For anyone who loves to travel, working in the travel industry seems to be the ideal way to fund their passion. After all, what’s better than getting paid to visit exotic destinations, spend time researching travel trends or meet people who share similar interests?
But is that the reality of working in travel? Let’s find out…
What’s it really like, working in the travel industry?
To help answer this age old question, I asked some of my favourite travel bloggers to share their experiences. Read on to see what they do, the different types of jobs available in travel and to find out whether it’s really worth it…
Working as a hotel bartender in Paris – Simone from Take Your Bag
I am Simone – an Italian bartender currently working at the Hôtel des Arts et Métiers in Paris.
I am a traveler myself and working in the travel industry made me a better one. Let me be more specific:
I’ve always had to deal with customers from all around the world. That not only improved my skills in hospitality but gave me the possibility to learn 3 languages (English, Spanish and French) and make work connections abroad, which opened doors pretty much everywhere on this beautiful planet. I have worked in some of the most beautiful places in the world, and that’s priceless.
So you’ll understand that I have to love this job!
Of course it’s not always easy, but we are talking about little issues. Sometimes there are some language misunderstandings or I have to deal with customers who are not satisfied by something, but that happens in every job and can usually be fixed in a reasonable amount of time. The more you get to work with people from all around, the easier it gets to fix issues because you have a better understanding of habits and customs, which is a very interesting part of the job too!
Being behind a bar makes you the customer’s first best friend when they arrive at the hotel. They want to chill after a flight, ask for suggestions about the city they just arrived in… and with a glass of wine or a good cocktail, I can help them get in a good mood for the rest of their journey!
I really cannot find something that I do not like about working in tourism as a bartender, and honestly I would recommend this job to anyone.
Working as an Africa Specialist – Sarah from The Winged Fork
I didn’t really know what I wanted to do when I graduated from college, but somehow did an IATA Management level course and then got into the travel industry. It’s been 12 years now and I love my job (most of the time anyway).
I currently consult with an East African DMC (Destination Management Company) and another wholesale tour company that specialises in Africa. Africa as a destination has a lot to offer and we prepare tailor-made itineraries for all our clients, be they retail agents or direct clients, from 3* budgets to high-end. Apart from specialising in Africa, I also work on almost every other destination.
What I like about working in the travel industry it is that you get to meet people from all over the world and learn so much about different countries, their history, culture and lifestyle. You can see a bit of the world without having to visit it, although if given a chance to visit, I’d jump at it. Getting to see places is one of the highlights of the job. That being said, it doesn’t happen as often as I’d like. It’s usually the top level people that get to travel to most, while the rest of us manage the office. I’ve had the opportunity through work to visit Kenya, Israel, South Africa and China, but would really like to make that list a lot longer.
It’s not all great though. Part of the job is dealing with people who assume they know better than everyone else (even when they don’t); but as the saying goes “Customer is King”, so no choice there. Some clients are really great, straight-forward, will take your advice and do what’s to be done. Those often turn out to be the clients that come back. Which is great! But then there are those who take all your plans and ideas and then book trips online, because they don’t have to pay immediately or it gives them more flexibility. So then work that you’ve put in for the last few weeks or months goes down the drain and you have nothing to show for it… that’s life in the travel industry. The Internet, as we all know, is good to research and book cheaper holidays, but sadly it is eventually going to bring an end to the travel agent era.
Working as a freelance accommodation consultant – Adrienne from Adri En Route
Do you know what happens behind the scenes when you book a hotel room online? Or how someone who owns a vacation home can sell it on sites like Airbnb and HomeAway? There is actually an entire industry dedicated to marketing and distributing rooms online, and I’m part of it! My career in the travel industry started in college; I studied Hotel Administration at Cornell University with the goal of becoming a general manager of a hotel one day. After working in a couple of different hotels, I decided the life of a general manager was not the one for me. But, I still loved the hotel industry, and I wanted to find a way to work with hotels without actually working in one.
That’s how I found the online travel agency industry; I got an internship with Priceline.com during college, then, after graduation, I started working at Expedia’s office in Miami. As a Market Associate, and later as a Market Manager, I was the main point of contact between hotels in Miami and Expedia. I would help them sell their rooms most effectively by running promotions, uploading good content, and using competitive rates. I was also the go-to person for the inevitable guest conflict and payment dispute, which wasn’t always the most exciting thing, but those experiences taught me a lot about negotiation and patience.
