When you think of people who work in the travel industry, a traditional travel agent or front line staff at the airport come to mind.
After talking to Iris Serbanescu, a recent grad working in the travel industry, I realized there is more than meets the eye.
“You interact with the front line staff,” Iris points out, “but you don’t see the massive powerhouse behind the experience you’re having – the people who have coordinated the behind-the-scenes.”
And there are a lot of people behind-the-scenes, including Marketing Managers for tour operators, Sales Representatives for hotels and resorts, and Destination Managers in locations around the world.
Iris decided to make the leap into the travel industry after graduating from Wilfrid Laurier University with a business degree and working in the insurance industry for a few years.
It wasn’t the right fit for her, so she chose to make a career in travel because it was a marriage of her passions for travelling and business, and as she puts it: “I had to make sure that what I’d be making a living doing was something I would do without even getting paid.”
With her mind made up, she went back to school for 16 months to learn the inner workings of the travel business in a fast-track Travel and Tourism Management diploma program at Humber College.
It might just land you an internship in another country!
Iris admits that she took a leap of faith believing that pursuing her passions would land her a job. “I had no idea what the opportunities in the travel industry were at the time…the industry proved to be a hidden gem full of opportunities for our generation.”
After finishing school, her first internship was with the Four Seasons in Prague, Czech Republic. She hopped on a plane to Prague, walked into the Four Seasons hotel and asked if they hire interns. Luckily, they did, and she was the very first North American they hired as an intern.
Meet travel industry insiders
And know what you bring to the table
Back in Canada, Iris attended the Canadian Institute of Travel Counselors (CITC) annual Students’ Conference (which takes place every November) to rub elbows with potential employers in the travel industry. Iris landed an internship with Away, the leisure travel division of TTI Travel, in Toronto by not being afraid to approach companies she found interesting, so she certainly advocates taking a very proactive approach in your job search.
“I don’t like the term networking; to me it implies that you are trying to benefit from people for the sole purpose of gaining something for yourself,” she says. “I like to think of it more as having a certain skill set that is unique to you, then meeting the right people, and knowing that you can offer it to them – it’s mutually beneficial. When an employer meets you and you can demonstrate your strengths and how you can help them, you’ve struck gold.”
Iris now works full time for Away. The company doesn’t just book flights or arrange hotel stays – they spend time getting to know each customer, their needs, their lifestyle, and building personalized custom travel itineraries for their clients: dream trips in exotic locales around the world. They manage transportation, sightseeing, restaurant reservations, and anything their customers can dream of to complete their experience.
Iris is a Special Project Coordinator – which basically means she wears many hats. She works with the marketing department to help create client communications like monthly newsletters, attends industry events to meet potential globetrotters and helps manage relationships with the agency’s partners. Essentially, it’s a dream job for a travel junkie like Iris.
Remember that travel is a 24/7, 365 industry
It’s not all glamour all the time, though
There are some unique quirks that come with working in the travel industry – for example, a travel agent needs to be available 24/7 if there’s a client on the other side of the world who needs help.
If you’re working with a tour operator or hotel, things might not happen during regular business hours. But, if you’re in the travel industry, you have a passion for adventure…and adventures rarely happen between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Now, it’s time to pack your bags!
There are perks that come along with working in the travel industry
Depending on what type of company you work for, you may get discounts on airfare or hotels. If you’re lucky, you can take “familiarization trips,” meaning you head to a resort to experience what it has to offer, and then debrief your colleagues who may be sending clients there in the future.
Outside of the travel-related perks, Iris believes the best part of her job is the people she works with. “Their level of passion and engagement with what they do is an eternal motivator. Their vast wealth of knowledge of the world we live in is an inspiration every day. It reminds me that I made the right choice by going into an industry where people love coming to work every day.”
If you’re looking for a career that’s full of excitement, the travel industry may be a great, unexpected, place to look.