What is a ‘holiday rep’ and what does that mean?

holiday rep

Final goodbyes before taking them to the airport

There has always been some misconception with the term ‘holiday rep’ and the type of lifestyle they lead. Thanks to TV shows in the UK, such as ‘Club Reps’ – holiday reps were thought to be drunken disorderly reprobates who worked overseas fueling alcoholism and debauchery among the youths who vacationed in groups during the summer season.

When I first told my friends and family I was going to be a rep their initial reaction was a stifle of laughter and a look of concern. They asked if I was sure I thought it would be a good idea since they didn’t want to see me on TV. Naturally I was a little taken aback, which just proves that the media only highlights what they feel makes for good viewing. I knew from talking to a number of past reps that the job I had signed up for was a FAR cry from what was seen on TV. I knew I was not going to end up on a TV show caught in any compromising situation.

A Holiday Rep is rather boring by comparison to a 18-30’s Club Rep. The club reps are the lively, crazy social butterflies whose only task is to ensure that their guests have the most amazing week or two weeks of their life. The concept behind club reps was to try and separate the boisterous party loving youngsters from the families and older guests who were simply looking for something quieter and more relaxed. Being a club rep involves a LOT of partying, late nights, early mornings and lots of mishaps. To be a club rep it takes a certain kind of mentality and strength to keep nearly 100 young people entertained, yet safe. And as most of us are well aware, once alcohol is involved, then just about anything can happen.

A holiday rep on the other hand, is someone who is responsible for the well-being of everyone else that hasn’t booked a boisterous party filled week away. The holiday rep is the one who has to contend with moaning old people and miserable families who hate their hotel. The holiday rep is the one who has to deal with the most bizarre situations and complaints with a polite smile stuck to their face. The club rep, because they are dealing with only young people, can deal with them just as they would if it was their friends. So for a club rep, even if the days and nights merge into one, and life is a constant party, at least if problems do arise, they don’t have to grit their teeth and bear anything with a smile…they can say exactly what’s on their mind.

Despite having tons of perks, like free food and drink from various businesses that want to be recommended, outings on boats or shows to build team spirit, being treated like a VIP 100% of the time (depending on the country and the resort), a reps life can be tedious. The hours are long and irregular. There is no such thing as public holidays – every day is just one big work day with a day and a half off once a week. Depending on ones position and location in resort, they could be issued with the ‘emergency’ phone – which is on rotation each week. This phone is the bane of anyones’ existence. It is the one implement that will give you night terrors and cold sweats. I’ve convinced myself it is the reason I can’t sleep at night anymore, and why every time the phone rings, I jump out of my sleep as if I was being chased by a herd of wild rhinos.

The ‘emergency’ phone was meant for guests who had a problem in the middle of the night and needed emergency assistance…notice the word ‘emergency’. I wish guests had taken note of what that meant. The amount of phone calls I received which were utter nonsense was ridiculous. There was one night I got a call at about 3am. This couple had just arrived at their hotel (their flight was delayed), and they were not happy with their room, the location and the general look of the hotel. They wanted to be moved immediately! I calmly explained that nothing could have been done at that hour in the morning – the companys reservation centre was obviously closed, and all the hotel reservations departments were closed as well. They would have to wait until morning when the rep on duty would assist them with their issues. I assumed that was the end of that when I hung up. 30mins later the phone rang and I thought that it was going to be a long night if this kept happening. Turns out it was the same couple. I had spoken to the husband first, who was totally fine with my explanation and was quite happy with my response. However…this time it was the wife! She on the other hand, was not so understanding. The blood curdling scream which emitted from the phone was eye watering. The foul language interspersed with crying, screaming and coughing, was more than enough for one person to handle at 3.30am. I hung up the phone mid cough and turned it off until 6am. Wrong I know…I wasn’t supposed to turn it off…but that crazy bitch would have spent the next 3 hours of my precious sleep tormenting me with her devil scream. No thanks! I had put up with enough crap during the day…I needed my rest.

