I’m Ben: an American-Israeli with over seven years of experience in client-facing roles, and a passion for writing.
This is my story.
Where it all began
In 2003, my parents decided to leave our comfortable lives in our hometown of Teaneck, New Jersey, and move the entire family to Israel. At the time, I was 13 years old. Since then I have graduated high school, studied at a pre-military academy in the Golan Heights, completed my IDF service in the Combat Engineer Corps, and completed a degree from Hebrew University in Hotel Management, Food Sciences, and Tourism. Throughout my Degree and afterward, I have worked in three different hotels, and most recently a boutique surf and dive resort in Fiji.
Passion for Service
I’m often asked how I chose the hotel/tourism industry. When I tell people about the degree I finished, the reaction is usually of surprise, with questions such as “wow I’ve never heard of that, what made you choose to go into this field?”
After completing my military service back in 2012, I began working in a small insurance office in Raanana. I quickly learned that insurance is the kind of service that people need, but don’t want. This is similar to going to the dentist or taking your car to the mechanic. It’s something that must be dealt with, and the kind of service that almost no one is excited about. Especially with insurance, clients are either paying monthly premiums and not receiving anything tangible in return, or something happens and they need to claim their insurance, and they then grow impatient (after all, they had been paying all this time). As a result, I found myself constantly dealing with angry and upset people, and apologizing for things that were in no way my fault.
In this particular field, trying to make these clients happy was a major challenge. This was the best possible customer service training I could have received: if you can succeed in making a customer excited about renewing their insurance then the sky is truly the limit. Throughout that year I learned a lot about dealing with people who were often upset (for the reasons I mentioned above) and how to diffuse sensitive situations. I also discovered that this came quite naturally to me. I have always been a “people person” and I sincerely enjoyed dealing with the clients I was responsible for.
However, I also realized that this wasn’t a field I saw myself working in for the long term. While my employer had a way of calming down the clients and causing them to leave the office with a smile, I found this to be exhausting. I decided I needed to see the smile from the beginning. This is what motivated me to go into the hospitality/tourism sector: the exact opposite of kind of service. Tourism falls under the category of service that people do want, but don’t need. As a result, the clientele is mostly excited about the service being provided.
The Hotel World
After getting accepted to Hebrew University’s Hotel Management, Food, and Tourism program, I did everything “by the book.” In other words, according to our professors and lecturers, there was a magic formula for success in the hotel world. This involved working throughout the degree in various hotels, with the goal of graduating the program with hotel experience on your resume. This, along with a degree in hospitality from HU should propel you above your competitors in the job market.
In 2014, I landed my first job in the hotel world, at the Daniel Hotel in Herzelia. At this time, unfortunately, Israel was at war. It was the height of Operation Protective Edge, and tourism wasn’t exactly flourishing. Undeterred, I printed out copies of my resume and walked along the promenade in Herzelia and handed them out to the front desk of every hotel on the strip. The Daniel Hotel in Herzelia was the only hotel that had an opening. So I finally began my career at their pool restaurant.
Once winter came around and the pool was closed, I was moved to room service, and from there I jumped around in various jobs in the food and beverage department- waiting tables, catering, even a bit of bartending. This was all while simultaneously studying and working hard to complete my degree.
While I enjoyed the work, I understood that I had to do my time behind the front desk if I expected to be taken seriously in the hotel world. The front desk is the face of every hotel, the main artery where all the departments pass through, and the first and last interactions with every guest in the hotel. Luckily, the Dan Accadia Hotel next door had an opening and I began the next phase of my career: the front desk.
Working at the front desk of the Dan Accadia was interesting and rewarding. Once again my customer service skills were put to the test, dealing with various guests from all over the world: wealthy American, French, and British Jews staying in their regular suites every Passover, Evangelicals thrilled to be visiting the Holy Land, prostitutes and drunks at night, and Israeli celebrities and their overly-entitled spouses. I even personally checked in 2016 presidential candidate Mike Huckabee.
