If you find yourself daydreaming about exotic destinations and fun-filled adventures while fretting the thought of a repetitive 9-5 lifestyle, an internship abroad in the hospitality industry may be just what you need.
Interning abroad is more than just a great way to get a step up over your competition in the industry and gain a feel for what management level positions will be like. Travelling abroad also presents the opportunity to experience whole new cultures and adventures, giving you new friends and memories that will last a lifetime.
Hospitality encompasses many sectors like travel, transportation and food and beverage. Each of these sectors then have their own roles in administrative fields like sales, marketing, accounting and human resources along with front-line positions like front desk operations and tour guiding. With this, there’s virtually an endless supply of internships available, but here are a couple of main areas you can look into:
- Restaurants: As healthy food trends have been abounding in recent years and more people have higher disposable incomes and less free time, eating out at restaurants has become more of a commonality. Interning at a restaurant isn’t restricted to cooking or serving either; larger companies can offer corporate internships in areas like menu planning and public relations, while upscale establishments offer positions as wine stewards and maître d’s.
- Attractions: Millions of leisure travelers flock across the globe to visit unique attractions like iconic landmarks, national parks and museums. All of these attractions offer unique experiences and the potential to learn a lot local culture in your destination.
- Tour Operators: Tour operators are the people working behind the scenes to prepare and organize packaged trips for vacationers. This can mean combining flights and hotels in mass-deals, or working with clients in small groups with a luxury tour company. Although potential tourists can access more information than ever online, tour operators are still in demand as they can get better discounts than the average traveller. Operators offering niche travel experiences give their guests the opportunity to connect with likeminded travelers and to create new friendships during their experience. Positions in this industry still give you the opportunity to interact with clients, but won’t put you in the same front line positions you may encounter working in a hotel or restaurant.
- Special Events: If you were always the one planning parties and get-togethers for your friends, love flipping through wedding magazines to look at the latest themes and decorations (even when wedding bells aren’t in your immediate future), or are the first to get tickets for every music festival around, a special events internship might be the perfect experience for you. This fast-paced industry offers exciting internship opportunities, allowing you to experience lifetime highlights on an everyday basis.
- Hotels: Working in a hotel, you’ll never experience the same day twice. Many establishments cater to business and leisure tourists alike, meaning you’ll get the chance to interact with all sorts of guests. As an added bonus, if you intern at a chain hotel, you’ll often receive employee discounts to stay at their other locations. Since the world economy has seen a significant amount of globalization and the economy has begun to rebound since the recession, newly expanding eastern countries like China are seeing an increase in business travel. In western society, baby boomers are retiring from high-paying jobs and looking to spend their free time travelling abroad.
Since the majority of upper-level position recruitment in hospitality is rarely posted publicly, if you want to make a career for yourself in the industry, knowing the who’s who is highly important. Internships are a great way to get connected within your field and since traveling is central to a lot of hospitality sectors, having a global background will look great on a resume.
With its recent economic expansion, Asia has become a prime destination for hospitality and corporate trends in social responsibility have also lead destinations that focus on sustainability to take center stage. As a result, the following destinations have become prime places to look for internships:
- China: Once a far away and closed-off location, China’s economy has recently seen an economical boom and is opening its gates to tourists from all over the world. With attractions like the Great Wall and Yangtze River as well as some of the biggest cities on Earth like Shanghai and Beijing, China is bustling with hospitality internship opportunities. While speaking Mandarin or Cantonese is a definite asset, especially for experiencing local culture, positions in large hotel companies many not require you to know any additional languages other than English as business travelers from the west are often welcomed for conferences. This gives China the opportunity to build demand in its hospitality industry and give you the opportunity to communicate with guests predominantly in English.
- New Zealand: Australia’s smaller neighbor has done wonders to make tourism a priority in its economy. Their 100% Pure New Zealand campaign has seen huge success by leveraging the country’s many natural resources and breathtaking landscapes for adventure travel. The country has also been a leader in sustainable tourism, recognizing both the demand for this type of travel and the importance in conserving its natural landscapes.
- United Arab Emirates: The oil industry has brought a lot of wealth to the Middle East, allowing cities like Dubai to host to some of the world’s most extravagant attractions. The city is home to the world’s first seven star hotel and despite being in the middle of a desert, boasts an indoor ski hill. The country holds a history of gender inequality, but has grown to become the leader for women’s rights in the Middle East. As such, as an Islamic nation, homosexuality is still considered illegal.
- Canada: Another nation bursting with natural beauty, western Canada is a great skiing destination during the winter and offers plenty of sustainable outdoor experiences in the summer. Metropolitan areas like Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal have also been gaining international reputations as lively cities with iconic landmarks, attractions and dining options. Many international and domestic baby boomers have been taking more trips across the entire country, greatly increasing the amount of visitors each year.
- Singapore: Singapore is known as one of the four Asian tigers (along with Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan) because of its high level of rapid economic growth since the 1960s. With this, the large upper class can often be found hosting extravagant events and dining in the city’s many celebrity chef restaurants. Although it’s located in Asia, Singapore is part of the British Commonwealth and holds English as an official language. This has helped the country cater to the high number of international tourists stopping over on a layover at the Changi International Airport. With this, many of the city’s hotels experience occupancy rates close to 100%. The combination means Singapore is seeing a hospitality boom like never before and is always looking to source international interns to keep pace with its rapid expansion.
When and Where to Look for a Hospitality Internship:
Job fairs are a great place to begin your search as they give you the chance to talk to various employers, allowing you compare your options and get a quick taste of what working with each company will be like. For more information on hospitality job fairs, check out Hcareer’s advice on how to make the most of them.
The time of the year to look for jobs varies with the industry and when they experience their busy season. A ski resort, for example, would usually look to hire interns over a busy winter season, while a beach resort would look to hire over the summer.
If you have your heart set on a specific internship, email the company’s human resources department to let them know you’re interested. Even if a position isn’t posted, if you let them know you’re interested, they’ll likely keep you as the first in mind if a position comes up in the future.
While the hospitality industry as a whole is quite large, specific sectors like those for luxury hotels or wedding planners are quite small and well-connected. If you plan on taking on an internship, consider joining a relevant association. These associations often hold events and informational meetings, which are a great time to network, build connections and keep up to date with the industry (if you’re nervous about networking, check out Tom Costello’s advice.
Most associations have a membership fee, but if you’re a student, the price is usually lowered. Here’s a list of some of the major hospitality associations you can get involved with:
- World Travel and Tourism Council
- Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International
- National Restaurant Association
- American Hotel & Lodging Association
Why Intern in Hospitality?
If you’re ready to get out there and live life to the fullest experiencing the highlights of people’s lives as part of your everyday, a hospitality internship is the way to go. The atmosphere of the industry and the friends you’ll meet are amazing and fun. In addition, the memories you’ll make and experience you gain will last a lifetime.
There’s a sentence that many people in the industry end up thinking about their lives in hospitality (if not right-out saying): “my life is better than your vacation”. When your life consists of helping people enjoy their vacations to the fullest, whether from behind the scenes or on the front lines, this boisterous phrase actually holds some truth to it.