Tourism and aviation students heard from industry leaders at an Institute of Travel & Tourism Future You event. Robin Searle reports.
Leading executives from MSC Cruises and Attraction World told an audience of travel and tourism students that passion, flexibility and a willingness to take risks are key to success in the industry.
Speaking during an ITT Future You event at University College Birmingham, MSC Cruises UK & Ireland managing director Antonio Paradiso drew on his own experience of rising through the ranks at the line to demonstrate his blueprint for a successful career.
“I met [MSC executive chairman] Pierfrancesco Vago by chance while working as a translator, and he told me about the cruise industry, which I knew nothing about,” he said.
“I started in the contact centre and went on to become the youngest managing director in the world in the cruise sector, so everything is possible.”
Paradiso added: “As commercial manager I opened up 28 new markets for MSC, and it wasn’t about big marketing budgets, it was about using your creativity and sharing your passion.
“Things don’t come free of charge, so you need to work your socks off and don’t be afraid to take risks. Challenges and problems give you the opportunity to think about different ways of doing things.”
There are incredible opportunities if you work hard, embrace change and aren’t afraid to fail.”
Olly Nicholls, chief commercial officer of Attraction World, explained how he started as a rep for Thomson, before taking on senior roles including overseeing recruitment for Tui Airways and being responsible
for 45 retail stores.
He said: “What was supposed to be six months of partying turned into a career in travel, and that is reflective of the incredible opportunities the industry offers if you are prepared to work hard, embrace change and aren’t afraid to fail.”
The student’s view
The Future You event was attended by students on UCB’s International Tourism Business Management degree course.
Third-year student Georgiana Rahau said: “I wanted to take a degree related to business as I plan to open my own business in the future. I have my own travel blog so the tourism element of the course appealed. Travel and tourism is so much more than tour operators and travel agents and I think the perception of the industry is changing – tourism will be the biggest industry in the world and if students don’t realise that they are missing out.”
Second-year student Alaska Wei said: “This course is perfect for me as I have a dream to use tourism to bring peace to the world. At university you are getting a degree but you are also building your knowledge of the industry and I am very interested in how travel and tourism companies can operate while acting responsibly. I am considering a role as a flight attendant, but in the future I would like to be tourism ambassador for the UN.”
Second-year student Khushali Patel said: “I grew up in Kenya and was inspired by the opportunities within the tourism industry which is why I chose this course. We are encouraged to do work experience and attend events like today’s to expand our understanding of the industry, and I have been really interested to hear [from Antonio Paradiso] about the growth and opportunities within the cruise industry, which I will definitely explore further.”
Social media helps you build relationships
Students should use social media channels to develop contacts and stay abreast of industry developments – even if they are platforms they don’t use personally.
Claire Steiner, chair of the ITT’s education and training committee, told the UCB audience: “Many of you won’t use Facebook, but it is worth having a profile to engage with different parts of the travel industry. LinkedIn is also a very useful tool, and you should be using it to establish a network within the industry.”
MSC Cruises’ Antonio Paradiso said: “Don’t be shy to put yourselves forward. Networking is very important and you need to approach people to catch their attention.”
“Students should use social media channels to develop contacts and stay abreast of industry developments.”
But he added: “Make sure you get straight to the point. If you are connecting on LinkedIn, a brief introduction can catch someone’s attention, but I don’t have time to read a poem.”
Olly Nicholls said social media was becoming an increasingly important tool for Attraction World, explaining that Facebook allowed the brand to engage with millions of Disney enthusiasts.
But he said: “You need to work hard on social media to build proper relationships. If you only engage when something goes wrong you won’t be able to develop a real connection.”
Travel Weekly’s Take Off in Travel supplement
All students attending the event received a free copy of Take Off in Travel, the prospectus-style magazine produced each year by Travel Weekly to promote careers in the industry.
The 2020 edition is supported by headline sponsor MSC Cruises and Abta, in addition to a host of leading travel firms that have showcased their commitment to training, development and retention of staff.
A digital edition of the publication, which is accessible on all devices, can be found at takeoffintravel.co.uk.