Courtesy of Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa
Courtesy of Ashford Castle
Deborah Knight, cofounder of Ireland’s School of Falconry at Ashford Castle
From an on-site falconer to a sleep ambassador, these hotel jobs go way beyond the usual bellhops and concierges.
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Bellhops, front desk clerks, and housekeepers may have the most visible jobs in the hotel industry, but they’re hardly the most specialized. As hotels large and small take strides to stand out from the competition, they’re adding fascinating gigs to their staff rosters. From mushroom consultants to falcon trainers, here are 13 of the world’s coolest hotel jobs.
The art-focused U.S. hotel chain 21c Museum Hotels was founded by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, a pair of avid art fans whose extensive personal collection of 21st-century works had nowhere to go but public. Enter Alice Gray Stites. As museum director of 21c, it’s her job to organize and curate the micro-chain of hotels’ solo and group exhibitions, site-specific art installations, and vast range of cultural programming. Before joining the 21c family, Stites served as an adjunct curator at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and as director of artwithoutwalls, a nonprofit public arts organization. Since 21c launched in 2016, it has presented nearly 100 exhibitions; if you caught the provocative shows Cuba Now!; Aftermath: Witnessing War, Countenancing Compassion; or The Future is Female, you have Stites to thank.
Eddie Mahoney has been the resident astronomy expert at the Hyatt Regency Maui Resort and Spa in Hawaii for more than 20 years. Before landing at the Hyatt Regency on Maui, Mahoney worked as the director of astronomy at Hyatt Regency Waikoloa and as a NASA solar system ambassador. Now he runs the hotel’s nightly “Tour of the Stars” program on the rooftop observatory, which is equipped with a 14-inch reflector telescope. Eyes turned skyward, Mahoney helps guests identify planets, stars, nebulas, and neighboring galaxies—and yes, maybe a zodiac sign or two.
Sarocha “Pla” Pakeenuya is one of two marine biologists working in-house at the luxurious Four Seasons Resort Koh Samui in the Thai Islands. Alongside fellow ocean lover Benjawan “Benji” Sansittisakunlird, Pakeenuya leads a coral regeneration, preservation, and education program in partnership with the government’s Local Department of Fisheries, Department of Marine and Coastal Resources, the local communities of Bang Makham and Bang Por, and the Maikhao Marine Turtle Foundation. Among her unique job responsibilities: hosting weekly “Coral Talks,” which dive deep into the unique challenges of coral regeneration, and leading educational snorkeling tours for guests in the clear, turquoise waters off the resort’s pristine beach. The work is hands-on for both Pakeenuya and the guests: When a traveler retrieves a piece of broken coral from the reef, she rehabilitates it in a nursery before transplanting it onto an underwater platform for regrowth.
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Deborah and James Knight founded Ireland’s School of Falconry at Ashford Castle in Cong, County Mayo, in 1999; it’s the oldest school of its kind in the country. Deborah grew up in Cardiff, Wales, but left home at age 17 to work with horses in rural England. That’s where she met her future husband, James, and they discovered a mutual love of falcons while visiting a local bird of prey center. “As we drove away, it was clear that something had ignited within us and life was never going to be the same,” recalls Deborah. The couple became licensed falconers in 1990 and trained their first hawk in 1991; he’s 28 years old now and still flies daily at the Falconry School. “We train all the birds ourselves and never sell any,” says Deborah, adding that when the hawks are young, they live in the couple’s house as members of the family. Guests of Ashford Castle can meet and fly the couple’s Harris hawks on private, hour-long “hawk walks.”
If running is your physical pursuit of choice, you’d be hard-pressed to find a dreamier job than Chris Heuisler’s. The Philly native and current resident of Belmont, Massachusetts, is the Global Run Concierge for all Westin Hotels & Resorts. It’s a title he’s held since 2013, when he beat out more than 1,000 other applicants for the job. Before joining Westin, Heuisler was a Tier 4 Coach at Equinox Fitness Clubs, with a specialty in marathoning. (You bet he runs a marathon in under three hours.) In his current role, Heuisler designs running programs/maps for every Westin property; hires and oversees a global team of 275 Run Concierges; and works on strategic partnerships like the Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon Series.
It makes sense that a hotel empire built around music would hire a music specialist. Molly Ford is the designated VIBE manager (her real title!) and a 15-year-veteran of the Hard Rock Hotel Orlando. Her job is to coordinate the music playing throughout the hotel’s public spaces (controlling for both volume and ambience), create playlists for special events, manage the VIP memorabilia tours of the property, and coordinate live music events like the Velvet Sessions, wherein the hotel lobby is turned into a concert venue. Ford also oversees the Hard Rock’s in-room music experiences, curating the vinyl selections that accompany each Crosley turntable and supervising the “picks” program, which allows guests to borrow one of 20 Fender guitars and basses to play during their stay.