After a year I was promoted to Shift Manager and altogether spent close to two years working at Dan Accadia. Following this, an opportunity arose which I couldn’t turn down: a brand new hotel was under construction in Raanana (practically right across the street from where my parents lived). I was invited to an interview on the top floor of a construction site and met with the hotel’s general manager who was sitting behind a plastic desk in shorts and a t-shirt. I have to say I found it incredibly cool to be part of a hotel being built from scratch.
The Prima Millennium was going to be a business hotel meant to accommodate all the high tech workers in the area. I first came in as Assistant Manager of Food & Beverage, but after realizing the poor state of the Front Desk Department (due to mostly inexperienced front desk agents), the General Manager decided to transfer me in the hopes to, “bring in a star” to help improve the situation there. I worked as the Assistant Front Desk Manager for a year, until once again an amazing opportunity arose.
Waidroka Bay Resort
By now I was just about finished with my degree, and I was looking for my next adventure. While I was in a mid-level management position, I was still basically earning what a recently released soldier was earning, and working odd hours and weekends, while all around me my friends were moving on in their careers. This was not the life I had envisioned and I knew I was capable of more. Up until this point, hotel shift work made sense with my University schedule, but there were few things in the world I hated more than having to work on the weekend. The standard Israeli Sunday to Thursday 9:00 to 17:00 was beginning to feel like a fantasy, even though this was how most of the country’s workforce operated. Additionally, I suffered from vertigo due to a messed up sleep schedule from having to work night shifts, and all in all, I was simply exhausted. After being passed up for promotion and being told by the General Manager (who to this day I greatly respect): “you just need to give it more time- after all, I worked nearly a decade in entry-level positions before I was promoted.” Hearing this, I knew I was going nowhere further in this job. As an ambitious fully-bilingual, now equipped with a degree from Hebrew University (and experience working in three different hotels), I wasn’t going to continue working in a job I was severely over-qualified for simply because it made sense for the hotel’s interests. It was time to move on.
After browsing numerous job boards, I came across an ad to work for a resort in Fiji. Naturally, my first thought was that I was not going to relocate to a country I probably couldn’t find on the map without Google’s help. However, after looking more in-depth at the job post, I saw that the position was actually from the owner’s home in Herzelia (a suburb of Tel Aviv). Not only that, but the job post was basically describing me: native English speaker, tech-savvy, hotel, and tourism experience, willing to travel to Fiji if necessary.
Subsequently, I managed to score an interview at the owner of the resort’s home. There he told me an incredible story of how after working as a CEO and other high-power positions for several major well-known companies (including MTV), he took a look at his life and realized that something was missing. Having been passionate his whole life about the ocean (surfing, diving, fishing, sailing, etc.) he decided to buy a rundown surf and dive resort halfway across the world (it’s unclear if it’s faster to fly east or west from Israel). He moved his family there and raised his daughter in the rain forests of Fiji while simultaneously teaching himself to run and operate a resort under rough conditions in a foreign culture. Seeing my jaw on the floor after he finished his story, the owner of the resort told me he’s looking for someone exactly like me- a hotelier who would be passionate about the work, to take over the jobs that he can’t find the time to do himself. This included managing the reservations, sales, marketing, and pretty much all of the back end work that needed to be done for the resort.
Soon afterward, I began my position as the Sales, Marketing, and Reservations Manager for Waidroka Bay Resort. At first, from the owner’s home in Herzelia, and after he relocated with his family to Europe, I continued to fulfill my duties from the Tel Aviv office (which was my bedroom). After only four months, I was flown to the resort in Fiji.
