Trainee in Egypt

” A working week in Luxor”

Hi, I am Marleen, graduate Leisure Manager at the Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences and Willem de Koning Academy. Currently living in Egypt and working at a local destination management centre in Luxor.

The traineeship in Luxor started last October. From day one it has been really busy, so I did not really had the time to write this blogpost during my working hours. So I wrote it during the evening and in my weekend. With this blog I would like to give you a small idea of what a workweek at a destination management centre looks like.

Workweek planning

I always start my workweek with a big cup of hot, black instant coffee. A bit different from my own organic coffee back home, but I can live with the taste of the instant coffee. When I think about it now, I cannot even remember the taste of the coffee I normally drink. The coffee is an essential part of my Sunday morning ritual before starting work. Yes, Sunday! My workweek starts on Sunday morning 10.00 AM sharp. So, currently my Sunday mornings are my new Monday mornings.

You probably would not believe, but I feel very blessed to work on Sundays. It has shown Sundays are very efficient to call people about their travel proposals. Most people are at home or easy to contact because they are not occupied with work, sports or parties. So it is a nice day to spend it brainstorming about trips to Egypt. Doing this on Sunday makes it easier to plan the rest of the week.

Operational tasks

The rest of the week I spend my days writing travel proposals, informing coordinators in Cairo, Aswan and Luxor and making hotel reservations. All of these tasks were new to me. I have never made travel proposals and hotel reservations before. I have to deal with the fact that not everyone can read the Latin script and the digital era has not yet arrived here entirely. Working online and with computer is in some cases still at the beginning of its development. You can imagine the difficulty of downgrading to communication without Email, WhatsApp or sharing files without Dropbox.

Because my background study focuses on marketing I wanted to integrate this in my work activities as well. I am interested in digital marketing and I want to develop myself as a digital marketer specialist in social media marketing, content marketing and SEO. The DMC gives me the opportunity to learn from their marketing coordinator and in time I will gain more responsibilities concerning these matters.

Managing projects

Besides the operational tasks I manage two projects: the content part of a CRM system and the implementation and certification of Travelife. The CRM system is a short period project, which means before I stop my traineeship in Egypt this project has to be finished. These projects consume about 50% of my workweek. Because I never implemented a CRM system and I am not really sure what I can expect during the implementation week we have planned in Hurghada, the project tasks take a lot of time. The CRM system or Customer Relation Management system we are going to work with is Sitespirit. Specially designed for small tour operators around the world. Never thought I would be doing this… very excited!!!!

Travelife is a sustainability system which focuses on the tourism industry. Currently, I am working on becoming a Travelife partner, this means the policies will be assessed online. The DMC strives to become Travelife certified by June 2018. Therefore there will be an audit on location. An auditor will visit the office and assesses the policies and the implementation of these policies. The system of Travelife is comparable to the Dutch sustainability system Green Key, but only focuses on the tourism industry. Therefore it is a perfect sustainability system for tour operators and hotels to work with. Currently, working on this project is one of my favourite things to do. It really gives me the idea I spend my time wisely and I create some positive impact.

Ad hoc

Due to very personal client contact – through WhatsApp- a lot of tasks arise from phone calls or messages. In case of a last minute excursion for let’s say a camel ride or a different sailing time we need to communicate this to our coordinators and suppliers.

Unexpected circumstances

Another source of ad hoc tasks are the terrorist attacks and the military actions in Egypt. Sudden attacks have impact on my work schedule and activities during the current or following workweek. Due to Western media guests are asking questions about the safety in Egypt, their trip to the Western Desert or the accuracy of the Dutch governments travel advise. All logical questions and concerns. As a company we need to change travel proposals, tourist permissions and find answers to the questions and doubts of our guests. The thing that amazes me the most is the difference in reports and updates from the local authorities here and the Dutch and Belgian media. It is impressive how the media in Europe can make it sound like whole Egypt is attacked or in a fight when it just concerns an area faraway from touristic sites or in an area which has been unsafe for the last 25 years, like the North Sinaï.  I never felt unsafe in Eypte. People are paying attention to me and each other, which makes me feel safe at home. This social way of looking after each other is part of the Egyption culture and part of life.