Now I have my own consulting business, and I help hotels and vacation rentals around the world sell their rooms online, not only on Expedia, but on Airbnb, Booking.com, FlipKey, HomeAway, and their own websites. I create content for them, make sure their property descriptions are optimized for search engines, and coach them on how to strategically price and market their rooms. I enjoy working with properties in different cities and learning about what makes each property special.
I’m currently traveling the world with my husband, and my freelance career enables me to have a flexible work schedule so I can really enjoy each place that we visit. It’s exciting (and a little scary) to be in complete control of my workload, and I’m learning new things every day!
In addition to my consulting gig, I write about my own travel experiences on my blog, Adri En Route, and I’m always posting updates on Instagram and Facebook. If you have any questions about the hotel industry or working remotely, please reach out!
Working as a freelance travel writer and travel consultant – Cris from LooknWalk
Hi, I’m Cris and I’ve been working in the travel industry since 2002.
When I was in university I applied for a back-end job in a travel agency in my hometown. I was assigned Greece (for summer) and Austria (for winter). I stayed for 6 months until I graduated school. I fell in love with Greece and the travel agency enough to open my own with a silent partner. That was both a blessing and a curse, so soon enough (almost 2 years later) the silent partner went…mute. And the agency closed.
Oh, but a world of opportunities opened. I started to freelance as a writer and it wasn’t too long until I ended up doing travel writing.
In 2007, I was lucky enough to grab a part-time freelance traveler writing gig for a US company running WhyGoGreece (now I own the blog and it’s called LooknWalk Greece). I loved it and stuck around. By 2008 I was a full-time freelance travel writer and by 2013 I got involved in their project selling airline tickets. And soon enough, I did my Amadeus (flights reservation platform) training and became an IATA ticketing agent. Travel consultancy was also part of the deal – pre-sale and post-sale. I loved helping others plan their flights, help with flight hacking, advice about the destinations, and anything else they might need. I disliked having to deal with airlines when it came to involuntary changes and cancelations. That, most of the time, meant hours on the phone bargaining for a code to allow changes for free and to get the passengers on a decent replacement flight. It soon enough became too stressful and I left the job (2016) to focus on my blog (LooknWalk). Soon I got ownership of LooknWalk Greece, too. I keep offering travel consultancy through my articles, emails and 1to1 sessions. I also write travel advice articles.
As for social media, I started doing that in 2007 for WhyGoGreece. And once I opened LooknWalk (2011) I also did it for this blog.
When I left the travel agency (2016) I vowed to focus on what makes me happy so I stuck with travel writing. And grabbed a job in a Dutch travel agency to do content marketing. Six months later, I took on the job of their social media specialist (for the entire company). I’m still here.
I love to work remotely especially because I can work from where I have decent internet. So I was an expat in Italy (although decent internet wasn’t quite…decent) and I loved it. Having the flexibility to work from where I want and to set my own hours is why I love to do freelance work in the travel industry. I cannot see myself chained to a desk in an office, though.
Working for a National Park hotel – Megan from Red Around The World
In the winter of 2015, I decided that I wanted to see more of the US, so I decided to start applying to seasonal national parks jobs out west. I wasn’t terribly concerned about what job I had, as long as I was out there and able to explore. I applied for everything from hostess to hiking guide and concierge to housekeeper. I was hired as a front desk agent at Lake Powell in Utah and have pretty much been doing it since then.
I’ve come back to Lake Powell for my third summer now and spent a winter in Wyoming, right between Yellowstone and the Tetons, doing front desk as well. So far I’ve really enjoyed working in the travel industry. The job as a front desk agent is enjoyable (for the most part) and I get to work at one of the coolest lakes in the US. The only things that I don’t love are dealing with angry guests and when the season is coming to an end and we’re super short on employees. It gets stressful having to deal with people that are upset while usually working a lot of extra hours.
It’s all worth it though being able to drive to countless national parks in three to six hours. And that’s just the national parks. There are national monuments and state parks, too. And you can’t forget all the slot canyons and hiking that isn’t even on a map. The Utah desert has become a bit of a second home and a place I look forward to returning to whenever I leave.
Working for a Holiday Company – Aimee from Real Travel Mate
My name is Aimee Wetherall and I work as an administrator for a UK holiday company and am based in different holiday destinations each summer and winter seasons. I answer queries from customers, suppliers and staff through phone, email and live chat. I also organise staff paperwork and assist in ad-hoc duties such as guiding excursions, assisting with airport duties and organising charity events.