The days, weeks and months all flow into one as a rep. Yes, each day is different, but there is no such thing as a weekend or a holiday. Each day is the same – the only day recognized on any reps calendar is that singularly most precious day – the day off! I shouldn’t be so cruel – we all had siestas every afternoon. We followed the locals with that ritual – every afternoon from about 2pm to 5pm we got to have a little rest. Rest being the operative word – because if we had stuff to do at the office, or got stuck dealing with a complaint with a guest – we could kiss that siesta goodbye. Don’t even mention airport shift day – especially if we were pulling a double shift. By the time we got home late in the night, after being there from 8am, everywhere ached – included our throats, from talking so much.

Reps are hilarious creatures though. When it came time to select the preferred destinations for the next season, everyone looked at the flight plans for the various resorts. If we had a particularly bad summer with airport duty almost every day – or having to face late night flights and/or early morning flights – we definitely didn’t want to endure that again. So I would try to find a destination I liked, I wanted to work, but had the least amount of flight days… This leads me to my next topic…Presentation days.

The day following a flight arrival day is the most crucial day of any reps career. It’s the day that ‘fresh meat’ pass by to say hi. Eager, excitable holidaymakers who might not have been to that destination before, look forward to meeting the person who they will complain to, annoy with ridiculous queries, and ask probing questions  – and if they are feeling up to it, they may consider going on a few trips. Bright and early the morning after a flight arrival, the meeting room is prepared with welcome drinks and information packs highlighting the trips that are on offer are laid out. This is either the worst or best day of any reps life…and for me…it was the WORST! I HATED selling trips. I hated trying to convince people that they had to buy trips otherwise their holiday wouldn’t be the same. I just wasn’t a hard seller, or a persuasive seller. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the trips on our itinerary and I would recommended all of them, but I just couldn’t force anyone if they told me point blank they weren’t interested. I always put myself in their shoes – and I knew that if I was on holiday I wouldn’t want to be harassed about going anywhere if I didn’t want to. I was definitely not considered a top selling rep – but when it came to a crisis, I was definitely up for dealing with the challenge – like the time the little girl ran straight through the glass patio doors (which had no identifying sticker on it). Yeah, that was a great start to their holiday, and a great start to my welcome meeting day.

There may have been downsides to the job; the long hours, the sore feet, incidents and accidents, just to name a couple – but as any rep would tell you – which job doesn’t? One thing for sure though, when we all got together as a team, we would regale each other with the most outrageous antics our guests had got up to, disturbing sights we had faced, and the most stupid questions that were ever directed at us. It was common knowledge that once a holiday maker closed the door to their house, they left every ounce of their brain tucked up in the kitchen cupboard until their return.

On separate occasions, in different countries, there were guests who complained that the holiday brochure lied – it didn’t mention there would be fish in the sea. In Rhodes (a Greek island), a couple accosted me in the dining room of the hotel and demanded to be moved immediately! Why? They had no idea it would have greek people staying in it. One day I was selling a trip in Tenerife (one of the Canary Islands) to go into the mountains to stargaze, and a lady asked me if the island had ever had a full moon. She was curious because she had been there (all of 2 days) she hadn’t seen one. There was a young family in Benidorm (Costa Blanca, on mainland Spain) who had hated the apartment they had stayed in, so right before they departed, they left a huge pile of sh*t in the microwave – yes, yes. You can imagine what happened after they set the microwave for 3mins…that microwave had to be thrown out and the apartment fumigated (for a few days).

It baffled all of us how half of these guests ever made it through the airport and boarded a plane. By the time the arrival doors opened and a sea of pasty white descended upon us, every single one had either the ‘gormless lost’ look, or the ‘haughty know-it-all’ look. Whichever one we were greeted with, the response was always the same:

“Where are you staying?”

“UK”

“Excuse me sir? We don’t have that hotel on our list. Can you repeat?”

“I just landed from the UK”

“No sir. Which hotel are you staying in?”

“Mr. Jones”

…And that was when we would look down at the fabulous little tag on their bag (god bless whoever came up with that lifesaving idea – utter genius)which had their name and the hotel they are staying in. I would sigh in indignation, shake your head and direct them to the coach waiting outside to take them to the resort – all the while hoping and praying they actually make it to the coach and didn’t get lost.

