Bring a little sun into your life as a holiday rep

The pay isn't great, but life as a holiday rep is more like having fun than it is working, finds Nick Jackson

Wednesday 29 March 2006 13:57 BST

s the weather begins to get its act together, thoughts turn to bleached beaches, blue lagoons and the pinch of sunburn. Some lucky souls are there already, working as holiday reps for the big holiday firms.

A rep's job is very simple: to make people happy. "You're there to make the holiday as easy and fun for people as possible," says Nicky Chestnutt at First Choice, one of Britain's biggest British travel companies. It's a long way from Hi-de-Hi, though. As a guide to the local area, your modern rep needs an interest in the history and culture of the place in which they are working and, ideally, some basic ability with languages.

So what does it take to spend your working life in the sun? "We're looking for people with outgoing personalities who like being with people on holiday," says Chestnutt. "You should be the fount of all knowledge, telling them what there is to do, what to explore."

With a basic pay of a little over £100 a week, as well as their bed and board, reps earn by promoting excursions and field trips, which can bring in up to £300 a week in the high season. And it is not just a job for the young. Chestnutt says that the best reps are often older, with a bit more experience under their belt, and a story to tell.

Most reps do start young, though - even at college, with big companies like My Travel supporting students through travel qualifications. That is how Shayley Jones got into the business, after completing a BTech in overseas resort operations supported by My Travel, for whom she now works in Portugal.

Jones, 19, had known she wanted to work in travel since she was a child. Working as a rep was a dream job. "As a child, I always thought reps were the cool grown-ups," she says. "They were always having fun."

Jones has spent the last year on the Algarve. "No two days are ever the same," she says. "You're always having fun. It's not like at home where you go home and moan about your job."

But it hasn't always been easy. "There are some very early mornings," admits Jones. "It's long hours." For now, she is looking forward to working in Spain and perhaps the Greek Islands. "When I stop enjoying it, I'll stop doing it. But I don't know when that'll be."

One of the obvious pluses of repping is the chance to travel to the hottest of tourist hot spots, as Laura Hamilton knows. Hamilton, 26, has worked as a rep in Benidorm, Tenerife, Turkey, Lanzarote, Austria, Crete, and now Gran Canaria.

You do not need to have studied tourism at college to qualify. With most of your income coming in commission from selling trips, companies are often looking for people with sales experience. Hamilton was selling advertising space in her home town of Troon in Scotland when she got the itch for better, warmer things. "I wanted to get out of the rat race, do something a bit different," she says. "This was a chance to travel."

She only went for a six-month season, but five years down the line she hasn't looked back. "Waking up every morning and the sun shining is the best part," she says. "It's a better quality of life." While we sweat it out in rainy Britain in the office, Hamilton will be organising boat trips, foam parties and school discos.

If you ever do get sick of the sun, there is the chance to move up the ladder in the travel business back home - a business that supports tens of thousands of employees and has a turnover of almost £30bn a year.

Liz McElligott, 48, spent 12 years working abroad as a rep and tour manager before coming home to the UK to work for Kuoni in human resources development, writing courses for reps.

McElligott started her career about as far from Benidorm and Lanzarote as you can get, working with children in care for her local authority in Ireland. "Childcare is quite emotionally draining," she says. "I was looking for something a bit more fun."

And as McElligott's own career demonstrates, repping is not just for the season. "The great thing is that there are so many areas you can branch off into," she says. "I'd only ever been as far as Ballybunion before. Now I've got friends scattered across the world."

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