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Working abroad – your passport to the world

30 September 2009 by
Working abroad – your passport to the world

If you work in hospitality and crave an international career, the world really is your oyster. In fact, despite oday's global economic problems, there are some great opportunities out there - you just need to know where to look. Rosalind Mullen reports.

There's so much scope for British hospitality professionals and students to work abroad that you need never endure another miserable summer in Blighty again. From career-making jobs in swish city hotels and resorts, to the lifestyle choice of a job on board cruise ships, to seasonal work on the ski slopes - there really is something for every talent.

While the global economy may not look great at the moment, multinational hotel companies are already planning for the upturn, so now is a great time to start thinking about your international career.

Tom Storey, president of Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, says: "Already, Fairmont has announced several projects in Asia and will soon open new hotels such as the Fairmont Beijing, the Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai and a future hotel project on Macao's Cotai Strip. We also have aggressive growth plans in the Middle East with new hotels in Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, and Oman expected to open within the next two to three years."

He adds that recruitment is on the agenda for all hoteliers. "Forecasts indicate a significant workforce shortage within the next decade, so there is excellent opportunity for talented, experienced individuals as well as young people who are people-orientated."

Claus Sendlinger, founder and chief executive of Design Hotels, which has a strong European base, sends out a similar message: "We are constantly expanding the company owing to the growth and further diversification of our service portfolio. Since 2005, we have nearly doubled our number of staff."

Similarly, Tony Graham, managing director of Hospitality Search International, believes the only way is up. "I reckon 2010 will see a pick-up in business and a slow return to normality. It's a period of adjustment, but it will be business as usual this time next year," says Graham.

There will be particular demand for chefs and executive housekeepers. "Hotels are being built with bigger and more extravagant F&B operations," he adds.

So, if you're committed, passionate and experienced, your skills are needed now more than ever.

As Rupert Sellers, managing director of Profile Marketing Appointments, says: "This recession has really been a test for talent to shine through."


Fairmonth Marina City, Abu Dhabi
Fairmonth Marina City, Abu Dhabi
"There are no hot-spots at the moment, but there is more recovery in the Gulf," says Tony Graham, managing director of Hospitality Search International.

His recruitment company has received more requests for staff from employers in the Gulf than from Asia and the Eastern Bloc. Then again, the Gulf typically recruits most of its hospitality staff from abroad, unlike other parts of the world.

One Gulf state that's booming is Qatar. Other areas with high demands for staff are Kuwait, Bahrain and, to a lesser extent, Saudi Arabia. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is also active and hotel projects that were cancelled a year ago have been reinstated. The UAE capital, Abu Dhabi, is starting to steal the limelight from its now well-developed neighbour Dubai, with frantic construction in the run-up to its inaugural F1 Grand Prix in November. Check out the Yas hotel, which is opening next month (October).

Even so, Dubai remains exciting. The new über-trendy 260-bedroom Media One hotel will set the tone in the Media City development and several multinationals are scheduled to open on Palm Jumeirah in 2010.

It's worth noting, however, that salary packages in the UAE have been eroded, particularly in Dubai, which has seen a period of adjustment from the excesses of the past.

Moving through north Africa, one country that is attracting a lot of international attention is Morocco. Sellers at Profile points out that Marrakech in particular is worth keeping an eye on as new luxury hotels, such as Mandarin Oriental, enter the pre-opening phase.

Further south, parts of East Africa, such as Nairobi in Kenya, have been largely unaffected by the global recession because much of their business is from within the continent of Africa. Meanwhile, South Africa's hospitality industry is gearing up for the 2010 FIFA World Cup.


Russia was listed as one of the emerging BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China), but most have seen a slowdown in hospitality recruitment during the global recession, and are not as buoyant as predicted a year ago. (That said, agents report that they are still actively recruiting in China - see right).

In Russia, recruitment still exists, but not to the same level as in recent years. Graham at Hospitality Search adds: "Our Eastern Europe orders have dropped significantly and I don't think we will see much recovery until spring 2010."

But that's not to say opportunities don't exist, it's just that a lot of the multinationals in the region are promoting staff internally or recruiting from internal applications across their portfolio.Asia Pacific

Sellers at Profile reports that recruitment in Beijing and Singapore remains vibrant. However, a number of employers have undergone big shake-ups in Asia. Global giant InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), for instance, is still on an expansion trail across Asia but has reduced its four sub-regions to two, making some senior players redundant.

That said, in China alone, IHG has set out aims to recruit another 27,000 people over the next three years to support the 125 hotels it is opening in the country - so watch this space.