Every guest on holiday has to have their hand held, they have to be spoon fed information and common sense disappears. I am sure it remains at home tucked up beside the brain. There were a number of occasions that a guest would complain that they had their wallet stolen. On further probing, I found out that he had stopped to play a betting game on the side of the promenade…he had to guess which cup was hiding the ball. *Shakes head*. Why oh why oh why?? We tell these people at the start, in the middle and at the end of their holiday – “don’t do what you wouldn’t do at home. Stay away from the street side con artists”. What do they do – ignore every word that is said, get their wallet stolen and then make a formal complaint that the rep was rubbish, she didn’t tell them anything, she didn’t care…blah, blah, blah. As a rep, our skins had to be thick and our backs had to be broad.

Rep life was hard work, but it was full of memories and lots of laughter. The friendships that were cemented are eternal. There is something special about sharing a journey with a set of complete strangers, thrown together in the middle of total chaos. We united as a team, we drank as a team, we partied as a team, and as a team we were an unstoppable force.

reps

Our mid season outing – my DREAM team

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85 thoughts on “What is a ‘holiday rep’ and what does that mean?

  1. That pic is outside the TUI office in Tenerife! Many days spent in there with the god forsaken RAT machines that constantly crashed!!!!

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  2. brought back great memories! I once had a guest phone the emergency phone because they had broke their leg, when I asked if they had been to hospital or called for help they asked me if that’s what I thought they should do!! Whaaat?!??

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  3. Love this, all so true and brings back a lot of forgotten memories! I spent 4 long happy years in the Canary Islands, 2002 – 2006, and made friends I still see today.
    And as for the emergency phone……! Ours never had any credit it on it as the first person to get it every month used to phone home for free!! Lol. #goodtimes

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  4. You should write a book coz that was bloody brilliant! Brought back loads of memories of the highs and lows of being a holiday rep. One thing I can say is I went to some amazing countries and made some awesome friends, who even after 15 years of not being a rep I am still friends with. Thanks for sharing x

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  5. I had a guest at Corfu airport come to me after they’d checked in for the departing flight and tell me they’d accidentally posted their boarding passes in the post box, instead of their postcards. I was almost as concerned about them leaving it so late to post postcards as I was about their stupidity i posting the wrong things!

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  6. Did Thomas Cook & TUI, Benidorm & Crete, loved every min and those words are too true! ‘What hotel are you staying at?’ … ‘Mr Jones.’ Haha! Spot on 🙂 Had a complaint in Benidorm that their suitcases are damp because of the rain!

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    • Glad u enjoyed it Tom! Believe me…the airport was where we certainly got those jokes…I remember the reps and I used to have bets going at airport shift. :). Somehow that suitcase issue was a popular one in Benidorm…I distinctly remember an old lady making a formal complaint like that. Hahahaha.

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  7. Fantastic piece! Incredibly relatable – I once had a guest complain that it was “too windy”, told them I would get in touch with God to ask him to turn it off. One of my fellow reps had someone complain that the drinks produced by the fizzy drinks machine in their hotel were too fizzy. Really is brains on planes sometimes, but absolute comedy gold! Thanks for sharing!

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  8. I used to work the emergency phone, had a call from a guest saying he had to get home early to see to his peacock.whats the problem with your peacock sir? Its come into season early…well could nobody at home help out…its very big he said! Hmm I started the bizarre conversatión again…his thick Irish accent had me confused…turns out he was a farmer and it was his peacrop in season early!!!!

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  9. This is hilarious and 100% spot on! I to have had the complaint of a Greek hotel having Greek people staying in it! Lol! Cheers for blighting up my day, reminding me of such great times!

