Travel is back. Even though that trite phrase may be floating everywhere, these globe-trotter-friendly careers fly under the radar. Ahead, meet four individuals with off-the-beaten-path tourism-driven jobs. All make for unique employment opportunities that may very well inspire you to rethink your own journey.
Director of mindfulness programming
At the verdant Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, NY, you can recharge your battery with Dr. Nina Smiley, a Princeton-trained psychologist and co-author of “The Three Minute Meditator” (Mind’s I Press) and “Mindfulness in Nature” (Hatherleigh Press.)
“Sharing the simplicity and power of mindfulness meditation in this spectacular space is a perfect fit as I coach people in how to use mindfulness in real time and real life to reduce stress and enhance well-being,” said Smiley.
On vacation, people can be more open to exploring new skills, elaborated Smiley, 70, who invites guests to discover mindfulness during wellness weekends and private sessions, many of which take place along craggy forest trails above the gin-clear Mohonk Lake.
Smiley believes that getting started in this niche is all about cultivating your own practice and then getting trained to share mindfulness. “Many programs have wonderful teachers who offer training and, since COVID-19, much of this is available online,” she said.
Smiley has been studying and practicing mindfulness since the 1980s, and, when Mohonk Mountain House opened their spa in 2005, she became the director of marketing. “I saw an opportunity to bring mindfulness into my workplace and shaped a vision of how to do this, creating classes that I integrated into existing programs and new proposals over the course of several years,” she said.
Wildlife conservation manager
Vaman Ramlall, 46, is passionate about wildlife conservation and dedicated to making a positive impact, so accepting this once-in-a-lifetime career opportunity at Richard Branson’s Necker Island and Moskito islands in the British Virgin Islands was a no-brainer.
“Working within the tourism industry, and being able to say your work is actively saving species from extinction, is indeed a privilege and honor,” he said.
Ramlall works with critically endangered species daily, and educates guests, school children and locals alike about nature.
His top advice? “It takes hard work, diligence, care and resilience, of course, but the true necessity for this particular specialty is a genuine passion and love for animals and their well-being. This is a prerequisite, and without it, it is impossible to be successful in the role,” he said.
To date, Ramlall and his colleagues have witnessed some big wins on Necker Island, from re-establishing the flamingo colony in the mid 2000s that had been extensively hunted and had disappeared from the BVI to recently welcoming the first baby giant tortoises.
“We believe these are the first Aldabra giant tortoises bred naturally anywhere in the world outside of the Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles, so they are extremely special,” he said.
Ramlall thinks that the tourism industry will increasingly be at the forefront of wildlife conservation, so if you’re curious about being a part of that movement, jump in now.
“We need to work together to ensure we make a positive impact on tackling climate change, species extinction and planetary health,” said Ramlall. “I’m extremely proud of our little haven for endangered species that I get to call work.”
West Village resident Anthony Berklich, 37, typically logs up to 200,000 miles per year, and shares some of that joy with his clients, booking luxury trips for them through his consultancy.
Berklich, a travel writer and marketing consultant to luxury hotel brands, broke into the field after working in TV and earning a master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University. He decided to launch his Inspired Citizen blog, zooming in on in-depth stories about life-changing travel experiences.
“Throughout this process and throughout getting to know the ins and outs of the travel industry and what guests are looking for, I parlayed that into consulting for luxury brands in the travel space who needed help improving their guest experience, marketing efforts and enhancing revenue while guests are on property,” he said. “My goal is to share those experiences with people and help them understand how they can experience it, too.”
For aspiring brand consultants, Berklich recommends creating a brand or service that fills a gap. “Although the travel world has come a long way in the modernization of bookings and the way they communicate with travelers, there’s still a lot of work to be done and a lot to be created to make travel easier, more seamless and an all-around better experience for travelers,” he said. “Don’t wait for someone to offer you the perfect job. Create the job, and make people understand why they need you.”
Guest experiences manager
In the six years that Daniel Brigano, 38, has been with the Plaza Hotel in Midtown East, no two days have been the same, he said. His job is to make sure the guest’s trip goes off without a hitch, from in-room amenities to answering questions.
“Our guests are what make my job not only unique, but fulfilling,” he explained. “The Plaza welcomes guests from around the globe, from royalty, executives and CEOs to those who have always dreamed of spending one magical night at the iconic hotel. My job is to bring that magic to life, by creating memorable experiences for all of our guests.”
To keep his high-pressure job in perspective, he strives to live by the Maya Angelou quote: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel,” stressing the importance of cultivating traits like kindness towards others to excel in the hospitality industry.
“Anyone can be taught the logistics of the day-to-day operation; however, you cannot teach empathy and compassion. That simply comes from the heart,” he said.