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Volunteering for Once

What is it like to work as a volunteer CEO (Chief Entertainment Officer) for Once in Cape Town and Once in Joburg? Read below to see what our staff loves most about working in the youth travel industry!

Volunteering for Once


Chief Entertainment Officers: What's it all about?

Once Travel is not just a place to stay. We believe individuals can grow both professionally and personally through travel. One of the opportunities we pride ourselves in is our CEO program. At both our Once in Cape Town and Once in Joburg locations, we offer young people the ability to get firsthand experience working in the travel and tourism industry, combined with the freedom to discover the culture, beauty, and natural landscapes of South Africa.

These are volunteer jobs, but they offer free accommodation and meal stipends in exchange for 5 hour work shifts 5 days a week. Essentially, CEO’s, or “Chief Entertainment Officers” help around the property, including checking in guests at reception as well as helping our housekeeping staff. Working in all departments allows for a complete immersion in our brand and culture to fully understand the behind-the-scenes efforts of running a great hotel.

The most important part of being a CEO at Once in Cape Town and Joburg is the entertainment of the guests. This includes communicating with them when they arrive and leave the hostel, getting to know them as they chill in the reception area, helping them meet new travel mates, and making the free activities amazing. These activities range from hikes to city walks to party nights and more. Twice a week, guests can enjoy a free wine or beer during our No Power Hours and Wine Not Wednesdays.

When the Mother City’s windy weather calms down CEOs can take the guests to the beach or hike Table Mountain and Lion’s Head. On the weekends, they venture to discover beautiful markets with homemade goods around Cape Town as well as hit the town for the amazing nightlife. At Once in Joburg, CEOs regularly host games and movie nights in our very own first-floor cinema!

Two of our volunteers, Thiago and Ida, joke about their affectionate title, a play-on-words. They noted that guests often get confused. Ida says, “people often think that we are the real chief executive officers and get confused. I’ve heard, “‘oh, you’re so young to be a CEO!’”.

Thiago says, “a funny thing is guests’ reactions when they notice the CEO. I will be leading them to their room and even carrying their stuff upstairs. I always say “‘you see how special you are?!’”

So, by now you know all about the amazing benefits of our CEO program. Read on to get to learn about the backgrounds and experiences of some of our past and current CEOS.


I’m Guillerme, but people call me “G” or “Gui”. I am 24 years old from Curitiba in Brazil. I was working as a business consultant until I quit my job to travel the world and find out what I really want in life. At Once, I like the spontaneity of interacting with guests. I try to make their days happier here at the hostel and in Cape Town in general. If I am able to do that, I’m happy too.

It’s amazing to meet new people and to get to know their history and culture. It’s unbelievable how big the world is and I’m trying to understand it and to see it from a different perspective.

I’m still learning every day while working at Once, but I think the most important thing here in the hostel and in life is to BE HAPPY. Not for others, but for YOU.


I’m Anais, and I’m 23 years old from Brussels in Belgium. Shortly before I came to Cape Town I finished university with a law degree. I decided to travel to South Africa to get to know a new culture and to meet people from all over the world. The food, the city, the nature...they are beautiful and amazing.

At Once in Cape Town I’ve learned to be more open-minded. Communicating and having a conversation with guests are the most important things when you are working as a CEO. I am really going to miss the amazing people at Once.


I am a 26-year-old curious-about-life-guy from Aracaju, Brazil. Despite my professional background in business management, I’ve decided to listen to an inner call to make my world smaller by working as a flight attendant for a global airline. To help me accomplish this, I thought it would be helpful to live in a multiculturally rich environment like Cape Town. This seemed like a once in a lifetime choice. It’s been worth every minute.

Most of the guests don’t expect the high level of service we provide at the hostel, and I really like to make them feel that I’m there to make their stay as comfortable as possible. I’ve been learning a lot, but I think the most valuable thing I’ve learned is the ability to adapt and come up with a solution for unexpected issues.

Without a doubt, I will miss the cosmopolitan sensation that Cape Town provides!


I’m 26 years old, from the Netherlands, from a city called Amersfoort. The last 9 and a half years I worked as a car mechanic but decided to quit my job and sell everything I had to go traveling. Now I am already 6 and a half months away from home! More than anything, I like that I get to meet so many diverse people and show them how cool the hostel and Cape Town is!

I’ve learned how to better communicate in English, as well as the unique culture of Cape Town which I can expertly share with guests.

I will miss the vibe of this place and the people who stay and work here!


I’m 18 years old, from Brunswick, a city in northern Germany and I finished high school this year. I have been to Cape Town before, so I was familiar with the city but I wanted to get to know it better and spend more time here! It never gets boring and you are busy all the time. I enjoy leading activities like pub crawls and hikes. Of course, I love the cheap, delicious food and my Once family.

Working at Once has allowed me to improve my English and how to express myself properly as well as more responsibility. Most importantly, you really only live ONCE, so go out and enjoy! (But don’t forget to be on time for work)


I’m 25 years old, from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. For the last 2 years, I worked as an intern at an international company and then decided to come to Cape Town to get to know this wonderful culture and study and work as a volunteer.

The opportunity to get to meet with people from all over the world all the time is the best part of being a CEO. I’ve learned how to respect peoples’ differences and how to better care for others. I will miss the magical atmosphere we have here.

The adventures of our beloved CEOs

Are you ready to be a CEO?

Interested applicants can apply on, a website for work and accommodation exchange, or directly on our website or Facebook page. If they are approved, and there is enough space at Once Travel, the new volunteers will have a video chat interview with our volunteer manager on duty. If the applicant fits into our “A-team”, they can book their flight to Cape Town or Joburg for their time of stay.