Dream Jobs: Mexico Boutique Hotel’s Sylvie Laitre
June 30, 2009
While most people dread the thought of going to work, the case of Sylvie Laitre is quite the opposite. This trilingual French Canadian (of Irish/French decent) is living her dream job in Mexico. Puerto Vallarta to be exact. She is the Director of Mexico Boutique Hotels, an exclusive group of 47 boutique hotels located in 26 locations throughout Mexico. Forget about punching a time clock or tracking your hours. Having the flexibility to work from her home, the office or via her Blackberry, Laitre’s job is to oversee which hotels are accepted into this select group, manage the group’s overall marketing and public relations efforts, its reservations services for the properties and its strategic alliances. Additionally, speaking three different languages (French/English/ Spanish) allows her to consult for the hotels and offer translation services when required.
Did I mention she gets to live in Puerto Vallarta?
How did you come across this opportunity?
I was offered an interview after an ex-boss of mine recommended me for the position. Truth be told, I didn’t know much about it before I walked in the door at the time but I immediately felt it could be a very interesting project. As previously stated, “I think I found my calling when Mexico Boutique Hotels found me. Everything about this company appeals to me: the innovation, the attention to detail, the quality of the services it provides and the authenticity of its message. And this is exactly what they require from their members. My job? To seek like-minded hotels and bring them to the traveler’s attention. In the process, I promote this fabulous country and its many, many wonders. What could be better than that?”
Is this your dream job?
I guess you could say that it is! I love Mexico, I feel it is still far underrated in terms of International exposure of all its greatness and I have had some of the best experiences of my life here. I also love small businesses and the heart and soul they pour into their product. The owners of these small hotels are fascinating people that are truly committed to offering something ‘different’, that love Mexico and its culture and that support local communities and their regions. I share their dedication to great service and authenticity and this makes it a joy to work with them. Also, since they are all busy running their hotels, I’m able to be a great resource for what’s going on in the world, the tourism industry and the market in general. I keep my hand on the pulse and make sure what we do is both current and relevant. I guess it must be said that it’s not a 9-5 job but I enjoy it greatly so it never feels like I’m putting in hours. I also have the flexibility to work from home, from the office in Puerto Vallarta and on my blackberry ;) That is priceless.
What sacrifices, if any, did you have to make?
The only real—yet big— sacrifice I have to make is being far from my family. They are mostly back in Canada and well, it would be hard to be a true Mexico representative if I spent most of my time up North. I think that’s what differentiates my company from so many others that ‘sell’ Mexico. We live and work here. We know the country!
What was your experience like moving to Puerto Vallarta?
Shocking! I was straight out of university and hadn’t traveled abroad that much at the time. Sadly, we weren’t taught much about Mexico in school and so besides a vague geographical notion of it being below the US, I mostly had stereotypical views of the country I was moving to. It had NOTHING to do with reality and today, I am still saddened—though not surprised—that so many misconceptions are still out there. Culturally I had a lot of adapting to do but I have learned so much here (both about Mexico and about my own country). It’s great to learn new ways of doing things, different points of view, going back to the basics, and basically just seeing world events through different eyes.
What is daily life like in a city like Puerto Vallarta?
Honestly, it is much like anywhere else in the world when one lives there and is not vacationing. You get up, go to work, maybe go to the movies, out for dinner, see friends on the weekend and that’s pretty much it. There is however more life than perhaps a less touristy city when you go downtown on any night of the week. It’s funny because my family and friends back home expect me to show up all tanned most of the time, but I always remind them that I work just like they do and am NOT sitting on the beach sipping a margarita—most of the time ;)
Did it take time for you to adjust?
I don’t think you ever stop adjusting to a culture that is not your own. I have my days where I wish I could jump on a plane and go home but it usually lasts 24 hours and is set-off by something specific (a problem at the bank, a bad driver, the impossibility of finding my favorite magazine at a newsstand, etc..) and it’s never anything serious. It has made me much more patient and understanding and I have stopped saying the ever-annoying “well in MY country things are done like this” (locals do not appreciate that and with justification!).
Do you ever get homesick from where you originally came from?
I do. Quite alot. Mostly in the winter. I miss the snow and ice skating outside. I miss certain dishes. I miss the familiarity. I really miss my family But then I think about what I love here and it all balances out. And I love to have family visit. I’m very proud of where I live and the life I’ve built down here.
Living in such a tropical location of the world, do you feel the need to take a vacation away from PV?
Absolutely. We always want a change, no matter how great the location where we live. I love colonial towns when in Mexico (for the cooler weather and the culture) and also love to take shopping trips elsewhere. I am also fortunate in that my fiancé is from South America (Colombia) and I am able to travel there as well. Colombia is a beautiful country filled with very educated people.
Do you have any family in Mexico?
I am expecting my first child in December. He/she will be born in Mexico and raised in French/Spanish and English. I think that Mexico is a wonderful place to raise a child, given the strong family values that are still very present here. Having said that, we plan to give our child a strong sense of what Colombia and Canada are all about.
What is the best part about your job?
Helping change the view that world travelers have of Mexico. Going beyond the all-inclusive, beach destination image. Helping to promote authentic Mexico experiences that better position this country as what it truly is: a culturally/historically rich land filled with warm people just waiting to welcome you to their home.
How would you encourage others to go for their dream jobs?
I think it starts with identifying what you believe in. You can’t be great at what you don’t love…and if you are, it won’t last. It’s just too tiring. You have to keep your eyes open for opportunity. It’s usually where you least expect it. Offer to help, participate, give without expecting anything in exchange. Acquire knowledge. Loving something isn’t enough. Read, read, read. And even more importantly, listen. Pay attention. Oftentimes, your dream job may be something you didn’t even expect. So try things out and take chances!
To visit Sylvie’s blog at Mexico Boutique Hotels, visit: http://mexicoboutiquehotels.wordpress.com/
Mexico Boutique Hotels Official Site: http://mexicoboutiquehotels.com/
Susie Albin-Najera can be reached at email@example.com.