If you’re considering working in the waterpark industry abroad or are just curious about how things may differ from US operations I’m ready to give you the insider’s scoop.
The first thing to note is that in many countries, the working and operating hours are different than what is common in the US. United Arab Emirates’ labor law requires a 48 hour work week for most positions while Singapore requires 44 hours. In the UAE, frontline employees work 6 days per week, 8 hours per day when the operation allows for it. Park operating hours are such that most frontline employees work more than 48 hours and end up accruing plus hours which they can redeem later for an extra day off work. Management employees are on a 5 day per week schedule which means 9.6 hours per day. That being said, the UAE also provides 26 days of annual leave per year as well as 15 public holidays. Due to varying temperatures worldwide, many waterparks operate 365 days per year which greatly impacts headcount planning.
Many waterparks both in the US and abroad employ staff members from around the world, requiring the company to be responsible for accommodation, transportation to and from work and meals. Something to consider is swimming ability when recruiting for positions that require swimming skills (lifeguard, swim instructor, maintenance, etc.). It’s easy to take swimming skills for granted; and it can be quite the surprise if a lifeguard shows up on the first day of work, and they are unable to swim. It’s important to communicate with recruitment and human resources teams to ensure they are hiring candidates who can meet the basic requirements of each position to be filled.
Another item to consider in international operations is the lack of consistent safety regulations or varying requirements. Many countries don’t have anything even close to a state, county or city health code, not to mention the MAHC or ADA. Private pools sometimes have lifeguards on duty, but often, a certification standard or requirement may not exist. When in doubt, following the CDC’s recommendations for water contamination is probably a safe bet if there’s no national standard in place.
The best part about working abroad is the opportunity to work with people from all over the world. I work with a great team of people from more than 45 different countries, who practice Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Christianity. This has afforded me the chance to explore other cultures, learn a few phrases in different languages and really improve my understanding of other people. It has also made me a better trainer – how do you teach a lifeguard class to employees who don’t have a strong understanding of English? How do you communicate with guests and enforce safety rules when there is a language barrier? You push your boundaries, become more creative and learn to ask others for help with translation! If you have the opportunity to travel to waterparks in other countries, I recommend asking to spend a few minutes with some of their employees – you’ll be glad you took the time to broaden your horizons!
Melissa Lockwood is an Operations Manager at Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi. Prior to joining Yas Waterworld’s pre-opening team in 2012, Melissa worked for municipalities in Texas and Missouri. She is an Ellis & Associates Instructor Trainer, NRPA Aquatic Facility Operator and Certified Parks and Recreation Professional, and an American Red Cross Water Safety Instructor.