Carole from France, tourism consultant and founder of Small Matters
From: Tours, France
Studied: BA in Tourism Administration at Anglia Ruskin University, MSc in Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Beckett University (previously named Leeds Metropolitan University)
Now: Founder of Small Matters, a tourism consultancy firm
‘I never imagined that I would one day graduate with a first-class degree from the UK, let alone an MSc,’ says Carole Favre, who quit a 13-year teaching career for her postgraduate studies – and now she's travelling the world with her work in responsible tourism. Not bad for the girl from France who once lied to her parents to travel without a chaperone!
Find out how she made it all happen...
How did you get into travel and tourism?
'My route to the travel industry was really accidental.
'I always loved travelling (maybe it all started with reading Tintin for hours on end!); I was a girl guide and was always really happy to leave home for a month at a time to discover other regions of my country. Then I travelled to Germany and even lied to my parents to be able to go without a chaperone. But I never realised until much later that it could become a career, or that I could actually travel the world, since half of it was out of bounds until I was 18.'
'After finishing my French degree in Retail Studies in 1990, I left France to spend a year in the UK teaching French – but most importantly learning English, as my only foreign languages were German and ancient Greek at the time.
'In the UK, I met a Lithuanian girl who became a very good friend. I asked her to find me a job in Lithuania, and she did – I worked for a time teaching French and German, then at a supermarket chain with three Belgian entrepreneurs. Later I tried something totally different and worked at the French embassy organising events for the cultural department.
'My boyfriend and I decided to come back to the UK (he is Danish, and English was a language we shared). After three months travelling around India, New Zealand and Australia, we touched ground in Essex. I struggled to find a job at first, but finally got a position at a travel agency in London that specialises in student and youth travel.'
Why did you decide to start studying again?
'I worked at the travel agency for two years, travelled some more (to China and Costa Rica) before applying for a teaching position in Colchester – which I got, to my utter amazement! I needed a postgraduate degree to be able to run the course I wrote for my students, so I became a qualified teacher, completed a BA in Tourism Administration at Anglia Ruskin University and started a course on Development Studies with the Open University.
'Then I took a trip to Ethiopia and visited a fantastic community-based tourism project, which motivated me to change my career and to do actual field work. I decided to study part-time, and did my MSc in Responsible Tourism Management at Leeds Beckett University. Eventually I quit teaching to write my dissertation full-time, as I wanted to complete the course in 18 months.
'I only did the MSc as the result of a chance encounter with Dr Xavier Font, who later became my dissertation supervisor. I knew about the course because it has an excellent reputation, but I never thought I could do it. In the end I finished with a Distinction, so I was very happy.'
What did your postgraduate course teach you?
'For my dissertation, I was advised to do a project that could be implemented practically to benefit my industry, so I could attract interest and hopefully get a job out of it.
'My project involved interviewing several tour operators, experts and destination management companies to write a manual for small excursion entrepreneurs in developing countries. The manual was published by the Travel Foundation, a charity that promotes sustainable travel (you can read it here).
'It was a great opportunity to network, but most importantly it led me to set up my own consultancy business, Small Matters, earlier this year. Some of the people I interviewed have actually given me work – such as the Association of Independent Tour Operators.
'Crucially, my course has a fantastic network of alumni, which has helped me make other key connections.'
As a student Carole gained recognition from the industry – the Institute of Travel & Tourism named her Student of the Year in 2013 (Image ©Carole Favre)
What’s your advice for new students in the UK?
'I had a different experience from most, as I studied whilst working for both my BA and MSc, and I was a teacher at the same time, so I never really thought as a student but always as someone asking herself, ‘What would I expect if I had to mark this piece of work myself?’ – and since I have high standards, that helped. Overall I found it very easy to settle down on my MSc, as the teachers and students were all very nice.
'The one thing that surprised me with some students was their expectation of being given the answers in class. The most important thing in higher education is to understand that lessons are just the first course of a much larger meal that we all have to cook ourselves, following our own recipes, as long as it ends up being delicious in the end.
'If English isn’t your first language, I would stress that writing English to academic standard is harder than you would imagine – there really is a big difference between written and spoken English, which is not the case for many languages. I was lucky that my colleagues helped me, and I learned a lot from their feedback.'
What are your plans for the future?
'I graduated last May, and immediately started working to organise the World Responsible Tourism Awards. When my contract finished in November 2013, I launched my business, Small Matters, which specialises in helping small tourism entrepreneurs access western markets by running workshops and assessing potential tourism development opportunities in destinations.
'With Small Matters, my aim is to help small tourism entrepreneurs access the market, and thus contribute to alleviating poverty. In order to achieve this, I design and run very practical workshops to explain how the industry is organised. My main objective is to run more workshops in more destinations.
'Together with the Travel Foundation I have done work for St Lucia and Cape Verde Tourist Boards and right now, I am working on two projects with the Gozo and Malta tourism authorities (the first is based on developing rural tourism opportunities for farmers, the latter is targeted at small excursion and accommodation providers to help them improve quality and sell more).
'I also hope to work with a current MSc student and one of the consultants I interviewed for my dissertation – together we plan to do work in South Africa within the next year.'
Finally, what’s your advice for students hoping to build a career in travel and tourism?
'Work very hard and be very dedicated and persistent. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Think about what you can do that is going to make a difference, and contribute to the industry in a worthwhile manner.'