When you think of working abroad for a tour operator, the first job that springs to mind is a holiday rep on a resort. While this is one of the most exhilarating jobs to do in another country – 24/7 contact with your guests, beautiful destinations, a high-paced social and work life – hotel resorts actually offer more than casual seasonal work.
Our article on club repping jobs gives a great taste of what the work entails, but as it is easy to burn out after an exhausting few seasons, many reps move into less hectic roles.
This does not mean returning to Britain for a desk job – far from it. In fact, anyone with experience in public relations may be interested to know they could swap their dreary office for the tropics and build a full-time career in another country.
Karl Webster, 32, is the Eastern Caribbean Regional PR Manager for super-luxurious Sandals Resorts International. He is responsible for the PR of four resorts across St. Lucia and Antigua, and no two days are the same, which Karl sees as a bonus: “One of the great aspects of the position is that the work is incredibly varied and diverse.” However, the job splits into two broad areas: international and regional responsibilities.
International responsibilities include liaising with the worldwide representative of Sandals Resorts, Unique Vacations, Inc, in Miami to organise press group visits to the resorts. Karl drafts activity itineraries suiting the editorial needs of each group and the Sandals Resorts brand, such as detailed resort tours and opportunities to sample what the resorts have to offer by offering hosted meals at particular restaurants, complimentary Red Lane Spa treatments or Sandals Resorts dive programmes. Off-property activities of interest to journalists such as trips to local beauty spots, areas of conservational interest and specific cultural tours are included to sample the local culture.
Karl sees the regional PR side of the job as equally important: “We as a company have a responsibility not just to our guests and team members, but also the communities at large in the region.”
He works with the Sandals PR team in a number of projects on the islands, ranging from building schools and homes to providing charities and hospitals with linen and supporting the Salvation Army with daily food donations. An important part is raising awareness.
Karl explains: “It is my role to highlight these good-will activities to the local media. This could come in the context of inviting press to a particular charity event, to drafting a press release on the activity and sending it directly to the publications. Once the event receives coverage, I would then share this information with the rest of the company by way of a monthly report – internal communications are equally as important as external.”
Rather than contacting Sandals directly, Karl heard about this position through word of mouth. A lengthy interview process with directors in the UK and Jamaica followed his initial application, where he had to prove his suitability. Luckily, six years experience working for a London-based Marketing and PR agency came to his aid, and he was galvanised by the challenges working abroad would bring.
For more tips on how to find permanent vacancies abroad while still in the UK, read our careers abroad article. Sandals vacancies in North America are available by clicking the link, but to enquire about resort opportunities you must write directly to Sandals Resorts International, 5 Kent Avenue, PO BOX 100, Montego Bay, Jamaica, WI, including your CV.
Unlike the temporary nature of working on a European holiday resort, working in St. Lucia and Antigua meant a long-term move. Karl is keen to emphasise the help Sandals gave him in relocating: “Sandals is very aware of the difficulties ex-pats can face with when working away from home and put things in place to make the transition from the UK to working and living overseas as easy as possible. They help to provide accommodation (in the form of a housing allowance), cell phones, living allowances and a competitive salary. Not only does this help upon arrival on the island, but it’s also a great way to save money, something that is becoming increasingly difficult back in the UK.”
As already mentioned, Karl’s previous PR experience was vital for his application, and a degree is usually required for similar positions. However, personality is also crucial: “The company looks for adaptability of character and the willingness to work as part of a vast and diverse team. There is big difference between working in the Caribbean than in the UK in terms of style, approach and attitude, all of which you have to adapt to quickly in order to make the position work for yourself and others around you.”
So – working on a paradise island, highlighting its beauty to journalists in between organising charity initiatives – is there a downside? Karl admits that homesickness can be a problem, but the positives outweigh the negatives: “Missing home, family and friends can be rectified very easily with visits from them on a regular basis – which is definitely not a problem from their point of view! The best aspects would have to be the lifestyle of living on a beautiful island: the sun, sea, sand, the local Piton beer and, of course, the selections of rums the island has to offer!”
So would he recommend the job? “Absolutely, it has given me invaluable experience both in working away from home and for a company and culture outside of the UK. I’m sure whatever my future employment role is, Sandals will stand in good stead on my CV and I highly recommend others in PR to seek similar opportunities.”