That was the message from Tim Williamson, a former director at Tui Travel and Monarch Airlines, who himself took a year out from the corporate world in 2011 to work in an orphanage in Africa.
He said career gaps on CVs were “mainly good”, and employers largely viewed them as favourable because they allowed for fresh perspective.
Williamson, who is now content and marketing director at Responsible Travel, formerly worked as a customer director for Tui UK, and later as Monarch’s director of customer experience and marketing.
He left his home in Brighton to work as a volunteer teacher in an orphanage in Swaziland, alongside his wife and two sons, then aged nine and six. It was a move which he described as “life-changing”, and which helped him gain perspective on his career.
“I felt enlivened. I felt like I was home. It made me realise that work can be different,” he told delegates.
Williamson and his wife worked and taught in Lidwala at a local care home, with the family also setting up a swimming school and a youth football league during their time there.
“I’d always had an inkling that travel could be better”, said Williamson, who was also involved in the corporate social responsibility side at Tui. “There was always a conflict in my mind between what holidays were and what they could be.”
After returning to the UK, Williamson joined the team at Responsible Travel, an ethical holiday online travel agency, which also runs the annual World Responsible Tourism Awards at WTM London.
His time in Swaziland also inspired him to set up a venture offering training and mentoring for businesses in the UK and Swaziland, called Development Squared. The company creates partnerships that benefit businesses by enabling managers to plug skill gaps and experience a new culture in the process.
Williamson described the travel industry as a “land of opportunity”, with the best jobs those that make travel a more “caring industry”.