Further south, one of the favourite working destinations for Brits is Australia. Here you'll find sun, sand, a common language and great career opportunities - particularly for chefs and hotel managers who are on the Australian immigration department's list of occupations in demand (www.immi.gov.au).).


New York hotels have suffered under the recession and with unemployment in the city still rising - it was 9.6% in July - observers reckon it could be mid-2010 before hoteliers start to hire again and open up exciting new job opportunities.

It's not that easy for Brits to get a work permit, though. Andrew Morrison, executive chef with Fairmont Hotels & Resorts (Pittsburgh), has worked in the USA for 20 years, but he cautions: "You have to have a work permit, visa or green card to work in the USA. You can't just come here and work. You can transfer internally with an international company, which may help you get the visas. But to do it on your own is difficult."


Who? Philip Barnes
What? Regional vice-president, UAE, and general manager of the Fairmont Dubai
Which company? Fairmont Hotels & Resorts
How did you plan your international career path?

Early in my career I worked for Lex Service Group, a hospitality company which had properties in the UK and USA. I pursued every opportunity I could to get to the USA and was ultimately transferred to Chicago to a five-diamond hotel. That led to an opportunity with Four Seasons, initially at the Pierre in New York, followed by Toronto, and then Houston as general manager of the Four Seasons Inn on the Park, where I met my future wife.

Have you needed languages during your career?

English is the language of business in most parts of the world, including the Middle East and Asia. It's critical, however, to know the language in some parts of the world, such as Europe and South America.

Tell us about your job?

I oversee hotels such as the Fairmont Dubai as well as being responsible for those in development, such as the Fairmont Bab al Bahr in Abu Dhabi, the Fairmont Palm Jumeirah in Dubai, and Fairmont Mina Al Fajer in Fujeirah. Other markets in the UAE include Al Ain, an emirate with great potential. The 137-bedroom Fairmont Mina Al Fajer, in the emirate of Fujeirah, will open in 2011.

Is Abu Dhabi overtaking Dubai in terms of tourism and development?

Abu Dhabi and Dubai complement each other. Despite the economic downturn, mega projects and infrastructure are moving ahead in Dubai, a great example being the multi-billion-dirham metro system that started this month http://www.hospitalitysearch.co.uk" target="_blank" rel="noreferrer">September]. Abu Dhabi complements this growth with its economic diversification strategy, and a series of named attractions including Saadiyat Island, which will host the Guggenheim Museum, the Louvre, and New York University; Yas Island with Ferrari World theme park and a F1 race track; and the Masdar City, the first renewable city with the goal of zero carbon waste.

Are there still lots of opportunities for UK hospitality professionals out there?

There are opportunities for professionals from all parts of the world who not only bring strong technical ability but demonstrate the willingness to adapt to different cultures - however, it is critical to consider how your family will integrate.

What's it like to live in the UAE?

The UAE, especially Dubai, has one of the largest expatriate populations worldwide at around 85%. It's not the same social setting as you would find in cities such as Singapore, Hong Kong or Jakarta where the percentage drops dramatically and the expat community tends to bond more closely. Dubai in this respect is a broader and more cosmopolitan city.

What about working there?

As in any country with an expat population, it's important to respect and understand the local culture. As a case in point, we have entered the holy month of Ramadan and in a Muslim society, you must respect the traditions of Islam during this time - refraining from drinking water in public view and not playing music during fasting hours.

What do you love about your international career?

I take a great interest in how people from different parts of the world view something. It's the foundation that creates tolerance and understanding in my opinion, and I get no greater pleasure than chatting over dinner with, say, our Fairmont vice-president in Makkah who is both a Saudi national and a great friend, and understanding how he looks at world events.

Fast facts about Fairmont Hotels & Resorts

  • 56 luxury hotels worldwide
  • 20 hotels under development
  • Owned by Fairmont Raffles Hotels International
  • www.fairmont.com


Who? Sara Young, 37
What? Regional director of sales and marketing Scandinavia
Which company? Design Hotels AG
Where? Stockholm, Sweden

Was there a lot of red tape involved in working out there?

For Europeans there's a bit of red tape, mainly registering for tax and getting a personal number - nothing happens without it. All the forms are in Swedish, but so many people speak good English and they will help translate what you need.

Is this your first job abroad?

Yes. I started in the hotel industry with Stakis Hotels as a sales administrator. Then I joined Kempinski Hotels where I looked after the UK MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events] market for three years. After that I went to Concorde Hotels in the same role, and then spent five years in the F&B industry. More than two years ago I joined Design Hotels, spending 18 months in the London office. I've been in Stockholm for nine months working as the regional director of sales and marketing Scandinavia.

