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From the moment the doors open, a jangled mix of German, French, Chinese, Spanish, Thai, Dutch and English can be heard. And the list goes on.
Helping people from around the world book their New Zealand experience is what being a travel consultant for Nelson i-SITE is all about. And NMIT Tourism and Travel graduate Nathaniel Tapnio absolutely thrives on it.
“It’s really satisfying. You don’t really know what story the next person in the line will have for you. You have to know how to problem solve. It’s really fun.”
Nathaniel joined the i-SITE team at the beginning of the summer season in 2016. Yes, there are the usual challenges involved such as learning how to use the IBIS booking system. Absorbing all the information needed to sell products and experiences is another. But what captivates and motivates Nathaniel most is the diversity of language and culture.
Originally a citizen of the Philippines, Nathaniel is one of many i-SITE staff who speak more than one language. English is still the predominant language spoken, of course. But being able to converse in at least one other language is becoming increasingly important if you wish to succeed in the tourism industry.
“It’s really useful especially among European people. Take the French for example. The younger generation speak English but the elder ones know only a little bit so they prefer talking to someone who can actually speak French.”
Nathaniel moved to New Zealand in 2010 and is fluent in both Filipino and English. He has a growing list of languages he’d like to have under his belt. “German, French and Spanish are all on my list at the moment.”
Looking back, Nathaniel credits his time at NMIT for opening him up to different cultures, languages and customs.
“They set me up in terms of how can I interact with different ethnicities. For example with European nationalities it can be casual. If I am handing them a brochure I can be casual, just giving it with one hand.”
Whereas, as Nathaniel explains, specific cultures may have a custom of receiving things (paperwork and gifts) using both hands.
He also values the time spent learning how to sell - another important prerequisite of the role. During his time at NMIT, Nathaniel completed role-playing assessments that involved selling.
While it felt awkward at the time, “because you’re not really selling stuff and the person in front of me is actually my classmate,” these assessments helped build Nathaniel’s confidence. “Now it just flows through naturally”.
Nathaniel loves the tourism industry so much that he is planning to return to NMIT in the winter of 2018. He hopes to study marketing from a tourism perspective.
“I have this idea of travelling heaps and selling what we have in Nelson to the world. Nelson is a growing city. Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, while being cities, are not growing as fast as Nelson. If it grows I can say ‘I’m here’. Early bird gets the worm.”
Read Nathaniel's first impressions when he started the job directly after finishing his studies at NMIT.