While the main goal of the trip was to experience and learn about the product which I was selling and marketing, another main focus was training the local staff on how to use the resort’s property management system. It’s worth mentioning that when I first started working at Waidroka, all of the reservations were being run by spreadsheets. While the owner of the resort had done a pretty nice job creating these spreadsheets, I explained to him the necessity to move to a property management system that would automate this process, as manually updating will likely to lead to human errors. After all, by this point, I had already worked in three hotels in Israel and was quite familiar with property management systems. In both the Dan Accadia and The Prima Millennium, I was responsible for training new staff members on how to use these systems. Together, the owner of the resort and I spent the first few months after hiring me researching and testing out property management systems (PMS) which would fit the complex needs of the resort (pricing out packages which included one surfer and one non-surfer, or two divers doing vastly different dive packages, etc). We eventually found one that could more or less accommodate our needs, and we were mostly able to make it work.
I took this project of acquiring the appropriate PMS under my wing as my responsibility. Part of the condition for the trip to Fiji was to learn the system inside and out, and you can bet that by the time I was meant to fly to Fiji I knew our PMS system better than their support team.
In June of 2018, I flew via Seoul to the main island of Viti Levu in Fiji, where the resort is located. Here, in addition to training the staff on how to use our PMS, I had an unbelievable experience learning to surf, dive (I’m now PADI Open Water certified), shark dive, and most of all, become an expert on Fiji, Fijian culture, and on the resort. I came back to Israel much smarter and equipped to answer nearly any question a potential guest might have.
After returning to Israel I continued working for the resort gaining valuable experience in marketing, and sales. I personally closed deals up to $50,000 and represented the resort at various trade-shows in the US, where I sold packages in person to partners and potential clients. I compiled sales reports, and even developed a new method to quote our packages. This initiative improved our method of sending quotes to potential clients by creating a system that revolutionized the way we quoted our complex packages. This method made the overall process far easier and more efficient, and it will remain a cornerstone of the resort sales operations.
Covid-19 and The Lemonade Fund
In the early months of 2020, the world began to see the effects of the Corona Virus, and we began to get nervous emails from guests who were scheduled to stay with us later in the year. At first, Fiji was on top of it, but eventually, she saw her first case. The spiral that came afterward was devastating to the tourism industry all over the world, and Waidroka Bay Resort was hit hard: first, the US discontinued flights to the region, then Europe followed, and eventually Australia and New Zealand. As a result, the resort was forced to close its doors, and I was eventually let go.
Having just lost my job due to the global pandemic devastating the industry I’ve worked in for most of my career, I was lucky enough to find that The Lemonade Fund had an opening for a Taxi Account Manager.
The Israel Breast Cancer Emergency Relief Fund or its other name- The Lemonade Fund– started in 2010, has raised over a million shekels, and has helped thousands of breast cancer victims in Israel (feel free to check out their website to learn more).
During the months of Corona, The Lemonade Fund was able to find a wealthy anonymous donor to donate a huge sum of money to Israel’s largest taxi company- Gett Taxi, to provide free taxi rides to needy cancer patients. Because of this initiative, they now have a way to get to their treatments during this crazy time when public transportation is either extremely limited or canceled entirely (and even if it is an option, these high-risk individuals shouldn’t be taking public transportation anyway). You can read more about this initiative here.
Since April of 2020, I’ve been managing the accounts and coordinating between social workers and Gett Taxi, arranging the rides for these cancer patients so that they can get to their treatments.
In addition to taking responsibility for the company’s property management system, and being sent to Fiji to train the local staff on how it’s used, I was also responsible for this type of on-boarding in my roles at previous hotels. This involved the ability to understand complex technology and explain it simply. Additionally, I have strong excel skills as well as experience with HTML (which I taught myself), and now experience in WordPress: you’re reading this on a website I basically built from scratch.
Any experience I am lacking I will be able to learn in a short amount of time.
I am confident I can quickly learn and adapt to any tech product required, but what sets me apart is my extensive customer service experience and unparalleled interpersonal skills.
Throughout my career of over seven years in demanding roles interfacing with customers, I’ve learned and perfected making the customer’s needs a top priority. In my latest position at Waidroka Bay Resort, I was responsible for all communication with clients and partners from the moment of inquiry until the follow-up. This required identifying opportunities for continuous improvement and measuring the effectiveness of customer success.
Otherwise, thank you for reading my story which I believe is only just beginning!