Surat Thani is located in southern Thailand and only experiences two seasons throughout the year: summer and rainy season. The local cuisine is spicier than any other locations in Thailand, which came as a surprise to Wi, but Surat Thani is a famous city that many foreigners fall in love with. Samui Island, Phangan Island, and Khao Sok National Park are just some of the sites people travel to visit and explore in Surat Thani.
Wi chose to intern with Surat Inter Tours because she wants to eventually open and run her own tour business. She does not like to stay in the same place every day and thinks that running her own business would give her flexibility and new daily challenges. Being her own boss is important too, as is hiring responsible employees to ensure the business runs smoothly.
Surat Inter Tour runs in support of 500Rai Floating Resort and Valley Retreat, located in Khao Sok National Park and Wi’s position was in the tour operations and sales departments. When starting the internship, Wi initially thought salespeople are only responsible for selling tour packages but later discovered her responsibilities extended beyond just selling. Daily responsibilities included: checking-in customers, sending customer data to the accountant and insurance company, answering phone calls, and booking. The internship provided uniforms, room and board, salary, and free Wi-Fi in a company dormitory which provided a great deal of help for interns that are unfamiliar with the area.
While Wi worked at Surat Inter Tour, there were seven sales associates on staff. Although there were numerous sales associates, Wi remembers that there was not a great deal of training provided, forcing her to jump in right from the start. The telephone rang all day due to sales promotions going and this contributed to her fellow sales associates’ time being spent focusing on other tasks rather then training new interns.
For the first week, Wi’s task was to read and learn about all of the packages available at Surat Inter Tour Company, Ltd. One of the weirdest questions she was asked was, “I booked a room on August 12, 2017. Will it rain?” At first, she answered, “I do not know,” but her manager provided a learning opportunity recommending that Wi respond in a more informative manor by saying, “August is our rainy season, so it might rain but it is not dangerous because our resort is located on a lake, not an island.”
One unique responsibility of Wi’s as a reservation team member was to create content on Surat Inter Tour’s Facebook page. The content would be in English and she also translated old content from Thai into English. Additionally, she was to communicate with foreign travel agents via email and answer any questions they had. On occasion, some agents sent feedback in response to her greeting email and some ended up visiting the resort after hearing from her. When this happened, Wi believes half of her job was done because they could then visit the resort in person and recommend it to their clients if satisfied.
Overall, Wi thinks she improved and learned a number of skills through her internship. She enjoyed joining staff meetings, where she was able to see how the owner, manager, or executives use their skills to influence discussions, which she thinks she’ll be able to adapt and use in her future professional career. Additionally, Wi learned valuable problem-solving skills for some of the most common workplace issues, such as, misunderstandings between team members, customer expectations not matching reality, and manager partiality. Wi also notes that her oral communication and customer service skills improved throughout her time at Surat Inter Tour. She wants to thank the staff at Surat Inter Tour office for being supportive and helpful during her internship over the Maymester.
The B&E Department would like to thank Wi for providing the foundation and pictures of this blog post, which is based on her reflections from her internship. Chatham encourages its students to take advantage of as many professional development opportunities as possible. Internships in particular are great learning experiences and provide opportunities to put skills learned in the classroom to use in the real world.
Karen Sudkamp is a second-year dual degree student, looking forward to graduating in the summer of 2018 with a MA in Food Studies and an MBA. She is interested in all things related to building a more sustainable and just food system and to find a role for business to participate in that journey.