Tell us about your new lifestyle

Stockholm is beautiful and the quality of life is great, especially in summer. Winter is long, but I spent snowy but bright Saturday afternoons skating over frozen lakes, stopping for hot chocolate and sitting in the wintry sun. There are some clubs within the expat community - but I'm trying to find Swedes to practise my Swedish on.

Is the work ethic different over there?

Because of the weather, the Swedes tend to start and finish their working day early. Hours might be 8:30am-4:30pm, with lunch at 11:30am. Interviews here tend to include more questions about life outside work than we have in the UK. Work-life balance is important here.

Would you recommend an international career?

Definitely. It opens your mind to new cultures and broadens your industry experience. In hospitality we learn some great skills which, if we are flexible and willing to be open, are transferable.


Who? Clare Freeman, 27
What? PR and Communications (internship)
Which? Design Hotels AG
Where? Berlin, Germany

What were you doing before your internship?

I was working in publishing in London. I knew about Design Hotels and wanted to work for them, so I applied for an internship online.

What's the working atmosphere like?

It's great. The office is international, young, creative and friendly and there's no difference between being an intern and a permanent member of staff - you are treated as an equal.

Is it easy for a Brit to work in Berlin?

I haven't had any problems. I only had to register with the local Bürgeramt [Citizens Registration Office] to let them know I live here. Everyone has been welcoming at work and it has been easy to make friends with the other interns and colleagues.

You don't speak German - isn't that a problem?

I think it depends on which country you're in and where you work. This is a very international office and everyone speaks English, so it is not crucial to speak German. In countries where people don't speak English widely it is more important. I've lived in Buenos Aires and Shanghai, where knowing the basics was crucial.

Fast facts about Design Hotels


  • Essentials You'll need a current EU passport and British national Insurance number
  • Visas If a large multinational wants you it will sort out the red tape for you. However, the USA is tougher on work permits so you will need a good track-record before a company will sponsor you. (For more information, contact www.visabureau.com or www.migrationbureau.co.uk)
  • Contracts Beware that there might be financial penalties if you leave the job early
  • The package These vary, but might include flights home, accommodation, food, medical insurance and pension. Make sure you know what's included and that the salary reflects the cost of living in the country you are going to
  • Financial advice Seek tax advice from HM Revenue & Customs or a financial advisor to avoid paying UK tax unnecessarily and get information on your UK pensions and national insurance
  • Safety and health hazards Log on to the Foreign Office website at www.fco.gov.uk



  • Keep an eye out for hotel openings as expat experience is usually a key requirement, particularly at management level
  • You don't have to limit yourself to hotels. Tony Graham, managing director of Hospitality Search International, observes that in the past two years new opportunities have been emerging worldwide in other businesses that need hospitality skills, such as industrial catering and healthcare


Whether you're a chef, receptionist, housekeeper, waiter, F&B manager or hotel manager, the increasing popularity of cruises means more opportunities for ambitious hospitality professionals who want to see the world while they work.

Most cruise lines offer training - check out Cunard's White Star Academy for starters - plus excellent perks. Salaries are usually paid in US dollars per month and are generally tax-free. On top of that, most companies pay for your food and accommodation at sea.

It's worth noting that working hours can be up to 12 hours a day, but contracts are usually six months on and two off, or four months on and one off. And you'll follow the sun - winter in the Caribbean and the summer in the Mediterranean, for instance.

The other good news is that the cruise industry is growing. Some 10 ships are due to be launched next year and they're likely to be bigger and better than ever. To give you an idea, Royal Caribbean is launching the 5,400-passenger Allure of the Seas. Some seven ships are listed to be launched in 2011.

Superyachts are also worth considering and - for those of you who can sail as well as cook - Virgin Limited Edition has just launched a seven-crew catamaran called the Necker Belle.


Who? Claire Castle, 48
What? Purser
Where? Wind Surf
Which company? Windstar Cruises

Could you explain what a purser does?

My job covers three areas: clearance of the ship into each port, which means dealing with local customs, immigration, the harbourmaster and police authorities; HR and crew administration, including payroll, scheduling, arranging flights home and visas; responsibility for all financial accounting on board.

Windstar Cruises' motor-sail yacht
Windstar Cruises' motor-sail yacht

Can you give us a brief outline of your career to date?