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  10. i have been a rep for the past 4 summers and you have took the words right out of my mouth on what it is like to be a rep. When guests say well your on holiday everyday makes me gringe as they don’t no half what goes on behind be curtains. When the say bags under your eyes it all that partying. They don’t no what shift you had the day before and what time you got in from that shift. As with parties no time to party even on your evening of pending what time your shift finished if you been at the airport and last flight comes in at 21:45 and you don’t see the first guest till 22:30 and all guest are through by 23:00 let the flight be airborn for 30 min takes you you to at least 23:15 there you have it your night of spent in the airport gone just like that. Shattered after a 16 hour shift. People who have been reps or are currently repping now will no exactly what a rep is like and what they do. Some one who never been a rep or had a friend as a rep and seen in there working place she’ll always assume what on TV is true. Well for those that think it give repping a go for 6 months when your get back your sleep for 2 days just to catch up on lost sleep from the 86 plus hours a week you work and the lost sleep from the fact you been living next door to a night club that plays music till 8am and get up in the morning to see you bed moved slightly again from the vibrations of the music going through your wall. If you think you can survive 6 months no sleep constantly on call in heals for 16 hours plus days deal with the complaints with s smile try not to look tired and look fresh everyday and plenty more things that comes with s rep life then yes go for it but until then don’t ever say a rep Is on holiday as in fact there are hard working people with little pay that few guest have respect for. So let’s start respecting the reps out there and the concept of an emergency phone that what is is an emergency phone if you need a doctor in the night and not asking where the nearest donner kebab shop is at 3am. And respect that reps are not on a 6 month holiday but they are making your holiday a holiday to remember a holiday you can talk about and recommend. Not a holiday you would say never a again a holidays you would say I go there again. So respect the reps out there use there services be polite to the reps even if you don’t want there service as you never no in time you may need your rep service.

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    • Fabulous! Well said Laura! It is a tough job. Its a thankless job. Quite a few reps crack by the 2nd month when they realise its not about constant partying. It takes a strong personality and a resilient character to be a rep…and succeed. My darling, guests will never understand what happens behind the scenes. Guests will continue to treat reps like dirt. But for every shitty guest, there are 2 awesome ones who make the job worthwhile! Keep repping until your time is up. Enjoy it…cause once its over it becomes nothing but a distant memory. X

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  11. Thanks for the memories, back 9 years after 8 years away! Every word is so true what you have said, although my way to deal with the annoying help line mobile was to drop it in a pint of Mythos ooops but it stopped the thing from ringing!

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  12. A reps job to a T and only those of us who have been there understand exactly what u have written!
    28 yrs ago I arrived in Ibiza ready to give it my all as a Rep! God have I got some stories from over the years. I left Tourism after 17 yrs but was pulled back inot this way of life 4 years ago but this time working for the coach company. I will always remember the horrendous delays of 1988 and when people eventually arrived asking us if their flight would be delayed in 2 wks time! One of our kids reps in the end put a sign up saying Gypsy Rose Lee had forgotten her glass ball! (Naturally we got told off but had a good laugh). Or asking when an aircraft was delayed why we didn’t have another 9n standby.
    Made some great friends, amazing experiences and fabulous memories.

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    • Thank you Lewis! There you have fellow reps and readers…this comment can attest to the fact that EVERY guest…regardless when, where or in what year…all have the same queries, the same issues and the same silly questions. Hahaha. Lewis…I totally forgot about the flight delay question “will my flight be delayed going back since we were delayed coming?”. :).

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  13. I worked as a Holiday Rep in Benidorm for numerous years all though not repping now I still live here.Reading your report on the Rep fetched many a happy memory back I can say we met some lovely people but we met some damn awful rude ignorant person.
    I worked at the clinic Rep in resort and I found this job a very satisfactory part of my role visiting the people in the clinic and unfortunatly dealing with fatalitys aswell, along with sucides too even though the scenario of this part of the job was not pleasant I still enjoyed it and felt alot of satisfaction in my role.
    Like someone said above in comments no one sees behind the scenes of a Holiday Rep when it comes to the sad side of some peoples holidays

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    • Yes…clinic reps! I know the reps and I were grateful for you guys. On top of everything we had on our plate we were relieved that there was another rep to cover the hospital part. But you just proved to the readers that being a rep opens doors to starting a life in the country of your choice once you have hung up the clipboard for good. 🙂

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  14. Brought back a lot of memories. I can remember once whilst working in Mallorca airport, a passenger came through from arrivals, I couldn’t find his hotel anywhere on my list and it turnt out he was suppose to be in menorca not Mallorca!!

