Living in a warm climate, free ‘fam’ (familiarisation) trips and the chance to work with happy holidaymakers are just some of the reasons why travel and tourism is such a popular choice for students. The flipside is that some jobs in the industry involve long hours, being away from friends and family and, on occasion, less-than-happy holidaymakers! But as long as you have drive and passion, you’ll find a world of opportunities in the industry.
So how do you get started? Peter Jenkins, owner and managing director of Sun-hat Villas & Resorts, explains what he’s learned during his 35 years in the industry.
What are travel and tourism jobs?
Travel and tourism jobs cover a wide spectrum but generally include any job within the holiday market. Whether that be helping customers to plan for a holiday, source a great place to stay, help to keep holiday-makers safe and comfortable during their holiday, or even helping travel companies to source great accommodation, like hotels and villas, and secure exclusive prices.
What kind of travel and tourism jobs are there?
Whatever your skills and interests, there’s almost certainly a job for you in travel and tourism. If you love dealing with members of the public, and can stay cool under pressure, you may be suited to a customer service or managerial role with an airline, travel agency, hotel or tourist information centre. Meanwhile, working behind-the-scenes for a travel company or tourist board opens up even more roles in marketing, graphic design, product management and IT.
You may know instinctively where your passions lie, but it’s always worth getting work experience in your chosen field. Working as a rep in a holiday resort during the summer or ski season will quickly tell you whether you enjoy being on the front line, and you’ll learn no end of valuable skills in the process.
What qualifications are needed for a travel and tourism job?
Just as you’d expect, certain jobs require specific training and qualifications, particularly for specialist roles like pilot or chef. A travel and tourism degree covers different disciplines, like management, marketing, business strategy and much more, usually with a chance to hear from experts and gain work experience. You can also break into the industry having completed A or AS-levels in the subject, or take the apprenticeship route.
While qualifications lay the groundwork, what most companies want to see from applicants is energy and desire to learn, as many skills are gained on the job.
Tell me about three different roles in travel and tourism.
- Travel agent
Responsible for selling the destination and services of the company, a travel agent must be friendly, knowledgeable and love what they do. It doesn’t matter whether you are organising a straight forward holiday in the sun, or bespoke itinerary for a couple going on honeymoon, you need to think about the investment – both financial and emotional – each customer is making. Remember too that this could be a person’s first contact with the travel company, and one false move could see them walking out the door.As a travel agent, you are responsible for handling enquiries, sending out brochures and making bookings. There are normally regular fam trips to destinations too – at Sun-hat, for instance, our villa specialists travel to our resorts in the spring and autumn, so they can give clients detailed information about our properties.
- On-site rep
As mentioned above, working as a student holiday rep during the holidays or on your gap year will give you a real insight into whether you want to go make it your full-time job. Recruitment for reps is all year round, so either contact a holiday company speculatively, or else look for vacancies online. On call 24-hour a day (with rest days!), you will meet and greet customers, organise activities and handle any enquiries, from recommending restaurants to dealing with lost passports.Some rep jobs require little experience but plenty of enthusiasm, while others are far more specialist. Sun-hat’s reps, for instance, are either British expats or locals who can share insider knowledge on the best markets and restaurants, as well as the region’s customs. They also visit the client when they arrive and before they leave, and are on call for the duration of their stay to help with any requests.
- Product manager
You may not have encountered this job before – but it is the engine that powers a company like ours. Without a product manager, we’d have no villas to offer our customers and our business wouldn’t exist. Securing the best properties first, and agreeing a competitive rate, requires tenacity, enthusiasm and energy, along with a strong understanding of your customers and the destination. You are also likely to be involved in sourcing photography, writing product descriptions and uploading these, along with prices, onto the website.
Looking for vacancies
Roles tend to be advertised in travel magazines such as Travel Weekly and online at Travel Job Search, as well as on general sites like Indeed, Monster and Fish4Jobs.
What other skills do I need for a career in travel and tourism?
Along with impeccable customer service skills, both in person and on the phone, a caring and happy manner is essential, as is a calm and professional attitude. As with any job, it takes time to develop your knowledge and experience, so don’t be afraid to ask someone more senior if you are stuck.
More and more, travel and tourism jobs require good photography, writing and social media skills. Get as much practice as you can while studying by contributing to student publications, writing a blog or organising work experience with a relevant company. You never know, you may impress someone so much that they offer you a position!
Peter Jenkins is a holiday and travel expert, with over 35 years’ experience working in the travel industry. In 2001, Peter took his passion for the Algarve and founded Sun-hat Villas & Resorts. Peter has also worked for some of the biggest names in the holiday market, including Sovereign, Falcon and First Choice.