As an industry, tourism tends to attract people who love to travel. It makes sense, then, that tourism is one of the richest industries when it comes to internship opportunities overseas. There are countless placements out there for interns with wanderlust, whether you want to work at B&Bs in Italy, plan adventure tours in Costa Rica or launch a marketing campaign in China.
Interning abroad in tourism is also just plain common sense. Tourism is both local and global: you need to know your destination like the back of your hand, but you also need to learn to cater to people from all over the world. Interning overseas is one of the best ways to get this global sense of perspective while teaching you how to become an expert on any place in the world.
You can intern within any part of the tourist industry, depending on what your specific interests and skills are, and on what kind of work you hope to get off the back of your internship.
Hospitality and tourism are two separate industries, but they overlap considerably. As such, many tourism placements will have you working within the hospitality sector in your chosen destination.
You could end up working in a hotel, hostel, resort, or cruise, undertaking both day-to-day admin tasks and customer-facing jobs to give you a well-rounded view of what it takes to make tourists feel at home.
National or regional tourism boards exist as a sort of marketing agency for the destinations they represent. For this reason, interning with a tourism board could be especially interesting for those with a marketing or advertising background, with scope for skills like writing, design, and social media management.
If you love planning a vacation as much as the trip itself, chances are you might enjoy helping others plan their own adventures. An internship in a travel agency will show you the ropes of the industry, whether it’s on the backend of things (researching and putting together the trips) or the customer service side (selling the packages and providing advice).
Where to Go
Anywhere with an active tourism industry will have plenty of internship opportunities available. However, countries that rely strongly on their tourism and countries that are actively seeking to grow theirs are the best places to look. Opportunities in less obvious, off-the-beaten-track locations do exist but are much harder to find.
Tourism is Spain’s third most important sector, which makes sense when you consider how popular a destination it is. As a tourism intern in Spain, you could be helping a five-star resort run smoothly or supporting the tourism board of a little-known region with a big campaign.
The UK is the single biggest source of tourists to Spain, so English language skills are particularly appreciated.
China is growing its tourism industry and is keen to invest in international talent. There are many tourism internships available throughout the country, from big cities like Beijing and Shanghai to more remote regions seeking a tourism boost. Look for a placement with Mandarin language classes for an extra boost on your resume.
Ever since the world first saw the stunning landscapes of New Zealand in Lord of the Rings, tourism has been a big part of the country’s economy. There’s a lot more to New Zealand than the Shire, though. You could also find yourself promoting the country’s great cities, unparalleled adventure travel, or Maori heritage.
Planning Your Trip
Big international internship programs usually do most of the planning for you. In some cases, you will be given accommodation, a stipend, and even some classes on the local language and customs. If you find an internship directly with a smaller organization -- say, an independent hotel -- you may have to do more of the work yourself.
How to Choose a Tourism Internship Program
The tourism industry is divided into various sectors, such as hospitality services, tour organizers, and travel agencies. Once you know which sector appeals to you, consider whether there are any specific travel niches you are interested in. Do you want to work in ecotourism? Adventure travel? Cultural experiences? Thinking about this can help you narrow down your options when looking at potential placements.
Make sure to look for placements that seem to value your input, rather than those that want someone to do busywork. You can usually tell because the latter have vague descriptions of the work, while the former will break down exactly what they expect, what skills they want, and what tasks you are likely to be doing.
Health & Safety
Tourism isn’t a particularly dangerous industry, but do find out ahead of time if your work will involve risky activities (this is more likely if you are going to be involved with adventure travel). This will help you pick out the right insurance policy for your time overseas.
Other Need To Know
Many tourism internships will be English-speaking, but many will also require you to speak the local language. If you don’t speak a second language and don’t have time to learn one, look for internships in English-speaking countries or, alternatively, for programs that offer cultural and language immersion as part of the package.