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  15. Live it!
    I once had a guest complain that he was being served ‘illegal’ eggs, they didn’t have the lion stamp on them, I pointed out that he was in Mallorca and they didn’t have those eggs available, he said they should as it was an ‘English’ hotel, I replied that actually it was a Spanish hotel with British guests and advised if he wasn’t happy with the eggs then not to eat them!

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  16. The advantage of the flight delays of 88 was that people didn’t know they’d been overbooked, arriving at 10 am instead of 2am – just in time for a room to be ready!

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  17. I’m not and never have been a rep but recognised some of the guests! You guys do an amazing job, I know I couldn’t do it. Every rep I’ve ever come across has been everything a rep should be and more besides. One in the Dominican Republic came with me to the pharmacy to get antibiotics(I’m epileptic and don’t speak enough Spanish to be able to explain) Thank you for all your hard work making our holidays so restful.

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  18. I spent 15 years overseas working through the ranks every single comment and word is true, the uniforms that didn’t need to be ironed but looked like a crumpled table cloth after there first wash, getting in from an airport duty straight into a welcome party, guests speaking loudly at reception as if this would help them understand better. The thing I have seen, done and witnessed both good and bad can never be understood by the normal person on the street, you have had to live it and definitely got the t shirt to understand, to all my fellow reps and ex overseas staff RESPECT.

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    • Thats right! Thats why its so beautiful that we can share our experiences because once you leave the life behind it is forgotten…why…because the normal person will never understand, or appreciate anything that happened.

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  19. What a great post. I was a rep from 93-97 and this brought back so many memories and reminded me why I never wanted to work with the public again afterwards! It was bloody hard work but it was a great lifestyle all the same.

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  20. What a great post. I was a rep from 93-97 and this reminded me exactly what it was like and why on my return to the UK I never wanted to work with the public again! It was bloody hard work but what an amazing lifestyle all the same. It would’ve been perfect if not for the guests -do you still refer to them as Billies?!)

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  21. Absolutely brilliant. I was a rep for 5 years. I was one who did and still do call them “billies”. Worked sun and snow and loved all the wonderful memories i have. Also meet my husband whilst repping too- he worked for the competion, lol. Thanks for the giggles from all who commented too 😉

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  22. Oh, I remember it so well, being a rep! Thank goodness, though, that we didn’t have the ‘luxury’ of mobile phones, then. We didn’t have to be on call with a mobile phone so no time-wasting, irritating phone calls in the early hours. On the other hand, though, there would have been times when a mobile phone could have had its uses, particularly whilst ski repping. Who remembers writing out dozens and dozens of tickets for purchased excursions? Now, a machine does it all, if I am right. Some advantages of modern day technology, then! Having said this, I don’t for one minute regret my time as a holiday rep – character building, for sure – and I had experiences (both positive and negative) that I certainly would never have had working back in the UK. Certainly, a fabulous time to remember!

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    • Hahaha Dee! You are so right! The phone had its uses…even if it was a hindrance. But thank god for the machines for tickets….when I first started as a rep I remember that siestas were used to write up the tickets before shift started again. Good times! 🙂

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  23. So all guests are brainless morons according to you. I have been on countless package hols and never acted like the people you describe. You wouldn’t have had a job without them so why ridicule and tar them all with the same brush. From what I have encountered some of the reps have been disinterested ignorant unhelpful excuses for reps…..touché

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    • Well said Carol! Touché is indeed correct. A story of experience is far less humorous if we discuss the wonderful guests who we make as friends for life, the ones who write fabulous ‘thank you’ notes and the ones who are indeed sensible and an all round a joy to be around. Those guests are the typical. What makes for an interesting journey down memory lane for the reps are the characters who kept us on our toes and gave us endless laughter. I am also not disputing that there were reps who were disinterested, rude and above all not suitable for a customer facing role. I had the pleasure of having to discipline a few of those. And there were some of who had to be fired after numerous complaints. But since everyone is aware that those types of reps existed then it is not worth remembering as part of my journey down memory lane. I have chosen to highlight a different angle. I appreciate your comment and you are so right. Unfortunately as most reps will agree…the number of miserable, unsatisfied guests far exceeded the number of content and happy ones like yourself. Please understand that this is my journey and my perspective and in no way meant to offend if you know that you don’t fall into the ‘brainless’ category.

