Travel the World as a…Programme Manager

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

If you’ve been wondering how to combine your love of travel with your ability to pay your bills, today’s travel job could just be your ticket.

There are so many opportunities out there, but sometimes it takes a bit of creative thinking to understand what they might be. That’s why I love sharing this travel job feature with you – you get to discover a travel job you might not have ever considered. You also get the low-down on what it’s really like and helpful tips from someone who is actually doing that job for their living.

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

Travel the World as a…Programme Manager

So, over to Charlotte…

Q. What’s your job?

I am a Senior Programme Manager at Headwater, an adventure activity travel company, offering active holidays. We have three other Programme Managers and two Researchers as well. I look after selected regions in Europe and South America, in terms of contracting suppliers, ensuring that health and safety procedures are in place for each of the holidays, following up on our customers’ feedback and queries etc.

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

Q. How does your job involve travel? 

At the moment I do a couple of trips a year. The trips are not only for educational purposes though; I usually try to build in other things as well – I always do health and safety checks, and if it is the right time of the year I meet with our suppliers to discuss the contracts. Those are probably the key reasons to go on a trip in some respect.

The other reasons are to see the region, to meet the hoteliers in order to have the face-to-face contact and to understand the product better – from the hotels to the routes in terms of a cycling or a walking holiday.

My job has enabled me to travel to a range of countries. I’ve been to Costa Rica, Saint Lucia, Chile, Switzerland, Finland and quite a few countries!

Q. Do you have a standout travel moment that came about because of your job?

Well, something that I wouldn’t have done if I didn’t work here is  husky dog sledding. I might have done that on my own eventually at some point though. But one thing that I probably wouldn’t have tried is cross-country skiing. I’ve always done downhill, and never thought that I’d like doing the cross-country skiing. But it is a lovely way to see the countryside and is so different from downhill. I really enjoyed it!

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

Q. How did you get this job? 

I wouldn’t really say that I planned to become a Programme/Product Manager. I studied languages at university and I worked for a few years for a translation company, but I always loved travelling and as a child we always went on walking holidays. So I joined the product team of Headwater, specialising in activity holidays in Europe and further afield. Working here gave me a chance to combine both – using my languages and doing things like walking that I love!

Q. What’s an average day like?

There’s certainly no routine – every day looks different. There are lots of things to do like contracting hotels from different regions; getting our cycling and walking brochures ready etc. These are things that will occupy me for months. I also work on the route notes and the regional booklets that we send out to customers.

A day can start with one thing and finish with something entirely different. For instance, if a customer has a query regarding any of the holidays that needs dealing with immediately, so this becomes a priority. I have to leave everything else behind.

My priorities and work depend on the season though – it’s difficult to divide the work in hours.  I may spend all day dealing with emails, and then on the next day I might have just a few emails, so I will have more time to look at the regional booklets or make changes to the holiday pages on the website or look for new hotels, or planning my next trip! It’s very varied really…

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

Q. What’s the pay like?

Well, it is rewarding, but it is not the main reason why I stay in this role. Personally speaking, the most important thing to me is the continued efforts that we put in trying to deliver the best possible product to the customers.

Q. What advice would you give to anyone thinking about doing something similar? 

It depends…I think people should bear in mind that there are various positions in travel that they may enjoy and product is not the only one that is so exciting. For instance, Researchers are those who are first to visit the regions, and ‘walk the routes’ or ‘cycle the trails’; they get most of the ‘first-hand’ knowledge and experience of the place. Or Sales – they are speaking to customers every day, discussing their recent experience and collecting feedback on what they have liked or disliked.

As for product, some of our Programme Managers have actually started as a rep or local guide, and this is what I’d recommend in terms of training. Of course, having qualifications in travel and tourism can be useful, or maybe having experience in a different side of travel, for instance sales can be also helpful. Probably, the most important thing that people should bear in mind about this position is the travel – how much/how long for they are prepared to travel as this can be a prominent part of the job.

My advice to the people that have decided that this is the right job to pursue is to work abroad, so they can familiarise themselves with different countries and cultures; perhaps working abroad in tourism (if they can) would be ideal, and having language skills.

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

Q. What’s the best part of your job? 

The best part of my job is to know when you’ve got the right product for the customer. I don’t often get the chance to speak to customers, but receiving their feedback on the things we do is the best aspect of my job.

Travel obviously itself is fantastic; I was in France last week and did some fabulous walking and really loved it. It is a very satisfying job!

Q. Is there a downside to your job?

Well, I’d say a downside is not being able to travel as much as I’d like to! But it is about getting the right balance between the office and the things that have to be done here, and being away. And also, the job is very varied (which is great) but sometimes that can be a bit difficult if you have lots of deadlines for different things.

Travel Job, Programme Manager, Headwater, Taylor Hearts Travel

Q. Anything else you want to share?

To everyone that thinks that this might be the right job for them, I’d just say – try it. If you are totally new to it, then try different things, don’t go just one way because you think that’s right for you or you’re not sure. Try different things, so whether it is sales that you start with, don’t discount the fact that you might be in product later, or operations, etc. Just try and see as much as you can.

Sounds like a great way to enjoy lots of aspects of travel, from planning and researching trips right through to testing them out, don’t you think? Is this something you might like to do? Do you have any other questions? Feel free to leave a comment below! Big thanks to Charlotte for sharing her pearls of wisdom.

* All Images courtesy of Headwater

There are plenty of other options to make your travel job dream a reality. Every month I share suggestions and insights through interviews with real people – people who are actually travelling the world, or part of it, through their job. Visit the ‘Travel Jobs‘ section of Taylor Hearts Travel to discover more. If you fancy taking part, get in touch. 

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