Just two years after graduating from William Blue, Bonnie-Sue landed her dream job in London working for South African Tourism.
You often hear about people who have incredible jobs, travelling the world visiting amazing places, undertaking life-changing experiences and meeting inspirational people. You probably see some of these lucky people in your Instagram feed, enjoying themselves in one of the international hot spots that’s long been on your own bucket list. You might be left wondering how do people get a job like that? The good news is you don’t need to be a social media influencer with a few hundred thousand followers – you just need to start with a career in tourism!
One person who has turned this dream into reality is Tourism Management graduate Bonnie-Sue. We caught up with Bonnie-Sue over Skype from her London office to learn how she secured her role and what a typical day looks like working in one of the fastest growing industries in the world.
LAST YEAR YOU MOVED TO LONDON TO TAKE ON THE ROLE OF TRADE RELATIONS OFFICER (UK & IRELAND) AT SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM (SAT). WHAT LED YOU TO THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD FOR WORK?
I have always wanted to work for SAT. I saw the role advertised because I was following SAT on LinkedIn. I reached out to the HR team and secured an online interview a few weeks later. Living and working abroad has always been a dream of mine so when SAT offered me the position, I felt like all my hard work and dedication over the past few years had finally paid off.
TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR POSITION AT SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM.
SAT is the destination marketing organisation responsible for marketing South Africa to the world. I am responsible for driving visitors from the United Kingdom and Ireland to South Africa. One element of my role is looking after our joint agreements and building and maintaining relationships with our trade partners, i.e. tour operators and travel agents. I am responsible for our existing trade partnerships, sourcing and securing new partnerships and exploring new channels of communication to promote tourism to South Africa.
Another element of my role is working with small South African tourism and hospitality businesses to help them engage with trade partners in the UK. Engaging with trade partners is an opportunity to drive international business to smaller local companies in South Africa. I run product workshops for the trade to meet with the small business owners to learn about their product or service in an interactive learning environment.
And lastly, I host familiarisation trips, which involve taking groups of travel agents and tour operators to South Africa.
CAN YOU TELL ME MORE ABOUT THE FAMILIARISATION TRIPS?
We regularly take new traders to South Africa to give them a holiday experience. We plan an itinerary that includes our key tourism hotspots, as well as less known areas to showcase the countries hidden gems. Every aspect of the trip is experiential and educational. We want to ensure that our trade partners immerse themselves in the culture, discover wildlife on safaris, meet locals and indulge in traditional cuisine. If our traders have a great experience, they can promote the destination to their customers authentically and passionately because they experienced South Africa themselves, not just read about it in a brochure.
WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU TOOK ON THE ROLE IN THE UK?
I was working as the Business Events Sales Executive at Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia (Voyages). It was my first job after uni. I started as the coordinator, and one year later an opportunity came up for me to move up into a Sales Executive role.
WHAT WAS THE HIGHLIGHT OF WORKING AT VOYAGES?
Voyages was a great company to work for; it has a great company culture and an excellent leadership team. The role enabled me to gain a holistic understanding of the tourism industry, network with other tourism professionals and learn the skills and knowledge to take the next step in my career. The number one highlight was travelling to Uluru and other indigenous destinations for familiarisation trips. I also assisted with exhibitions, tradeshows and events across Australia.
WHERE DID YOU COMPLETE YOUR INDUSTRY PLACEMENT?
I completed my industry placement at Disney World in Florida. For me, it was a real taste for the industry that I have never been exposed to before. I was able to see the impact that tourism has on so many people from the employment side to travellers and families. It sparked my interest because I had never worked for a tourism organisation and doing that so early on gave me a taste of the entire operations side of the industry from attractions, to hotels and transport, and the customers. The training I received set me up for future roles in the industry. After I returned from Florida, I started working at the Park Hyatt Regency (formally known as Four Points). I worked there as Guest Service Agent for one year while I was finishing my degree.
WHAT’S THE NEXT STEP IN YOUR CAREER?
I love my role; it is really fun but also very challenging at the same time. For now, I am focusing on working hard in my current position and seeing where the future takes me. South African Tourism is a global company, and they have offices in every continent, so there are opportunities for me to work around the world with South African Tourism.