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  24. I totally agree with you, Carol, and your response, TG. There were some lovely, very sensible guests who did, indeed, have their wits about them and of whom I have fond memories. It is, however, the guests who did the daftest things whilst on their jollies that made the memories which jump to the front of the queue! I, for one, would never for one minute ridicule them – it is simply a recounting of the facts: these things did happen with these guests! In fact, I remember some of my guests laughing with me afterwards about some of the things that happened and they couldn’t believe what they had done which they wouldn’t normally have done at home. You are also right, Carol, that there were some (and maybe still are) reps who embark on the job for the wrong reasons and are not genuinely there to ensure guests have the best holiday ever. Unfortunately, these reps give us good reps a bad name. Needless to say, these reps are waved goodbye to before the end of the season! Any customer-facing role requires certain standards to be met and repping is no exception! I could go on and on here about this but I think we all realise that in any customer service industry there are pleasant, caring, respectful employees who genuinely care but there are also those who really shouldn’t be doing the job. Equally, there are times when the customer certainly isn’t right, as well! It is the way the situation is handled.

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  25. I repped for 8 years mixture of mainline and youth , making commission hitting your target by any means ( yup by any means ) was my aim .
    Be it escorting guests to there safety deposit boxs to get it , or to taking one for the team and humping the munter (if the group of girls had not blocked they soon would ).
    Mainline was a pain in the behind the majority of the time , scams for making money to up your commission was plentiful as commission was hard to come by , for example I used to raffle the same pal mechano wool blanket in benedorm on a winter placement .
    Being young and single the main aim of my repping career was getting my end away at every possible opportunity in as many daring and different places , guests fellow reps and prs and workers was easy .
    I hated transfers loved kavos as hardly had to do em Best job in the world
    Best job in the world got some tales that I’ll take to the grave with me lol

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  26. A lady approached me in the airport arrivals hall with a face like thumder. She marched straight up to me and screamed. The toilets in that aircraft were disgusting. Whos to blame? I said, the person who went in before you. Problem solved.

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  27. Great bit of reading I was with thomson 15 yrs repped both mainline and freestyle. Had a blast and the whole experience has given me some amazing memories. Met amazing people amazing holidays at bargain prices and have lots of fun memories and still remember some of the awkward nasty customers lol.

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  28. I was a rep for 6 years in various resorts 5 year main line and 1 year as club 18-30 rep!although I agree with your discription of the life as a mainline rep and by far preferred main line ,I think you are doing club reps and injustice by saying their only task is to party with guests…my hardest year by far was my year as a club rep i worked my backside off …I had to do all the things u mentioned as well as b upbeat ready to party and guide events 5 or 6 nite a week unless you can make a comparison unless u have done both roles and club was the hardest by far😕

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    • You are so right. I could never be a club rep…that’s way too much work. The description was merely to explain the difference between mainline and youth reps…especially since TV shows only ever show club reps. It was a distinction not a downplay.

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  29. Great article!!! I too HATED selling, but was lucky enough to be in a large hotel with 2 reps and a team leader and between us we had all bases covered! My colleague and favourite rep EVER, could sell ice to the Eskimos, my team leader could “Welcome Meeting” the arse off you and I was more than happy to explain how there is in fact only ONE sun in the sky and the reason it was hotter than London was to do with how much closer to the equator we were (15 mins of my life I’ll never get back), that unfortunately the brochure shows pictures of rooms that are simply not available to our customers (a difficult one!) and advising that perhaps they might want to nip to the loo…..given the streak of brown liquid running down her leg and pooling on the floor at her feet! And of course, cleaning it up!!!
    But with all that, came the times when a sick little boy specifically asks for YOU and ONLY YOU to hold his hand when the doctor gives him an injection and the guests who give you gifts and cry before they leave……and you know you were a part of changing their holiday from good to AWESOME!!!
    X

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