Holiday tour manager

NAME: Mark Hetheridge OCCUPATION: Holiday Tour Manager AGE: 29 PERSONAL: Mark discovered that he had a flair for languages while at school, and had always enjoyed travelling to exotic destinations and visiting historical landmarks. He really wasn t inter

NAME: Mark Hetheridge

OCCUPATION: Holiday Tour Manager

AGE: 29

PERSONAL: Mark discovered that he had a flair for languages while at school, and had always enjoyed travelling to exotic destinations and visiting historical landmarks. He really wasn't interested in a nine-to-five career. He wanted a job that would let him use what he had learned in a practical way. While studying for a degree in History and French, Mark worked as a tour guide in his university town. After he graduated, he applied to various travel agencies - organising leading package tours in French-speaking countries. Mark now works as a freelance tour manager for several agencies, organising coach tours around the south of France, as well as culture-orientated holidays in Morocco and Tunisia, every summer season.

JOB DESCRIPTION

Tour managers organise all aspects of a holiday for a group of tourists. They can be involved in a variety of vacations - from educational tours and cultural visits to sporting holidays and specialist activities such as wine-tasting, painting or cooking. They will be responsible for arranging trips to places of interest during the holiday, which involves finding suitable transport (coaches, trains, boats or planes) and often giving background information on the proposed location before or during the trip. Making sure the holidaymakers are well organised is of paramount importance. Managers are responsible for ensuring tickets and travel documents are in order, checking the times of flights, telling the group about arrival and departure times and contacting proposed stops on the itinerary to ensure a smooth visit. Managers are also expected to deal with emergencies that crop up - everything from finding someone to help carry tourists' luggage to arranging care for someone who's been taken ill. They need to know the area and to be able to track down doctors, chemists, banks and telephone boxes on request.

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SKILLS & PERSONALITY

As the backbone of the role consists of working with large groups of strangers every week, it is vital for tour managers to have a genuine interest in people and come across as very approachable, friendly, and confident. Being able to plan a schedule and organise activities carefully is essential, as is plenty of patience and tact for dealing with tricky situations. Good general health and lots of energy are vital as the working hours can be very long and unpredictable. Because managers usually work alone, they need the ability to make decisions independently and be comfortable as their own boss.

TRAINING & ENTRY REQUIREMENTS

There are no formal qualifications that need to be obtained for the role, as personality is such a large part of successful tour management. However, competition for jobs is fierce, and vacancies are not generally advertised as so many can be filled by people who make speculative applications. Experience working in the leisure or tourist industry is a helpful basis for the role, particularly work in a travel agency or tourist resort. A good knowledge of languages, particularly widely spoken ones such as French and Spanish, can also boost your chances of getting into the industry. It can take some years to build up enough experience to start tour managing, so graduates may need to apply for work experience or get a job in a related industry before they are deemed as suitable.

EARNINGS & PROSPECTS

As with all desirable jobs, the pay is not great. Starting salaries can be as low as £8,000, though board and lodging are free while on a tour. Managers with three years' experience can make up to £15,000, while senior workers can typically expect £20,000 - though this can be higher. Tour work is often seasonal, with less available in the winter. Managers may need to find other employment during off-peak periods, such as teaching English as a foreign language (TEFL). Experienced managers can move into tour development for larger companies, or start their own company.

MAIN MOAN

"I spend long periods of time away from home, and it's lonely when you don't see friends or family for months at a time."

MAIN SATISFACTION

"Knowing you've helped people have the best, most relaxing time possible when they go abroad. And the variety of clients you meet means you're never going to get bored at work."

MORE INFORMATION

Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT): http://www.itt.co.uk International Association of Tour Managers: http://www.iatm.co.uk

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