Enterprising, organising, extremely sociable yet responsible, mediating, innovating, reassuring, never boring, meeting, greeting, entertaining and not complaining – the life of holiday rep is an exhilarating experience!
Holiday reps are essential members of staff for family-holiday tour operators. These are the people who meet new arrivals at the airport, oversee their hotel transfers, inform them about the country and hotel, organise trips during their stay and often provide the evenings entertainment. Holiday reps look after children, recommend local attractions, resolve disputes and generally ensure the customers have a good holiday. If reps are bad timekeepers, cannot cope with pressure or overindulge during evening festivities, the repercussions can include customer complaints, refusal to travel with the tour operator and potentially redundancy. It’s a big responsibility.
At the same time, it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Hundreds of wannabe holiday reps apply each year to travel companies, desperate to work a season abroad. The diversity of roles can sometimes be forgotten – the popularity of package holidays offers many different positions, even within the definition of ‘holiday rep.’ As already mentioned, you could become a child rep, working in the ubiquitous children’s clubs that are so essential for exhausted parents. Focusing on their parents is another obvious choice. Alternatively, you could focus on older customers – retirees who need a change of scenery and finally have time to enjoy themselves. If you prefer to be around young adults, there are several brands reinventing themselves to offer more than a fortnights’ worth of liver poisoning. If you are a sports enthusiast then working on a ski resort or active watersports resort may sound appealing, and repping on a luxury resort in an exotic location would be ideal if you like a different experience to the norm. The possibilities are endless!
Although job descriptions will vary according to resort, employer and position, there are some qualities that all holiday reps require. Motivation, social skills and enthusiasm are vital, and sales experience would be useful as many reps make commission from selling excursions. As with many hospitality jobs, the wages are not fantastic, but the general agreement amongst casual staff is that you do it for the experience as much as for the money.
Tour operator Cosmos employs between 30 and 50 reps on six month seasonal contracts each year to work at its family-friendly resorts. Most reps work in the Mediterranean but there is a chance of going to Egypt, Goa or the Gambia, or even Finnish Lapland over Christmas.
Overseas Area Manager Emma Robson said: “There is no typical day overseas, you don’t know what’s around the corner. You might start your day carrying out welcome meetings in your hotels, have to visit a guest in the hospital when you have finished, go back to your hotels in the afternoon for general visits and follow up sales and then guide an excursion such as a Greek night in the evening. The following day you might be backwards and forwards to and from the airport all day doing transfers.”
Experience and attitude is vital to securing a job with Cosmos, although a tourism qualification is handy. No official qualification apart from a driving licence is necessary but Emma said: “We look for any customer service experience, good written English skills and people that show a passion for travel. A covering letter that shows a genuine desire for the job is also good. Ideally reps should be flexible, enthusiastic, organised, offer excellent customer service, be able to work as part of a team and also as an individual, be confident in speaking to large groups of people on a microphone, friendly, caring, an generally a good all-rounder.”
Reps share a studio or hotel room with colleagues and get a monthly wage paid into their UK bank account. Commission on excursion sales is paid in cash on resort, and reps also get company transport so your expenditure is minimal. A huge variety of people choose to work as a rep whether for one season or many years, and those who take to the life can work up the career ladder to management and head office positions.
Emma said: “The best aspects of working overseas are being able to experience so many different cultures, meeting lots of new people, every day is different and usually you are working in the sunshine! For me, the worst aspect is saying goodbye; you build some great relationships and friendships and at the end of the season people go their separate ways.”
Candidates can apply to Cosmos online at www.monarch.co.uk/jobs or post their CV with a covering letter to the overseas department in the Cosmos head office. Their main recruitment period is December/January for the following summer.