I love that I get the opportunity to live and work in so many different destinations as you see a different side to them compared to being on holiday. Last year I lived & worked in Portugal, Lapland and Majorca – all 3 are beautiful in their own way and I had never been to any of them before. You also get to meet so many different people and quickly learn to never judge a book by its cover! There’s not much I don’t like about the industry apart from living out of a suitcase and disposable plastic bags being used at airport security. I completely understand the security reasons however we have seen the damaging impact disposable plastic has on our planet and I believe there is a way to make this better. A small idea is to invest in a clear plastic cosmetics bag, yes it’s still plastic, but at least they can be used again and help you get organised before you go to the airport.
I previously worked in a well paid job, however my mind would always drift to working in the travel industry. My sister had been a holiday representative a few years before, however I thought this was not for me. I had administration experience so I went on a few well known tour operator sites and applied through their careers page (before Linkedin!). Nearly 9 years later I’m still seeing what this world has to offer.
Working as a walking tour guide – Ridima from Littlejoysandmore
I am currently living in Geneva, Switzerland and conduct free walking tours here. I love interacting with people, learning about their culture and listening to their stories. I feel happy in the fact that I am able to promise a great time to many tourists who look forward to a perfect vacation.
I was never a stage-fearing person, so it was evident that I can definitely pull off a tour all by myself. I googled this organisation, FreeWalk Geneva, gave my interview and a set of mock tours and in no time, I was employed as one of their tour guides.
Being a guide is not easy. It has its own share of commitment, uncertainty and surprises.
- It needs commitment. No matter if it is a rain or shine, or even worse, gloomy, snowy and windy, a guide has to conduct the tour even if there is just one tourist. The best part is the happy welcoming expression of the tourist at the end of the tour that makes the efforts worthwhile.
- It is quite uncertain. The tips are variable and it is difficult to determine the tips that I might receive at the end of the tour. Good tips are definitely an encouragement, but bad tips remain a part of the game.
- These free walking tours also surprise me. In the process of knowing my tourists, I end up extracting my travel itinerary from them. Often they tell me such interesting places to visit, eat and enjoy—that helps me in making my vacation a perfect one too.
Working in a hostel – Christine from And The Story Goes…
I work at a hostel planning events and tours for the guests and recruiting volunteers to lead everything. I was in Europe when I applied for the position, in fact I had my phone interview while I was in Germany! My hostel is in a major US city, the same I grew up in, so even though I didn’t have much experience working with volunteers or planning/executing events, they liked how much I knew about the area and that I was a traveller who loved hostels. I interviewed in person on a Friday, job offer was on a Tuesday, and I started that next Friday.
My average day consists of planning any upcoming events, reporting our guest engagement, assisting at the front desk, leading tours, and updating our social media accounts. Overall, my favorite part of the job is throwing big events during the holidays. For Thanksgiving last year, we had a huge dinner for over 75 guests! The majority of these guests were international and never celebrated Thanksgiving before. It was great sharing the holiday with them and 10 of our hard-working volunteers. The worst part of working at a hostel is having to work from inside a hostel! Sometimes there’s a line for the bathroom, there’s a crowd in the lobby, or guests asking endless questions when I have a mouth full of food because I’m on my lunch break.
Overall, working at a hostel is great fun. My favourite part is seeing others experience American culture for the first time. We offer afternoon receptions sometimes and part of it is a DIY hot chocolate with a can of whipped cream. It’s pretty funny (in an endearing way) watching someone try to use a whipped cream can for the first time in their life and failing at it miserably.
And then, of course, there’s me…
Working as a digital marketing consultant for travel companies – Me!
I’ll start by being honest – I always thought that working in the travel industry would be me set for life. And in a way, it is. Though I’ve recently just left my full-time role in the travel industry to follow my other passion in life – food – thanks to my blog and my plans to work as a freelance marketing consultant for travel companies, travel remains a huge part of my life.
I used to work as an online marketing manager for a company that provided various services to independent travel agents and tour operators. I would advise business owners on how to market their products online and how to really engage with customers via social media. I loved being able to write about exotic destinations, and getting paid to look at travel websites all day. But, if anything, it made my urge to travel even stronger and I got frustrated that the measly pay packet and limited leave allowance made it nearly impossible.
Now, I work a compressed working week for a foodie start-up, which means I have plenty more opportunity to travel and earn extra cash on my three-day weekends, every week! It’s the best of all worlds!
I hope this post proves that working in the travel industry is a bit of a mixed bag, but most find it incredibly rewarding and worthwhile.
Have you ever dreamed of working in the travel industry or would you like to? I’d love to hear your experiences, so leave me a comment!
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