Vidal Joseph is one of two thatchmen working at Young Island, a 13-acre private resort in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The dining gazebos and hammock huts on the idyllic isle are covered with traditional thatch roofs, which are hand-bunched with locally grown grass. Thatching is a dying art in the Caribbean, handed down through generations of indigenous families. But Joseph, a 20-year-veteran of Young Island resort, studied thatching alongside a native expert named Coolie. When Coolie passed away, Joseph took over the upkeep. His thatching expertise is so in demand, guests and neighboring hotels sometimes commission him to build or repair their own grass-roofed gazebos.
Yes, it is someone’s actual job to make sure you get a good night’s rest. At Six Senses Laamu in the Maldives, sleep ambassador Vinod Narayanan walks guests through the property’s Six Senses Yogic Sleep Program. He inquires about their health and what improvements they would like to see. Armed with that info, he makes sure each guest’s villa is tailored to their unique sleeping needs. This starts with picking out pillows from the pillow menu. (There are 11 options, including a buckwheat hull sleep pillow purported to reduce pain in the neck and lower back, a trapezoid-shaped cervical support pillow, and a “no-snore” pillow with an ergonomic design elevating the chin.) Beyond the bedroom, Narayanan is a fitness coach specializing in natural healing and nutrition. He leads Laamu’s Laughter Yoga, Aerial Yoga, and Pranayama classes—some of which may be woven into a guest’s customized Yogic Sleep program.
Aldo Apolayo has a pretty sweet job at Waldorf Astoria Panama in Panama City: He spends his days sculpting chocolate towers and building imaginative landscapes with macaroons. “Chocolate is the main way I express myself,” says Apolayo, an Aguadulce native who trained with pastry chef Jordi Panisello at Boca Raton Resort & Club in Florida. Apolayo’s rise has been meteoric: He started out as a food server and is now in charge of delivering the resort’s most eye-catching edible sculptures, including a super-sized dessert octopus.
Vermont is considered one of New England’s premier brewery destinations. Matt Canning, son of a founder of the Hotel Vermont in Burlington, saw an opportunity to help guests with beer on the brain. As the hotel’s first-ever beer concierge, Canning hosts informational beer-tasting sessions, maps out brewery-centric itineraries, and leads a monthly Hotel Vermont Beer Tour. The overnight package includes a five-course tasting menu with beer pairings and a daylong tour of renowned local breweries (Lost Nation, Prohibition Pig, The Alchemist). In warmer months, the hotel offers a three-hour Bike & Brew Tour, making stops at Foam Brewery on the Burlington waterfront and Citizen Cider, Switchback Brewing Co., and Zero Gravity in the city’s South End.
One of the most beloved features of the Grand Hyatt Kauai Resort & Spa in Hawaii is its colorful wildlife. This makes animal lover Jezrael Campos one of the most popular guys at the resort: He’s in charge of wildlife walks, parrot talks, veterinary care, and the habitat maintenance of every creature on the property. His babies include the dozens of koi swimming in the lagoon at Tidepools restaurant, four tortoises, a Demoiselle crane, Radjah shelducks, two mute swans named Kai kō (Hawaiian translation: “a strong current in the sea”) and Haunani (“beautiful snow”), and the quartet of Macaw parrots hanging out in the hotel’s open-air atrium.
It’s a long and unusual title, but Gordon Jackson’s role as waste-to-wealth manager and mushroom consultant at Soneva Fushi in the Maldives is #lifegoals for environmentalists. Jackson oversees the resort’s Eco Centro, an on-site hub designed to reuse and recycle as much resort waste as possible. For years, the center has composted organic foods for reuse in the resort gardens, turned scrap wood and jungle trimmings into charcoal for barbecue grills and a pizza oven, and crushed glass for reuse in concrete. Now, he’s experimenting with melting down carbonated drink cans and casting the aluminum into molds for doorknobs or cupboard handles, as well as recycling single-use plastics into stools. “It’s important that the products we make from these materials have a decent lifespan, so we are aiming for things that are inherently useful and can replace products which would otherwise be imported from abroad,” explains Jackson. On the mushroom front, he has set up a lab for mushroom spawn production, which cuts down on imports and allows gardeners to experiment with new varieties.
As the genealogist-in-residence at the historic Shelbourne Dublin, A Renaissance Hotel in Dublin, Ireland, Helen Kelly helps guests trace their Irish heritage. She is a member of the Accredited Genealogists Ireland (AGI) and the former genealogy consultant for the National Archives, which makes her uniquely qualified to develop ancestral research plans and host guided trips to the city’s genealogical repositories. When tourists sign up for a one-on-one consultation with Kelly, they answer basic questions about their relatives: What were their names? What did they do for a living? Do they know when they were born, what year they died, or how many children they had? Guests comb their memories for as much info as they can and Kelly takes it from there, fleshing out their backstories using family records and maps. Some hotel guests take their quest one step further, visiting the actual townships from whence their ancestors came.
When you’re dreaming up your next career move, don’t count out a gig at a hotel. Who knows? Your passion may be exactly what it’s looking for.
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