiko, who mostly grew up in Belgium, naturally gravitated towards a Tourism Management degree.

During that time, I always told my parents, The moment I have the opportunity to leave the country, I’m off, which was the case. I scored an internship with a tour operator working as an overseas representative and never looked back! 

After working with several global travel companies, Yumiko joined Discova in 2021 as an In-Destination Sales Manager. She was familiar with and liked this new position, as it was quite similar to her previous stints and yet dynamic and challenging at the same time. After completing her first year at Discova, she internally applied and was selected for the Country Manager role, propelling her to a new leadership phase with its own triumphs and hurdles 

Yumiko at the Palo Verde Waterfalls

Whatever the role, according to Yumiko, it’s best not to rest on one’s laurels and keep learning and developing every day. She now sets the tone as a leader by remaining present, accessible and fair to her team members. They know that she has their back, while they chase their professional goals at Discova.  

Under Yumiko’s tutelage, the Costa Rica team has also been going full steam with their efforts to stand out from the crowd as a reliable DMC that puts responsible tourism at the forefront of their operations. We are not only in the process of receiving a Certificate for Responsible Tourism (CST) but were recently accredited as an official member of the Red Sofia programme that facilitates safe travel for women in the country.   

 “Red Sofia seemed like a fantastic initiative to be a part of since we want all our clients to feel safe upon arriving in Costa Rica. However, this training opened our eyes to be more aware of what could happen and mitigate any possible safety concerns for solo women travellers,” she adds.  

Speaking of leadership, Yumiko also stresses the importance of mentors in her personal life. While she has learned something or the other from all of them, she has been mindful of implementing qualities she likes and doesn’t in her management style. 

As people have different personalities, what works for one person might not work for me. The mentors I learned the most from are the ones who think rationally or whose temperaments are total opposites from me. 

Yumiko with some of her team members at an office party

As a female leader, Yumiko doesn’t feel the pressure of behaving in a certain way and wants to focus on her professional goals rather than how she might be perceived as a woman.   

“The way you speak to people should be with respect and of course, some might perceive this as bossy, or assertive, but it’s not something I have control over. It is all in the interpretation of the receiver,” she says.   

Her advice to women who are keen on exploring careers in the travel industry is to simply take the leap and not feel bogged down because of their gender.  

Yumiko concludes emphatically, “This is 2024. Many of the taboos for women have been removed and there are no reasons not to set a goal for yourself to get to where you want!” 

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