Anybody in a hospitality or service role, will have an even greater obligation to cleanliness and sanitization. Formal disease-prevention training and practices are now becoming a part of training curriculums across the board and will no doubt become a huge component of the jobs themselves.
As part of my series about “exciting developments in the travel industry over the next five years”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Laura Cole.
Laura has built her career in luxury travel working for VIPs on superyachts and private jets. Born and raised in a small town with an adventurous spirit and hunger to travel, she found her way to the niche and elusive superyacht industry thanks to a chance encounter with some “yachties” during a college spring break trip to the Caribbean. After breaking into the industry and working her way up to a senior position on a premium charter yacht, Laura shifted directions and decided to pursue the private aviation industry, where she continues to work as a VIP flight attendant to this day.
Recognizing the interest and desirability in her unique career path, and the lack of resources available to those who were interested in a similar vocation, Laura created and developed the world’s premier career guidance platform for VIP service positions on superyachts and private jets: Tides & Tailwinds.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?
I have to credit most of my arrival here to great people and amazing luck. I was raised in a small town, middle class family which valued homelife, comfort and consistency. I’ve always been explorative by nature and hungry for a big, travel-filled life, but wasn’t raised in an environment where this seemed possible. So while my friends were planning their accounting, pharmaceutical, and marketing careers, I struggled to find a direction that would allow me to make a respectable living while still fulfilling my desire to see the world.
As luck would have it, I met and got to know a group of “yachties” (industry nickname for ‘yacht crew’) on a spring break trip to the Caribbean in college. Their lifestyle COMPLETELY fascinated me. Imagine living and working on board a luxurious superyacht and traveling to exotic locations all over the world for a living… it seemed unreal.
Fast forward a few years — after college graduation, some unfulfilling corporate jobs, and a few tumultuous life events, I decided to pursue the superyacht lifestyle that so fascinated me on that trip to the Caribbean. I spent a few years working extremely hard on superyachts, but happy to do it cruising my way around exotic ports all over the Caribbean, Bahamas, and New England. In my experience I was able to absorb and master VIP service knowledge and develop an ease and comfort with high echelon clientele. Eventually though, I was hungry for a sense of home and land-life.
I was fortunate enough to be introduced to the private aviation industry by a good friend and former crew mate. I found the same fascination with the private jet industry as I had when I first learned of the superyacht industry. I still get to travel the world, but instead of living on board with guests and catering to them 24/7, I get to drop them off and stay at a hotel and explore wherever we are until they’re ready to return. I navigated my way through the training and hiring processes of becoming a VIP Flight Attendant and have been working in the industry ever since. I’m incredibly grateful that I’m in a role that allows me to continue to travel the world for a living, but also have the balance of a homelife and the time to launch and run Tides & Tailwinds, which I wouldn’t trade for anything.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career?
Working in luxury travel gives you NO shortage of interesting stories — I think my favorite ones are when something happens that makes this giant world feel small and cosmic, especially when you’re far from home. Several times in my career travels, I’ve met people at random places in random countries who I had some sort of a connection to already. Several years ago I ran into old family friends on their vacation while I was provisioning for a yacht on Tortola. A couple years after that I met some Americans in Portofino who happened to have been in my college graduating class. I have a colleague who ran into a childhood friend at the TAJ MAHAL of all places! My absolute favorite though was the time another VIP flight attendant and I went out to an impromptu dinner at a random café we found while wandering the St. Germain neighborhood of Paris. We ended up being seated near a man alone on business. After (maybe too many) glasses of wine, we invited him to join us at our table. He (Oliver) ended up being from my colleague’s very rural, sparsely populated county in Texas. They fell in love INSTANTLY, and as of last month, they’re engaged to be married.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
On one of my first Private Jet flights, I was setting up the aircraft waiting to collect a group of passengers from their vacation on a remote island in the Greek Isles. Thirty minutes before we were supposed to board, I received a message from the family assistant asking to have 10 Bloody Mary cocktails waiting for them upon arrival. Unfortunately, the airplane galley (kitchen) wasn’t well stocked with ingredients, and the only two Bloody Mary mix bottles I could find had expired several months prior.
What I DID find, however, were the following items: Campbells tomato soup, soy sauce, sriracha, garlic powder, and a nearly empty jar of pickles. I was up for a full-time job with this aircraft, and desperate not to disappoint the owners. So I threw a hail Mary and tossed all of these ingredients together with some salt pepper and pizza seasoning, and garnished the glasses properly with a lemon and celery stick.
When the passengers boarded, I had my very questionable-tasting but authentic-looking “Bloody Mary’s” waiting for them on a silver platter. I watched terrified as the group toasted and proceeded to take their first sips… only to have them gush about how they were the best Bloodies they ever had.
These are the lessons I learned:
- Resourcefulness is everything
- Check your stock and expiration dates before every trip, and be prepared for EVERY request
- Drink many cocktails in the name of education in case you need to replicate flavors in a pinch
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
Tides & Tailwinds stands out because it’s the only resource of its kind. I’ve spent a lot of my career verbally trying to educate curious people as to how I went about getting the niche and exciting jobs that I have working on Superyachts & Private Jets. Realizing there truly was so little information out there about this line of work, but a strong desire for people like me to build a career traveling, I created this platform from scratch to help guide members through my career footsteps and set them up for success.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”? Can you share a story about that?
