Working in tourism opens your eyes up to the world

Wilson Raphel is a Tourism Lecturer at Ayrshire College. College Marketing Manager Shelagh McLachlan asked Wilson to share his passion for travelling and how it led him into an unexpected career.

Since leaving school, what has your career path been?

IMG_0795.PNGAfter leaving school I had various temping jobs, from manufacturing mobile phones to antibiotics and then telesales. I really wasn’t sure what I wanted to do for a career, so when an opportunity to travel to the USA came up I jumped at it. I began working two jobs – the first as a landscaper’s assistant which was labour intensive and kept me in great shape, the second was in an ‘all you can eat’ crab restaurant in the resort town of Ocean City in Maryland.

The off season was slow at the restaurant so I took on another job as a kitchen hand with the nearby Ocean Pines Association. Here, I became a short order cook during the day and wedding banqueter by night, where I worked as part of the team performing various duties like bartending, serving, cleaning and later supervision of staff, banking, opening and closing.

The hours were long but the money helped pay for extended road trips around the USA. I lived in Boston and Seattle for a time where I learned how to make a mean omelette! I got to live great experiences like getting lost in the Grand Canyon, driving on route 66, drinking in the bars in the Bronx after taking in a show on Broadway, the Cheers bar in Boston, watching Miami Heat vs Chicago Bulls in Miami – the list goes on.

Next, I spent a year in Ireland and then went to Australia for a year where I stayed for a while with relatives in Adelaide. I took a job as a bus driver and soon knew the city like the back of my hand. With the money I made as a bus driver I bought a Commodore estate, changed out the power steering, the radiator, the thermostat and the exhaust, packed up my gear and drove to Alice Springs in the middle of the country. I advertised in one of the local hostels for travel companions to share the gas and two travellers took me up on it. We drove through great places like Coober Pedy, a strange little town known as the opal capital of the world, where houses and hotels are built into the rock face. One man who owned an opal store said that whenever he needed a new room he just dug one out. We also visited Uluru and Alice Springs before heading back south. I then took a job moulding the rubber seals for car doors before returning to Scotland, where I worked for O2 as a call centre advisor before starting at the Scottish Agricultural College in Ayr.

What attracted you to the tourism sector?

I was attracted to tourism as I had really enjoyed my travels and it was the one thing that was able to hold my attention. Do you remember the feeling you get when you’re in the airport at six in the morning just as you’re waiting to go on holiday? Tourism can do that to you and make you feel that way. It opened up my eyes to other worlds and other ways of doing things. I studied a BA in Activity Tourism Management and the course showed me how broad and varied tourism is. The course combined visits to small and medium sized tourism operators (which included small hotels, B&Bs, restaurants, farm parks, adventure sports providers, indoor venues like museums and climbing centres) with experiential learning and classroom work, which provided a more rounded learning experience of tourism.

Whilst studying, I had a part time job as a climbing instructor at both the Glasgow Climbing Centre and Climbzone in Braehead. A week after I graduated with a degree from Glasgow University, I was offered a job to deliver the Prince’s Trust Team programme with what is now New College Lanarkshire. Here, I applied the skills I had gained as a climbing instructor, along with the experiential learning and the planning and management skills I had gained through my studies and from my past work experiences.

I also managed to put together a business plan for an outdoor residential centre and made contacts within East Ayrshire Council, who helped with aspects of my plan and my application for funding. This combined my knowledge of the adventure and rural tourism sectors with management and marketing skills learned within my studies. Unfortunately, the funding fell through for this type of business and I applied for a tourism lecturing position at Ayrshire college.

Who is your role model and why?

I’ve never really had a role model, although I have great respect for anyone that has started their own business and believe that there are great opportunities for students to do this now more than ever, especially within the tourism industry.

Why should I do the Activity Tourism course?

Expect to learn about the various different tourism operators or business within the industry from nature tourism, conservation, adventure tourism, food tourism, events and more. Expect to get out and visit the many different small to medium sized business working in the industry, expect to get outdoors as well as in the classroom. Expect to learn that there are a vast number of varied jobs within the industry. Expect to become creative and entrepreneurial.

Activity Tourism is in fashion at the moment, but it is on an upward trend and growing. It encompasses all sorts of tourism, some of which you might not expect or realise. Activity tourism is here to stay!

The college recruitment campaign is start here go anywhere – where might you expect your students to end up?

Former students that I have worked with have gone on to do the following:

  • Outward Bound Outdoor Instructor
  • Country Park Ranger
  • Self Employed Climbing/Mountaineer instructor
  • Self Employed Kayak Instructor
  • Prince’s Trust Team Leader
  • Self Employed Tour Guide
  • Manager of an Outdoor Adventure Centre
  • Manager of an Indoor Climbing Centre
  • Travel & Tourism Lecturer
  • Safari Park Ranger

How achievable is being self employed in the tourism sector for a young person?

More achievable than you might think. My job is to inspire them to want to work within the industry and to get their creative and entrepreneurial minds ticking, then provide them with the guidance they need.

Some say jobs in tourism are glamorous, exciting and well paid. Others say it is long hours, hard work and minimum wage. What is the reality?

It can be all of those things some of the time, and some of those things some of the time. Like all jobs you will have to work hard and gain the necessary experience and develop the work ethic that will empower you to take control of your future career and develop at the pace you want to. Enthusiasm for your industry and hard work will pay off in the long run.




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