The tourism industry has grown in the last years and today it is the largest service industry in the world (Duncan et al. 2013). With more than 266 million workers within the industry, the job descriptions vary greatly (Du et al. 2016). There are lower paid jobs, such as hotel receptionists and cleaners to higher paid jobs such as manager positions. The research paper was focused on working as a tour rep in different destination around the world helping tourists travelling to the specific destination and the emotional labour aspect of the job.
Key words: Tour rep, emotional labour, tourism as a work, seasonality
Working as a rep in breath-taking destinations is seen as a glamorous job, but it is not always like that. The work a rep does in destinations is at times extremely stressful, the hours are long and irregular and the reason the rep is at the destination is to help the guests, so you are expected to do all you can to fulfil the guests holiday wishes. (Guerrier and Adib, 2003). The work of a rep takes a lot of emotional labour and one needs to be ready for whatever situation possible, no days are the same when working as a rep.
Tour rep life consists of moving from one destination to another every six months to be there for tourists travelling. Tour reps often work in touristic destinations for tour operators from their home countries. When it comes to tour reps, they are often the only person from the tour operator the guests meet, so it is important for the rep to represent the organisations values and embody the organisation (Guerrier and Adib, 2003). Tour reps often have the same type of personality, they are easily approachable, social and happy. Tour reps are often considered to be the most valued worker in the organisation since they are at the destination for the guests (TUI, 2017).
The term emotional labour was first introduced in 1983 by Hochschild. Hochschild defined emotional labour as ‘the management of feeling to create a publicly observable facial and bodily display.’ Employees wear a mask to show the guests only the emotions they want them to see (Torland, 2012). Looking at the emotional aspect of tour reps work, it is clear that emotional labour is required. The guests are the most important for the reps and the reps should be genuinely interested in the guests (Muru, 2016).
In addition to looking at literature review of the specific topics, primary research was conducted. The researcher conducted an interview to an ex-tour rep, who had been working for one of Europe’s largest tour operators in a number of destinations around the world; Egypt, Gran Canary, Cyprus, Thailand, Mallorca and Crete. The interview consisted of questions asking on why the participant had been working as a guide, what kind of situations had she faced during her career, whether or not she could be herself whilst at work and if in her opinion she saw the work of a tour rep as emotional labour.
Often when it comes to emotional labour, the true personality of the employee may be hidden under a mask. This can also be the case when working as a tour rep. When guests come on holiday, they expect that nothing goes wrong and even the smallest of problems may ruin ones holiday. This might mean that even though there might be something going on in their personal life, this cannot be shown in front of the guests. In some cases, the tour reps can’t be themselves in front of the guests, but the participant did not see that this was the case for her.
When working as a tour rep, one never knows what kind of situations you might have to face. The most difficult situations the participant had to face was drunks, drugged people, illnesses and even deaths. Handling these situations is extremely difficult for the tour rep, you have to be the shoulder to cry on to the guests. Even though, tour reps have to handle difficult situations, there are also a number of rewarding situations a tour rep gets to face. According to the participant, the most rewarding aspect of her work was the friendships she formed and the social part of the job, not only with guests but also with colleagues and locals.
There is no doubt about the work of a tour reps being in the emotional labour categories. When one is at the destination and at work, you are there to serve the customer. There is no room to be unhappy. Tour operators often expect their tour reps to go beyond the guest’s expectations, the rep should be able to give the guests something that they are not even expecting to receive. Working as a rep is where one’s personal skills are put to test.
Du, D., Lew, A., Ng, P. (2016) Tourism and economic growth. Journal of Travel Research. 55(4). 454-464.
Duncan, T., Scott, D.G. and Baum, T. (2013). The mobilities of hospitality work: An exploration of issues and debates. Annals of Tourism Research. 41. 1-19.
Guerrier, Y. and Adib, A. (2003). Work at leisure and leisure at work: A study of the emotional labour of tour reps. Human Relations. 56(11). 1399-1417.
Muru, T. (2016). Matkaoppaan työstä: Millainen henkilö sopii oppaaksi? [Blog]. 19 May. Available from: http://www.rantapallo.fi/murumou/matkaoppaan-tyosta-millainen-henkilo-sopii-oppaaksi
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Torland, M. (2012). Emotional labour and job satisfication of adventure tour leaders: Does gender matter? Annals of Leisure Research. 14(4). 369-389.
TUI. (2017) Hae oppaaksi. Finland: TUI. Available from: http://www.tui.fi/tietoa-tuista/tyopaikat/hae-oppaaksi
/ [Accesses on 5 May 2017] (Finnish)