I think overall people come to these jobs fairly prepared for the physical “burnout” knowing the long, active hours we work, but they underestimate the MENTAL burnout. I’ve seen too many colleagues put so much pressure and stress on themselves because of the caliber of client we work for, and this stress can be incredibly draining. I find there’s a trickle-down effect with not “sweating the small stuff.” Keep positive, make mistakes, learn from them, grow, appreciate the good moments, and move past the bad. Keeping mental energy positive helps prevent the physical burnout. …With the addition of copious amounts of caffeine.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
Absolutely! And that’s particularly relevant in these industries. I’m truly grateful to everybody that I’ve worked with and for, but I think I owe my greatest gratitude to the people who took the time to educate me on these jobs, and those who took their chances on me coming in green. My first Superyacht captain brought me on with absolutely no boating experience and taught me the ins and outs of the job and industry from the ground up. My first freelance Private Jet flight was offered to me by a pilot who simply said “you seem cool and we all need our first break,” and a few months later my first full time VIP flight attendant job was offered to me by an account who knew I was still a very inexperienced flyer, but who appreciated my hunger to learn. It’s those defining people and those defining moments that I credit to being where I am.
Let’s jump to the core of our discussion. Can you share with our readers about the innovations that you are bringing to the travel and hospitality industries?
“Innovation” sounds like a gluttonous word. I think I’m just the first to open a door to my career and lifestyle in luxury travel which the average person didn’t have access to before, or perhaps didn’t even know existed. The platform is the only one of its kind, designed to provide all of the foundational knowledge one needs to break into either the Superyacht or Private Aviation industries, as well as build a sustainable career in VIP Service & Luxury travel following my own footsteps.
Which “pain point” are you trying to address by introducing this innovation?
On a broad spectrum, I’m trying to present an alternative lifestyle to hard-working, travel-hungry people like myself who may not realize a rewarding career like this is attainable. On a narrower spectrum, I’m trying to ensure the people who DO decide to pursue these careers are able to navigate these niche industries with some legitimate guidance to light the way. There’s a lot of information on the platform I had to learn the long, hard, and often expensive way, which I wish I had known when I was breaking in.
How do you envision that this might disrupt the status quo?
The guides are very straightforward and honest. We discuss the exact type of person that succeeds in these roles — because they aren’t for everybody, as well as the tremendous amount of commitment and hard work it takes to get in and build a strong career on Superyachts or Private Jets. The primary “disruptions” to the status quo I am hoping for are a bit more diversity as a result of greater awareness that this lifestyle exists, and less roadblocks, frustrations and failures from hopeful applicants with the guidance T&T provides.
Can you share 5 examples of how travel and hospitality companies will be adjusting over the next five years to the new ways that consumers like to travel?
What strange times we’re in! Yes, there will be definitive shifting. We’re all curious to see how it plays out within these industries, but these are my personal predictions:
- We’re actually expecting an increased demand on yachts and private jets. Those who can afford to will be avoiding public travel spaces and entities at all costs and opt for private, more sterile means of travel instead.
- For the next year MINIMUM, we’re expecting travel to be much more domestically focused than we’ve seen in recent years past. Every country will be on its own timeline coming out of the pandemic, and roadblocks like public health status, entry-restrictions and quarantine regulations will continue to play a huge role in international travel planning.
- There will be a greater shift to “out of the box” pleasure traveling, with families opting to avoid major crowds and cities and instead opting for more rural, obscure, less-populated destinations and itineraries.
- Anybody in a hospitality or service role, will have an even greater obligation to cleanliness and sanitization. Formal disease-prevention training and practices are now becoming a part of training curriculums across the board and will no doubt become a huge component of the jobs themselves.
- I do fear for the cruise ship industry and commercial aviation during this time, who I would consider our public-entity sister industries. I believe that they’ll make a comeback, particularly aviation, but it’ll be interesting to see what happens to a lot of the big companies and their constituents during this waiting period. I foresee a lot of restructuring (but hopefully resulting in cheap airfare).
You are a “travel insider”. How would you describe your “perfect vacation experience”?
Well I was blessed to spend a good portion of my 20’s living in and around the tropics on Superyachts. So when I think of my personal travel preferences, I think less of exotic paradise destinations and more of culture, history, scenery, and cuisine. A balance of exploration, cultural appreciation, and relaxation. My next bucket list trip is the Ticino region of Switzerland, which I’m hoping will hit all these marks.
For me at this stage of my life, it’s all about
It’s *STILL* all about learning, absorbing, growing, and self-discovery. And I hope it continues to be this way through every stage of my life.
Can you share with our readers how have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I’m fully aware that my career has given me a very “selfish” life that I’m incredibly grateful for. I try to express this gratitude with kindness and generosity at every opportunity, knowing full well that people out there deserve it more than myself. That said, I haven’t done nearly enough and look forward to giving back in much more tangible ways moving forward.
You are a person of great influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“Great influence” seems like quite an overstatement. I think the most incredible advantage of traveling for a career is a greater understanding of humanity. You realize that you have this humanity in common with every person you meet in the world — no matter their background, race, orientation, or life circumstance. There’s just no room for unwarranted prejudices when your heart’s been exposed to and connected with so many other types of humans than yourself. With the influence of recent world events, I suppose my loose idea of a “movement” would be to start creating more travel opportunities for the isolated or underprivileged to foster connection and appreciation between humans of diverse cultures. I firmly believe hate can be reduced with exposure, education. understanding, and appreciation.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Most of our social media interaction is on Instagram @tidesandtailwinds
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!