In summer 2007, I was a rep for Thomas Cook’s Escapades (which was then merged into Club 18-30) in Tenerife. It was a competitive interview process, and in May 2007 I was thrilled to be picked to fly out to the largest Canary Island. To my parents’ dismay, I set off from the UK with the aim of funding my degree during my university summer break (and having a brilliant time). It worked.
One of the reasons I became a rep was because I had been an 18-30 customer in the past, and realised I could do it better than the people repping during my visit. I worked across three hotels in Playa das Americas, on the southwest coast of Tenerife. It’s a resort with loads of hotels, restaurants, bars and beaches – but it’s also popular with families.
The reps would work six days a week with just one day off. We’d run meetings to welcome guests at the start of their week, meet groups from the airport and generally be their point person during their holiday. Our job was to sell activity packages that generally included a bar crawl, a school disco, a boat party and club entrance plus all your alcohol for a week. The sales targets were high, but we usually hit them – people were always up for a good time.
Being a rep was a lot of responsibility for a 20-year-old, as we were essentially looking after all the guests, who were young and often intoxicated. Before we flew out to our resorts, we did a two-week intensive training course in Bolton, learning things like first aid, sales skills and how to deliver a welcome meeting. Thomas Cook tried to give us the tools we needed to succeed as a rep, but nothing could prepare you like doing the job first-hand.
At the resort, we’d live with other reps in an apartment, which was really fun (even if there were a few resident cockroaches). Everyone looked after everyone else. We usually left the resort on our day off as we didn’t want to bump into our customers: small talk was a big part of the job, and not something we wanted to do on our one day off a week. Life was generally free – our food and drink was covered by the restaurants and bars, who wanted us to recommend them to guests – plus we got great deals on local activities like the waterpark. One person that I’m still good friends with ended up being a rep for 10 years, and would do both the winter season (ski) and the summer season in the Canaries.
There was always a real mix of people on the 18-30 holidays. Most resort goers came as groups of friends after school exams, some came in couples and for some it was the holiday they’d been saving up for all year. Some were older than 30, but booked to come anyway. One couple even got engaged at a welcome meeting. On the whole, it was young people just having a good time: drinking, dancing, hooking up. Guests came for a boozy holiday and to run away from their parents for a bit.
They loved activities like the foam parties: where everybody broke things, got drunk and fell over into the foam, which they would usually end up breathing in. The school disco was most popular. Everybody loved it and would always end up dancing on stage. It was all harmless fun. The worst thing that happened was when one group of lads in a hotel got in a tiny hotel lift and broke it; another group threw a fridge into a hotel pool. It had to shut for a week after that. But it was all about having fun and nobody was made to do anything they didn’t want to do.
Would I do it again now? No way – I don’t have the energy! I would however recommend being a rep to anyone who needs to earn some serious cash and get some sun while learning a few life skills. I now work as a director at a PR agency, and I can sell a story better than most: that’s partly thanks to my Thomas Cook training.
Interview by Cathy Adams