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The strangest jobs in the travel industry

Image: Dog surfing
A local surfer and dog owner, Teevan McManus has taught many canines to hang 10 at Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa in California.Courtesy of Loews Coronado Bay Resort & Spa
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Why didn’t someone keep the birds away?

At least, that’s probably what the passengers of the infamous US Airways flight 1549 — which was forced to land on New York’s Hudson River in 2009 — are thinking. After all, it was apparently geese getting sucked into one or both of the plane’s engines that caused the plane to go down (with, thankfully, no fatalities).

Airports have known for a long time that birds can pose problems to airplane engines, and have come up with different ways of combating the issue. Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, for example, has a robotic hawk to scare birds away. But if you’d like to get a job keeping the birds at bay, inquire at Zürich Airport, which employs three hunters to shoot the potentially damaging creatures.

And airport hunters are just one of the strangest jobs in the travel industry. When we searched the globe for the most offbeat tasks, we came up with some surprising professions.

In fact, many offbeat travel-industry jobs involve keeping Mother Nature at bay. In India, “monkey men” at a plush resort spend their days chasing primates prone to stealing guests’ cookies. “We are convinced that the monkeys have ‘tea parties’ on the other side of the resort’s stone wall,” says Rishi Kapoor, an executive with luxury tour operator Abercrombie & Kent, which partners with the Amanbagh Resort.

Happily, not everyone is just chasing critters behind the scenes — and for some people, what started as utilitarian jobs somehow turned into entertainment or guest perks. In St. Thomas, an engineer who helps protect guests from falling coconuts has become an essential part of happy hour.

It’s not always about creating a spectacle though: sometimes it’s about the service. In the past few years, other hotels have created quirky positions to enhance the guest experience — say, a “tanning butler” who applies sunscreen to pool-goers, “bath sommeliers” who fill your tub, or “bibliotherapists” who choose your reading material. “Anything that hotels or resorts can do to differentiate themselves, to create a ‘wow factor,’ is essential in today’s very competitive market,” says John Clifford, a travel agent and president of San Diego-based International Travel Management.

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