Vanesta Clifford: Loving What She Does

Chinese philosopher, Confucius, is famous for coining the popular quote, “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.” Despite long hours she has spent on the job for the past two decades, for Vanesta Clifford, of Beausejour, Gros Islet, Confucius’s quote seems appropriate.

Since December 2000, Clifford has been employed with Sea Spray Cruises Ltd., a local, family-owned and operated company offering day sailing tours in Saint Lucia to Soufriere and other surrounding attractions since 1991.

After graduating from Corinth Secondary School (CSS) in 1996, Clifford was employed with another boating company from 1998 before leaving two years later to work with Sea Spray Cruises Ltd. Back then, Clifford was simply just happy to have a job. She soon found out that it was more than that.

“At the time, we were called Social Hostesses and we did boat tours,” said 43-year-old Clifford. “I loved interacting with and entertaining the guests. Today, I’m the Reservations and Office Assistant. I think I have grown a lot over the years because I was able to learn so much about the job and the industry.”

Clifford recalls being that young woman two decades ago, just starting out in the tourism industry and getting to know about the operations of a boat. She got to meet people from different countries who had different personalities. 

It was a really great learning experience, she admitted, that has resulted in her being more professional in what she does, especially when it comes to customer service. Because of the nature of the job, she’s also now better at handling difficult situations with the right composure.

Clifford believes the tourism sector allows for growth and upward mobility if one is committed to their roles and functions. At one point, she even started learning as much as she could about the boats because she wanted fulfill her dream of becoming a boat captain. 

“I later changed my mind about becoming a boat captain and focused instead on helping out in the office,” she said. “That helped me to network with more people and share with them the boating experiences we offer. I’m happy when the customers come on a tour with us and are not only happy, but also leave great reviews about their experiences.”

One of the main challenges Clifford faces on the job is having to constantly remind fellow staff members that it’s not just about showing up for a job, but also about loving what they do. In order to be good at what you do, she said, you also have to love what you do. 

“Good customer service is important and it’s often a challenge getting staff members to understand that,” she noted. “Another challenge is that the work hours are unpredictable and long. Usually, I get calls early in the morning and late at night. The job takes up much of my life, but I do my best to create a balance.”

Clifford is also aware of the socio-economic contribution the tourism sector makes to the Saint Lucian economy. With diminishing production and export of bananas over the past two decades, tourism has had to shoulder the economic fallout. Today, 15,000 people benefit from the tourism industry directly, while another 55,000 benefit indirectly. 

“The tourism industry is very important because it creates a domino effect,” said Clifford. “The sector helps everybody – the team members, the vendors, the grocery shops, the farmers, you name it. The money spreads all around and benefits many sectors. In fact, the COVID-19 pandemic showed us how important the sector truly is because, without the tourists coming here, almost everyone’s livelihood was affected.”

Having dedicated more than half her life to the tourism sector, Clifford still finds the time to have fun even on the longest days, especially when the tours take her to places in Saint Lucia she never visited previously. She considers this among the perks of investing the time, energy, dedication and love for what she does. In that regard, she gave a heads-up to anyone considering a career in the tourism sector.

“If you’re coming into the sector, you have to love working with people,” Clifford advised. “The job takes up a great deal of your time, so you have to love what you do and want to make a difference. You simply have to be the best at what you do.” 

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