They Get Paid For This? Craziest Jobs in the Travel Industry

We’ve reached an age where it’s not enough for a hotel to have a spa director, sommelier, and a reservations manager. Even the once-novel romance concierge has become a standby at remote luxury resorts. There’s been an explosion of butlers and concierges: fireplace butlers, sun butlers, cowgirl concierges, cultural concierges, balcony butlers, barbecue butlers, genealogy concierges, record (vinyl) concierges, crawfish concierges, and even snowball (cookie) concierges. Seriously!

Now we’re even further down the rabbit hole, with creative, entrepreneurial professionals landing or crafting positions that are increasingly hyperspecific and obscure. We talked to eight people who have a tough time telling people exactly what they do — but probably have a great time at work.


Who knew there were professional mermaids? (Photo: Courtesy of Amarylis)

Who: Amarylis (no last name, please, like Madonna)

Where: St. Barth

Job description: As a freelance mermaid, Amarylis turns up in a sequined bikini top and tail to add a splash to the island’s parties, photo shoots, and hotel pool scenes — Cheval Blanc St-Barth Isle de France hires her to pose for photos with children, for instance.

Amarylis, up close (Photo: Hugo Allard)

How it started: Amarylis began mermaid-ing two years ago but kept her day job as an electrician until a few months ago to pursue splashing around full-time. “I’m fascinated by electricity, but I always had the call of the water in my heart,” she says. “I’m passionate about the apnea.” Three years ago she came across Hannah Fraser’s videos on YouTube and was inspired to take the plunge herself.

Most memorable experience: Roman Abramovitch hired me — Amarylis! — to perform at this New Year’s Eve party. “All these Hollywood stars took many pictures of me while I wanted pictures of them!”

How long she can hold her breath underwater: Two minutes.

Director of Vibe

She’s got vibe: Melissa Rosenfield. (Photo: Viceroy Hotels)

Who: Melissa Rosenfield

Where: Viceroy Hotels

Job Description: As the Director of Vibe at Viceroy Hotels, Melissa Rosenfield is the group’s social director, party planner, camp counselor, and — as she describes it — “good-time Charlie.” She plans all programming (including music and lighting) for the company’s 16 hotels in locations like Anguilla, New York, and Dubai, connects Viceroy with fashion and lifestyle tastemakers and brands (such as classes from cool fitness studios like Barrys Bootcamp, Scratch Acadmey, and Hoopnotica; a Ruben Brown Golf Tournament with athletes including Warren Sapp, Gary Payton and Rick Barry), handles all celebrities and VIPs, and manages the cool factor (star-studded New Year’s Eve and July 4 parties). “Vibe is anything that makes you feel good,” says Rosenfield.

Qualifications: “There wasn’t a DOV before me, so qualifications didn’t exist,” she says. But she had one thing going for her: “I was a special events counselor at a sleep-away camp.”

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The Viceroy Anguilla, overlooking a stunning white-sand beach (Photo: Courtesy of Viceroy Anguilla)

Strangest thing she’s had to do: “I arranged Academy screenings on Anguilla for studios during Oscar season so our guests (including Academy members) could see films ‘for their consideration.’ The trickiest part was flying in a popcorn machine.”

Major coup: “A television star wanted to surprise his girlfriend with a wedding proposal on a private island. The guests and bride-to-be couldn’t know, so we had to orchestrate the band and entertainment, food, boats, etcetera, and get everyone to the island before sundown without letting them know what was going on.” It worked: The girlfriend said “yes” during an extravagant Caribbean beach barbecue on a tiny island with two grills.

Photo Ambassador

His nickname is Smiles: Scott MIles. (Photo: Courtesy of Scott Miles, Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Who: Scott Miles

Where: Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea

Job description: Photo ambassador Scott Miles takes complimentary photos of guests with their own cameras or phones at the Four Seasons Resort Maui at Wailea. “I do a lot of work around sunset,” he notes. He spends the rest of the evenings meeting guests and drumming up business. “I think of my services as the middle ground between guests taking photos on their own or hiring a professional photographer.”

