THE INSIDE TRACK • March 2023
If anyone knows a thing or two about work perks, it’s Mark Tanner, who recently spent much of his year scouring the Caribbean for fabulous hotels worthy of an Executive Club Member’s holiday. Jealous yet? Mark tells us what it takes to make it in his dream job
What’s your role at British Airways Holidays?
I’m the senior destination manager for the ‘rest of world’ region. This essentially means I look after the hotels and package booking operations of every long-haul destination British Airways flies to, bar the Americas.
How long have you been with British Airways Holidays?
I’ve been here for 17 years altogether. I started in a customer service role, giving 24-hour support to customers, and then moved to the product team and onto various roles from there. Before my current position, I was the destination manager for the Caribbean.
Oranjestad, capital of Aruba
What does a day at work look like for you?
The beauty of it is there isn’t really a typical day. I’ll look at the commercial performance of the previous week and, if there are any major dips in any particular area, then I’ll speak to the hotels to find out if it’s isolated or if something is happening across the whole market. I also help the customer service team, analyse pricing and have lots of meetings, often about new hotels coming into the region.
What’s the biggest and busiest destination you look after?
What is the goal you’re all working toward?
Solid commercial performance and customer satisfaction: making sure the customer is happy when they’re on their holiday is our ultimate goal.
What makes a good destination manager?
You have to be outgoing and able to build strong relationships quickly. People buy from people, so you need to be credible with suppliers and they need to be able to trust you. Also, you need to be good with the commercial side of things, which means being able to analyse reports and numbers.
How often do you get to travel for work?
Our office is in the UK but I get to go abroad around six times a year. This is usually a trip to a place I look after, a trade show or to check out a new destination. In May last year, I was in Aruba as there’s a new flight route starting there this March. I got to speak to several new hotels and worked on getting contracts that would support the new route.
Seven Sisters Waterfall, Grenada
Which Caribbean islands should we visit, and why?
If you’re an adventurer, then go for Grenada. There are lots of hiking opportunities, waterfalls and places for off-roading. Some of the mountain peaks are quite high and you’ll discover falls along the way. For a relaxing holiday, it has to be Antigua, famous for having 365 beaches. Foodies should head to Barbados, which has some amazing restaurants.
Where is your favourite place to eat in Barbados?
There are a lot of high-end places that are absolutely stunning on the west coast overlooking the Caribbean Sea. Equally you could stumble upon an amazing van cooking up rice and peas, or a shack serving hot rotis. Up in the north, Fish Pot is the place to go – I like it because it’s small with a relaxed atmosphere and is right on the beach with fantastic food. For nightlife and atmosphere, try anywhere in St Lawrence Gap.
Do you have a favourite hotel in your region?
I’ll start with Bucuti & Tara in Aruba. I was fortunate enough to visit last year and it really is just something else. It’s located on Eagle Beach, which is constantly voted as one of the best beaches in the world on Tripadvisor. There’s a restaurant on the beach, too. It’s a sustainable, net-zero resort, which also really makes it stand out.
Then there’s Fairmont Mayakoba on Mexico’s Riviera Maya, which is a long-standing favourite of mine – maybe because I’m a golfer and they’ve got a course there. They also have small buildings each with about four rooms dotted around the place, which give a sense of blissful isolation in a resort this big.
Finally, I have a real soft spot for Barbados so I’ll have to say Sea Breeze Beach House. It’s on the South Coast, is all-inclusive, is great quality and has a good atmosphere. The setting is just incredible, and you can dine out on a patio right by the sea.
St Lawrence Gap, Barbados
How do you know which hotels to choose?
We look at what sells in the UK market, as they have to be geared up for the UK audience. They need to be of a certain standard, health and safety wise. We’ll head out to see them and check things like balcony safety, fire alarms, kids’ facilities and ensuite bathrooms. The service we experience when we’re there is an indicator, too. It’s just got to be somewhere where we think our customers are going to be happy.
What makes an exceptional hotel, for you?
The amenities in the room and the little touches. I also like to see hotel managers who will go out of their way to sort out anything they see on sight. Even if it’s just a small piece of litter on the floor, they’ll stop and pick it up. I think that’s quite a telling sign.
How many hotels do you think you’ve stayed in?
When I go on a trip, I usually stay in two hotels over the course of a week. I’ve done around half a dozen trips a year over the last 15 years with two hotels each time, so somewhere around 180 hotel stays in total.
What do you do to switch off?
I’m a bit of a fly-and-flopper. Relaxing on the beach, a swim in the sea, listening to some music – that’s perfect for me.