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Written By

Mykala Wright


College of Business, Law and Governance

Publish Date

4 January 2023

A career across countries

Since graduating from JCU in 2015, a career in tourism and hospitality has taken Bachelor of Business Alumni James David to over 40 countries. Now back home in Australia, James finds himself managing one of the Sunshine State’s most popular resorts.

Originally studying a Bachelor of Business — Bachelor of Laws, James quickly realised the Law component wasn’t for him. He made the switch to a Bachelor of Business and in his second year he selected Hospitality and Tourism Management as his major.

“It wasn’t until I had classes with lecturers Gianna Moscardo, Laurie Murphy and Jenny Panchal that I chose tourism as my major,” James says. “Their classes in hotel operations, tourism psychology and destination management opened my eyes to an industry I previously hadn’t given a second thought. I still sometimes use the textbooks from those classes when I find myself in a problem!”

While at JCU, James made the most of opportunities to build the knowledge and skills necessary to excel in a career in hospitality and tourism. From study groups and UniSport through to working at JCU Uni Bar, James was able to enhance his interpersonal skills and gain experience in the industry.

“I met so many amazing people from around the world while I was at uni. Being able to network with people from diverse backgrounds while getting my degree certainly gave me invaluable soft skills that allow me to find common ground with a variety of guests I meet every day,” he says.

Since then, James has gone on to study a Master of Business Administration (MBA) in Sydney and has been recognised for his work in the hospitality and tourism industry. In 2021 he won Meriton’s NSW Operational Leader of the Quarter and in 2018 he placed as a finalist for the Tourism Accommodation Australia NSW Award for Excellence.

James in his office holding his Meriton NSW Operational Leader of the Quarter award.

Supplied by James David.

The sky is the limit

A career in hospitality and tourism offers endless opportunities; not only can it take you across the globe, but across a plethora of careers and sectors, too.

Industry sectors include food and beverage, accommodation, travel and tourism, and entertainment and recreation. Within each of these exists thousands of diverse jobs such as caterer, bartender, event planner, cruise ship crew member, museum curator, travel consultant, tour guide, flight attendant and many, many more.

For James, a career in the industry began behind the bar in a local hostel.

“When I graduated from JCU in 2015, my foot in the door was working at Rambutan on Flinders Street. I was working in the bar and wasn’t allowed in the Rooms division, so I had to volunteer my time after my shifts to learn the system,” he says.

“Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to work across many different types of accommodation including 5-star, 77-floor high rises, 24-hour airport hotels, family resorts with private beaches, and even a 400-room Bondi Beach hotel complete with a shopping plaza and McDonalds.

“My favourite by far though has been working in quarantine accommodation and hotels converted into pop-up hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic. The dynamic environment, multiple stakeholders, problem solving and leadership I observed during those experiences highlighted everything I love about the industry,” James says.

Despite the unprecedented impact the pandemic continues to have on hospitality and tourism, James highlights the industry’s resilience and ability to adapt.

“The negative impacts of COVID-19 have been well publicised. However, I think there is an argument to be made about the positive impacts to consumer behaviour,” he says.

“For example, figures show that short-haul domestic travel has been increasingly popular, with more and more Australians discovering the hidden gems in their own backyard. On top of that, the pandemic established the desire for ‘touchless travel,’ a concept where travellers appreciate having limited engagement with staff, which is the complete opposite to what I originally learned and practised.”

James with about 30 of his employees from the housekeeping department at Meriton Suites World Tower in Sydney.
James receiving his Operational Leader of the Quarter award from Ben Nesbitt, the Head of Operations at Meriton Suites. They are on a high level of a building with Sydney cityscape behind them.
Left: James (front, 6th from left) with his employees from the Housekeeping department at Meriton Suites World Tower in Sydney. Right: James receiving the Meriton NSW Operational Leader of the Quarter award. Supplied by James David.

A day in the life

James’s diverse career has prepared him to thrive in his current role as the General Manager at Mantra Crown Towers on Queensland’s Gold Coast.

In his role, James is required to supervise all aspects of the hotel’s operations, ranging from managing schedules to overseeing marketing strategy.

“Managing a hotel is a lot like steering a ship. There are many different facets that come together and make it work, but it all revolves around performance, problem solving and people management,” he says.

“Performance refers to goal setting and implementing the framework and strategy to achieve these goals. Problem solving requires having the creative ability to think laterally and overcome issues. And most importantly, people management; recognising that everyone around you has value, and understanding how that value can be used to accomplish goals.”

On a day-to-day basis, James keeps things as routine as possible for his staff.

“Each morning I go through the previous day’s reports. I’ll usually look at the security, front office, hotel status and maintenance reports. Then I’ll sign off on finance audits and read guest reviews. After that, I meet with the head of each department, including housekeeping, reception, maintenance, etcetera, to go over anything needing urgent attention,” he says.

From there, the rest of James's day is split up into reactive and proactive activities.

"I typically help the team with problem solving across different areas of the business and preparing and planning for future events. For example, we recently just wrapped up a successful Schoolies 2022, with around 500 graduates staying with us over the two-week period,” he says.

A large part of working in the hospitality and tourism industry involves interacting with a variety of people, including co-workers and guests. James says passion and people skills go a long way.

“The hospitality and tourism industry is so large and diverse — as long as you have an open mind and the ability to work with others, you will find a place."
JCU Bachelor of Business Alumni, James David 

"It’s all about getting your hands dirty and immersing yourself. It is one of few industries where you are lucky enough to be able to experience what it’s like before fully committing," James says. "Whether it’s working in the kitchen or at the reception desk, or even just travelling to different places as a tourist, what you learn and experience is just a another feather in the cap of your career.”

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