Qualifications: “My dad gave me a Canon Sure Shot when I was 13,” says Miles (whose nickname around the resort is Smiles, which surely can’t hurt). “When I was 27, he said, ‘Capture as many happy moments and memories as you can.’” That has become his mission statement. The photo ambassador position didn’t officially start until 2012, but Miles said it really began in 2010 when he started at the resort as a security officer. “They teach us the Golden Rule [treating others as you’d like to be treated], and that led me to offer to take guests’ pictures at sunset. Before proposing the position to the resort, I literally had dreams about being the photo ambassador. Because of all the positive feedback, here I am four years and thousands of photos later with a dream job that doesn’t feel like work.”

Most memorable photographs: “Even though I’ve taken photos for thousands of guests, I can’t recall anything strange,” he says diplomatically. “The memories that stand out most are reunions, honeymoons, babymoons, anniversaries, vow renewals, or engagements. It’s also special to simply take pictures for families that are return guests… and our photo shoots together have become an annual tradition. Photos are among our most meaningful keepsakes, and I’m very thankful to be a part of something so positive and personal.”

Muay Thai Boxing Expert

Tanaphong Khunhankaew boxes for a living in Thailand. (Photo: Courtesy of Anantara Chiang Mai)

Who: Tanaphong Khunhankaew (“Ping”)

Where: Anantara Chiang Mai in Thailand

Job description: The nephew of a competitive fighter and a competitor himself, Ping translated his love of the martial art into a new role as the hotel’s full-time director of the Muay Thai (kickboxing) program. He teaches guests, mostly Westerners who have never put on gloves, who want to learn an ancient martial art, to get fit, burn off stress and excess weight, or improve their self-defense skills.

The hotel’s infinity pool (Photo: Anantara Chiang Mai)

Qualifications: After growing up around the sport, Ping began training every day at a professional Muay Thai gym at age 15, and won his first competition — by a knockout — after that. He went on to win 112 of the 133 other local and international competitions he entered. “I love the challenge of competing, but I’m just as passionate about training and the psychology behind it,” he says. “I’ve been a Muay Thai instructor at seminars all around the world, from Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, and Chile, to Dubai and China. I’ve trained more than 3,000 people from all walks of life, from complete beginners to world champions. I use my training in other martial art forms like judo, jujitsu, tae kwondo, boxing, and wrestling, as well as my masters in sports science, to create training programs for fitness, weight loss, self-defense, mixed martial arts, and competitive training.”

What’s most rewarding: Teaching people from scratch is very rewarding, says Ping. “I can teach them best practices and introduce them to the sport in a way that’s fun and motivating. I love it when I can see that they’re really starting to understand the techniques and mind-set required, and that they’re getting just as much satisfaction out of working out as I am training them.”

Salt Sommelier

That Matt Griffin is one salty guy. (Photo: Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island)

Who: Matt Griffin

Where: Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Florida

Job description: As the salt sommelier at the Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island, Matt Griffin works closely with the chefs and bartenders to create custom salts — 40 of them — to pair with menu items and cocktails at the restaurant that’s, fittingly, named Salt. He also holds daily tastings in the hotel’s Salt Shop and presents salts tableside and helps guests navigate the salt menu. Some favorites: Mediterranean black garlic salt with with chef Rick Laughlin’s’s pappardelle pasta, or Adriatic citrus salt for margaritas.

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Qualifications: “19 years in F&B at this hotel,” says Griffin. “Years of training, including on the kitchen line, that have taught me how to pair salt with food and drinks.”

Most complicated thing he’s had to do: “Serving a 10-course tasting menu from our fine dining restaurant with wine pairings on the beach.”

