Welcome to our newest member – AmeriCamp
Interview with Cat Tomlinson, CEO
Tell us your story. How did AmeriCamp get started?
AmeriCamp was the brain-child of co-founders Lee McAteer and Nick Steiert. The impetus came from Lee going to an American summer camp through Camp America, and he felt that there was a way to reinvent the business model to give both a higher salary and cheaper fees to the participant.
After qualifying as a mental health nurse, I decided I wanted to travel and work at a summer camp in the USA in the summer of 2010. After researching the companies online, I chose to go through AmeriCamp …little did I know that it was the first year that the company had existed!
After my in-person interview, I loved the company ethos and the passion for the brand Nick and Lee both had. As it would transpire, I had a fantastic summer working at the camp I went to and could see first hand the difference in salaries between myself and the other girls that I was working with who had gone through other agencies.
Upon my return to the UK, I was offered a job as the first full time member of AmeriCamp and 5 years later, was offered and accepted the role of CEO.
What makes AmeriCamp different from your competitors?
Our customer service is something we pride ourselves on and we really make an effort to get to know each applicant personally. We even go as far as sending our applicants their favourite #freebiscuit when they join us, because we believe in the personal touch and doing things differently.
AmeriCamp have worked hard to offer the lowest fees and the highest salaries in the industry and we are incredibly proud to have been voted ‘Best Summer Camp Organisation’ 7 years running by Save the Student. In addition, we are over the moon with our 99% placement rate, as it really shows how we go above and beyond with our customer service.
What is your favourite success story from your organisation?
My favourite success story involves the AmeriCamp office manager Chris Wright. Chris applied initially through Camp America when he was 18 and was rejected by them. We saw a tweet about how disappointed he was on Twitter and invited him to apply to AmeriCamp. We would go on to place him at a special needs camp in Pennsylvania, which in his own words “completely changed his life.” When he applied for a job with us the following year, I didn’t hesitate in offering him a role. I knew he would be a perfect fit for the team and since then, he has been promoted twice and is now the head of our North American operations and I couldn’t be prouder of him and his success story.
What can we expect to see from AmeriCamp in the future?
AmeriCamp are continuing to expand its international offices. Our Madrid office is going from strength to strength and is hosting its very first camp fair in 2019. We are also continuing to develop our presence in Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Our most exciting new brand is AmeriCamp Canada, which we re-launched in 2017 and have had an incredible year sending applicants to work in beautiful summer camps in Canada. We are super excited about this program and certainly one to watch!
Which trends do you see in educational and active youth travel?
We have seen a huge increase in interest in our conservation programs across our brands. Our current customer base have an increased awareness about the damage we are doing to the planet and are wanting to get involved in projects that make a positive impact on the environment and as a result, we have seen an interest in our marine conservation and turtle conservation projects grow.
In addition, our customers also want to combine travel with something they can add to a CV which will help them in their education and future careers and I believe that is why we have seen our sister brand, Camp Thailand, explode since it’s launch 4 years ago. Applicants through Camp Thailand get the chance to get practical hands on experience in a classroom, teaching the local children and receive a TEFL certificate at the end. This is a real talking point on a CV for employers as it shows maturity and a desire to learn.
These benefits are also true for AmeriCamp and Canada participants as well, whereby we have applicants that are training to be teachers, health care professionals and sport coaches apply as through us, as they know the experience that they will gain at camp will be invaluable in their future careers.
How do you work to ensure the health and safety of young travellers involved with AmeriCamp?
We take health and safety extremely seriously at AmeriCamp and are committed to ensuring every participant has the summer of a lifetime. Before any participant departs for the USA, we have a full in person orientation day whereby we prepare the participants for life at camp and discuss a number of wide ranging subjects relating to their upcoming camp experience, so that they are fully prepped and ready for camp. We also provide comprehensive travel insurance for the entire time they are in the States and a 24-hour emergency help line. In addition, I have myself just returned from a 4-week road trip, where I visited over 500 staff at their place of work and personally checked in on them. We have a lot of happy campers!
What was your motivation to join WYSE Travel Confederation?
I have seen how successful the membership has been for our sister company Invasion, which has led to multiple successful business partnerships and networking opportunities and I feel it is a brilliant opportunity to now explore avenues for growth now for AmeriCamp.
Have you attended a WYSE Travel Confederation event? If so, what was your experience with the event?
I attended a WYSE event when I was the COO of Invasion and found it an excellent opportunity to touch base with our suppliers and analyse the competition in the market.
I also recognise the importance of engaging and sharing knowledge with others in the industry and to help identify current trends, emerging markets as well as any potential pitfalls, which is why I believe that attending such events is really important.
What is an industry challenge your organisation is facing at this time?
AmeriCamp’s main problem is almost self-inflicted, through creating rival brands such as Camp Thailand and the opportunities we offer in Asia that provide instant gratification, whereby applicants can book and secure their place on the program immediately (subject to passing all relevant background checks). In contrast, AmeriCamp has a longer application process and the hiring decisions are ultimately made by the local American camp director.
From our research, millennial and generation X applicants seem to want a much faster application process, as they want to know their summer plans 6-8 months in advance. Based on this feedback, we are working on changing the application process for AmeriCamp to make it even more attractive to applicants.
One such way in which we have done this, is by bringing forward our hiring fairs to November, when they were all previously held in January. This means applicants who have applied with us over the summer, now have an opportunity to get placed before anyone else! This tactic shows that we are catering to our customer needs and constantly evolving our offering for their benefit and for the greater good by listening to the market.
AmeriCamp sends thousands of people from all around the world to work and travel at Summer camps in America. There are so many different job roles available and we place people that are passionate and want to work with kids with summer camps in the USA. We have a desire to provide amazing customer service and support for all of our staff and provide a summer that will never be forgotten! Our unrivalled salaries, low costs and flight flexibility have seen AmeriCamp named Best Summer Camp America Organisation by Save The Student for seven consecutive years; we continually strive to offer excellent customer service throughout the application process.
For more information, visit their website: www.americamp.co.uk
Membership: WYSE Travel Confederation Full Member Subsidiary
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