I came to sea at age 26, joining P&O as a junior purser, and spent 10 years with Princess before opting for smaller, luxury cruise ships. After stints at Fred Olsen Cruise Lines and Orient Lines (Marco Polo) I moved to Windstar, where I have spent the past nine years working on motor-sail yachts which can visit the small ports that larger cruise ships can't get to.

What qualifications or training do you have?

I took a Hotel and Catering HND at polytechnic, then travelled around the world for five years, doing all sorts of jobs from ski-guiding, to managing hotels, to running an election campaign. I also studied for a Maritime Hotel Diploma in Salzburg, and IATA preliminary and advanced diplomas.

What's your day-to-day life like on board?

The working hours are long, but you learn to make time to go ashore and enjoy the shore excursions, take a dip in the sea, borrow a kayak from the ship's marina, or relax in the evenings under the stars with other officers. Of course, when you are on board there are no days off.

Does the company sort out all the red tape?

Being British is an advantage as you rarely need visas. In fact, I've only ever needed an American visa. Most cruise lines will help you to apply and obtain the visas you need.

What are your career prospects?

From purser there are two positions open for career progression: food & beverage manager and hotel manager (who I report to).

What about getting seasick?

Everyone gets seasick, but the threshold at which it affects a person varies. I've sailed with captains who get seasick. I believe in eating a hearty meal if you know bad weather is on the way as it gives your body something else to work on.

Fast facts about Windstar Cruises

  • Three-ship fleet of motor-sail yachts carrying 148-312 passengers
  • Sails to 50 countries, but is extending itineraries in 2010 and 2011
  • www.windstarcruises.com


If you're a young, free ski-buff with experience in hospitality management, housekeeping, cooking or even being a nanny, then you might want to consider a ski season in a lodge, hotel or chalet.

It's best to get your applications in early, though. According to David Martin, assistant operations manager at Ski Verbier, the number of applicants has increased this year, partly owing to a rising unemployment rate in the UK.

"We've found that every position has been fiercely fought over. With an average of 1,200 applicants each year vying for 55 positions, my advice would be to get your application in between May and July."

Most ski seasons are from November to April and packages include a wage, season lift pass, food allowance, staff, seasonal ski/board and boot hire and insurance (including off-piste cover). Some companies, such as Ski Verbier, throw in perks such as free lessons with instructors.

And as Dave Lorch proves below, you'll discover it needn't be "time-out" for your career.


Who? Dave Lorch, 33
What? Head chef and assistant resort manager 2007-08 and chalet chef 2006-07
Where? Verbier, Switzerland
Which company? Ski Verbier

How much cooking experience did you have?

I have a diploma from Ashburton Cookery School in Devon and subsequent jobs included cooking at a gastropub in Wiltshire, where I worked my way up to head chef.

Did you feel you were taking a career break?

No, I chose a luxury ski company because I didn't want to take my foot off the career ladder. Ski Verbier employs career-orientated chefs with fine-dining or Michelin-star training from all over the world, who can bring experience. There are also chef-hosts in the smaller chalets, who have perhaps less experience, but are trained in well-known schools such as Leith's.

But surely it's not like cooking in a restaurant?

People underestimate the job. You might only be cooking for eight to 12 people rather than 55, but you're working alone in a domestic kitchen and that is a challenge in a different way.

Tell us about your day

We worked six days a week. On changeover day we would work all day, but usually I'd get up at 7.30am, pick up fresh bread at the bakery, walk up to the chalet and cook an à la carte breakfast. Then I'd bake cakes for tea, clear up, go shopping for dinner and be free to ski from 11am to 4pm and get back to the chalet for tea and children's supper. At 7.30pm I'd serve canapés, followed by a three- or four-course dinner.

Any downsides?

The pay is not amazing, but it's balanced by perks, such as a ski pass, and the fact you're living in the mountains.

But it was fun?

Well, the social scene during a ski season is well known - it's unlike other jobs. But while you can party to 4am if you want to, you still need to be up early and ready to cook breakfast.

What are your aspirations now?

The ski season opened my eyes in terms of a career. I've done some stages in three-Michelin starred restaurants and feel I have a good understanding of kitchens. Now I want to learn about hospitality management.

So is there life after a ski resort job?

Definitely. I'm waiting for a job offer to be confirmed so I can't say too much. However, it's a full-time job that combines my experience of cooking abroad with a managerial position in travel hospitality.

Fast facts about Ski Verbier

  • It operates solely in Verbier
  • The season starts on 13 December and staff travel out earlier for a few weeks of training prior to the guests' arrival
  • www.skiverbier.com
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