Art Concierge

Brenda Hillier will curate your collection. (Photo: Courtesy of Twin Farms)

Who: Brenda Hillier

Where: Twin Farms, Vermont

Job description: As the resident art concierge, Brenda Hillier takes Twin Farms guests on tours of the hotel and provides detail on the extensive collection of art in the rooms and common areas. That’s a big job, as the inn feels more like a sometimes-whimsical gallery than a conventional hotel: the collection includes including works by Roy Lichtenstein, David Hockney, Frank Stella, Jim Dine, Deborah Butterfield, Milton Avery, Jasper Johns, Ed Ruscha, Sean Scully, Cy Twombly, Nam June Paik, and Donald Sultan. Hillier also helps guests acquire pieces that are similar to the ones they fall in love with and helps them track down the work of a particular artist.

An original William Bailey at Twin Farms (Photo: Courtesy of Twin Farms)

Qualifications: Enthusiasm and experience. “I’m self-taught, she explains, “but I’ve been with Twin Farms since the beginning,” 20-some years ago, “and have a true passion for everything that goes into it.”

Most satisfying part of her job: The contemporary art has long been a cornerstone of the Twin Farms experience, which feels like staying at the home of good friends with excellent taste, even before that phrase became a travel cliché. “The art has been an integral part of our owners’ lives, and it allows us to share some of the essence of who they are,” Hillier says. “Each piece has a fun story to tell, and I love being able to share these stories.”

Resident Hair and Makeup Artist

She’ll make you look beautiful. (Photo: Courtesy of the QT Sydney)

Who: Claudia Saurine

Where: QT Sydney, Australia

Job description: As one of two in-house stylists at QT Sydney, one of the world’s most design-forward hotels, Claudia Saurine prepares all front-of-house staff so they look, she says, “glamorous, cool, quirky, and beautifully groomed.” That can mean fitting fire-engine red wigs for the Directors of Chaos (the QT’s greeters and brand ambassadors), touching up receptionists’ eyelashes, and styling porters’ hair.

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Claudia Saurine and the hotel’s Directors of Chaos (Photo: Courtesy of the QT Sydney)

Qualifications: Saurine started training early — her mother owned a hairdressing school in her native Colombia, and she learned there before moving to makeup. She did hair and makeup for national beauty pageants, and now in Australia, she also does weddings, events, parties, and photo shoots.

Most memorable moment: “I was asked to do the makeup of a VIP group for a private Halloween party,” she recalls. “I didn’t know who the guests were until they arrived, so you can imagine the look of surprise on my face when Beyoncé walked into the room!”

Director of Astronomy

Star of the skies Eddie Mahoney (Photo: Courtesy of the Hyatt Regency Maui)

Who: Eddie Mahoney

Where: Hyatt Regency Maui

Job description: For the past 15 years, astronomer Eddie Mahoney has conducted a nightly Tour of the Stars atop the Hyatt Regency Maui’s rooftop observatory, from which 80 of the 88 constellations are visible year-round. He aims a 14-inch reflector telescope and binoculars (he says some guests come because they’re heard the equipment is top-of-the-line) at stars, planets, comets, nebulae, and galaxies and explains to the guests what they’re seeing; teaches children about astronomy; and assists with romantic proposals. Along the way, he has conducted a week of celebrations for the total eclipse of the sun in 1991 for more than 2,000 people, and led astronomy tours to the summits of Mauna Kea and Haleakala for visiting scientists.

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Qualifications: “I started my love affair with the stars when I was seven years old, back in 1957,” says Mahoney, who has two master’s degrees in the field. “My father showed me Sputnik and my tree house became my first observatory.” Now he’s been working as a director of astronomy for 26 years, and served as a NASA Solar System Ambassador for more than seven years.

On doing the same thing every night for 26 years: Mahoney insists it’s never boring. “The sky changes gradually every night,” he says. “We are now [in February] enjoying Comet Lovejoy, which is truly a once-in-a-lifetime event, as it will not return for more than 14 thousand years! Plus, there is always the unexpected. A fireball streaking across the night sky is truly an awesome experience.”

Favorite students: Mahoney especially enjoys the questions and comments of children, many of whom have never looked through a telescope. “My fondest wish is that when the first humans return from Mars and are asked what got them interested in space exploration, one will reply, My parents took me to the Tour of the Stars!”

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