Evangeline Gnanaraj (Eve) stands in front of the flashing display boards at Schiphol Airport, Terminal 2. Flight numbers, destinations, departure times and check-in counters flicker across the screen. Every few seconds new flights pop up at the bottom of the list, while planes about to leave move up to the top. Eve glances at her wristwatch, then back to the display. Her hand clutches a ticket. Destination: Tenerife.
Evangeline’s plane will take off in two hours. The young woman is used to waiting at airports. In the last three months, she has boarded 12 flights. Last week she visited four countries in two days: the Netherlands, Spain, Germany and Belgium – a personal record.
Eve is one of 21 current participants on the International Graduate Leadership Programme run by the TUI Group to encourage young talent into a career in the tourism business. Over the course of 18 months, a range of international assignments and on-site experience prepare them for leadership tasks in various TUI Group companies. The interest among university graduates is huge, and the number of places is limited. Every year some 2,500 applicants compete for about 16 available slots. There are several stages to the selection procedure. Candidates must demonstrate their aptitude and motivation in a written application, an online test, a telephone interview and a face-to-face session at the assessment centre.
When Eve thinks back to her own selection procedure just over a year ago, she smiles. “I knew all along that this was the right programme for me and that it was exactly what I wanted to do.” Born and raised in India, a year at high school in the United States, a Management degree from the Netherlands. Now a traineeship with spells in lots of different countries. Eve’s intercultural background and her passion for foreign cultures are her driving force. “When I arrive in a new country, I can’t wait to discover the culture and the people. I am like a sponge, soaking up everything the new environment can offer,” she raves. Five project assignments lasting three to four months in different countries and TUI Group countries await the Programme participants. A must for every trainee: the time spent in a destination. Here they get insights into a tour guide’s work, in direct contact with customers and products.
Costa Adeje, Tenerife
Eve sits in the stern of a little grey and white catamaran. The wind in her face, the coastline at her back with its distinctive volcanic landscape and the bay of Costa Adeje with its many hotels. Only that morning she has been learning what criteria to apply when selecting excursions for TUI customers from different countries, which excursions are the most popular with which customers, and how to describe the excursions in brochures. And now here she is at the heart of things – a boat trip with whale and dolphin watching.
For the other visitors on board, this is pure pleasure, but for Eve it is part of her job on Tenerife. During a two-week stay on the popular tourist island the young woman learns by shadowing TUI staff working in the destination. It is a chance to meet as many colleagues on site as possible and to follow what they do close-up. For Eve, the assignment in the destination is a valuable experience: “In Hanover or Luton it’s easy to forget what we are actually working for at TUI. The aim is to offer people a range of products so they can have the best time in their whole year. To do that, we need to be familiar with our products, our customers and the local work processes. It’s the only way we can make decisions that make sense for our customers and for our colleagues in the destinations.”
Eve has an action-packed working agenda on Tenerife. She is involved almost all day long in discussions with local managers and tour reps, exchanges with customers and visits to hotels. The 27-year-old bubbles with ideas and initiative, always cheerful, keen to hear what others have to say and what stories they can tell. A real bundle of energy who never seems to tire. Where does all this vitality come from? Eve firmly believes: “You can only be good at this job and give all you’ve got if you love what you do. And I love my work.”
She is passionate about her career, loves the travelling and the contact with all kinds of people all over the world, but she is fully aware of the downsides to this life: “It isn’t easy when you have to keep putting a familiar environment, with new friends and colleagues, behind you and start again from scratch. I don’t like saying goodbye, although I know this is also my chance to move onto my next project, gain new experiences and meet fascinating people.”
Her personal recipe for dealing with homesickness? Take your husband along! The young woman has been married for nearly six months. Three years ago they left India together for Europe and now they live in the Dutch city of Utrecht near Amsterdam. Husband Allen accompanies Eve on her journeys whenever he can. He works for an IT company in the Netherlands, and he has taken some annual leave to be with Eve in Tenerife: “We try to spend as much time together as possible after work. Long walks along the beach or a stroll down the promenade. Allen helps me to relax after a long day. He makes me feel at home,” she comments happily.
Combining domestic bliss with business success is no easy matter in Eve’s situation. So she is looking forward all the more to her next assignment at the Dutch headquarters of TUI Airlines in Amsterdam, just half-an-hour from where her husband works. A welcome opportunity to balance her two worlds.
Eve crosses the threshold of a blue and white wide-body aircraft that has just arrived – a Boeing 787, known as the Dreamliner. The first plane to be repainted in the colours of the TUI logo as part of the TUI Group’s one brand strategy. In the place of the Arke lettering there is now a TUI smile.
Eve studies the interior of the aircraft: crumpled blankets, empty chocolate wrappings, here and there the covers on the seat headrests have slipped. In the background, men in yellow high-visibility jackets are gathering rubbish bags. More time on the plane, more time at Schiphol Airport. But with a crucial difference: Eve is not here to travel. Instead she is taking a look behind the scenes to acquaint herself with ground handling procedures. Those include things like passenger check-in, stowing suitcases and goods in the hold, and cleaning the aircraft.
3 questions for:
What can we offer?
LOOK-HAASLER: An international trainee programme with a unique format enabling participants to discover different TUI activities. We also offer seminar weeks, personal coaching and a management assignment in a destination.
Who are we looking for?
LOOK-HAASLER: We are looking for young people who can demonstrate both hard and soft skills. Important factors are an analytical mind, a customer-oriented approach, clear emotional intelligence, good team skills and a passion for tourism.
How do I apply?
LOOK-HAASLER: The easiest way is to visit www.tuiinternationalgraduates.com. There is a lot more information there. Programmes start every March and September.
While Eve is in Amsterdam she is working with One Aviation. This is a Group-wide project designed to achieve closer integration and collaboration among the five airlines owned by the TUI Group. The long-term aim is to reduce complexity and costs. There are more than 30 initiatives currently underway in the field of ground handling operations to evaluate the status quo and ascertain where standardised procedures for all the airlines would make sense and under what circumstances specific procedures should be retained. Eve is focusing on one initiative in particular: the standardisation of aircraft cleaning processes. It is essential for the 27-year-old to gain first-hand experience of the various cleaning procedures applied by the airlines. Sometimes there are major differences. But the only way all the airlines can efficiently source services jointly is by standardising the processes. Eve is on the lookout for examples of best practice that might serve as a standard when the airlines move towards harmonisation.
The young woman sees her assignment with One Aviation as precisely the kind of challenge she enjoys: “I knew from the early stages of the Programme that I wanted to be part of this huge project. I get a kick out of contributing to the big picture, of working towards a vision. The Trainee Programme is my chance to make the dream come true.” This is Eve’s fourth and penultimate assignment. She has already had a stint in purchasing, content marketing and the TUI Group strategy unit. “My time with TUI has been a fantastic journey so far. I am grateful for the excellent supervision, the exciting projects, the many people who have influenced me and helped me test my personal limits and potential.”
Eve and her husband Allen stand by a long luggage belt at the airport in New Delhi. Behind them people head for the exit with their trolleys packed high. A few minutes later, Eve and Alan also walk out of the arrivals hall with a travelling bag and two large rucksacks. For once the young woman is not on her way to a business appointment, but visiting friends and family back home. A chance to switch off and recharge her batteries before the programme enters its final phase. What will Eve do when she finishes her traineeship in March 2016? She smiles confidently: “The programme has taught me to trust even more in my own abilities, to adapt quickly and flexibly to new situations. Whatever the future brings, I feel well equipped for it, and I look forward to the challenges that await me in the World of TUI.”