What makes a good hospitality worker?
Few industries are more open to talent of all stripes than the hospitality and leisure one. Anyone can land a job in the sector, as well as leave early for pastures anew at relevantly short notice. Silvio Berlusconi started his rather tumultuous career as a singer on a cruise ship in Italy in the early ‘50s when Italy’s hospitality industry was just taking off, singing local serenatas to European tourists. Since then he has twice been elected Prime Minister of Italy.
Hospitality workers come from all sorts of educational backgrounds and are thus equipped with various kinds of qualifications, from high school diplomas to PhDs in hard science. Data collected from a recent Movinhand survey of hoteliers around Europe show that less than half of hospitality workers at European hotels have a qualification in hospitality studies.
So who are these hospitality workers and what makes them good in what they do? Although the list is endless and stereotypes can easily creep in, one can attempt to map out the different types of graduates who launch a career in the hospitality and leisure sector and the specific skills they bring to their employers.
A lifestyle choice
Recent surveys of hospitality workers show that many students who have obtained a qualification in media, marketing, PR or any of these overlapping subject areas dealing with communication land a job in the hospitality sector. This is not surprising, as these graduates are equipped with crucial soft skills, such as team working and communication. They know how to showcase to their employers an avid customer-focused attitude, a skill that alone can enormously help a graduate launch a career in tourism.
Business and finance students are special, as many recruiters know. They are customer-focused too, but often in a much more abstract way. Their key aptitude is a knack for numbers, not words. Savvy and serious, they tend to be practical and have their feet on the ground, which makes them ideal for operational or management positions that require a combination of lateral and abstract thinking, common sense and business acumen. Employers often find it useful to get them cut their teeth in demanding, manual jobs so that they familiarise themselves with the nitty gritty parts of running a hotel before they move up to more senior positions.
Lawyers are in a league of their own. Although only a tiny proportion of hospitality workers are qualified in this subject area, they tend to occupy crucial managerial positions, often being regional managers in charge of hotel chains across many countries. Particularly those who are familiar with the intricacies of various national legislations and are fluent in several languages are sough-after hospitality workers for mid-level management positions.
Literature and foreign language graduates are naturally good with words and intellectual in thinking, although not always communicative enough. They make perfect guides and receptionists, although not always superb managers as they often lack business acumen. As for those who have studied art, they tend to be creative and innovative, perfect for leisure and recreation activities involving children and older tourists.
For rank-and-file positions, things are not as easy as they look. A big number of this type of hospitality workers have only secondary education under their belt and often not even that. But this does not mean that they are not able to deliver. They can shine too in all sorts of positions requiring manual skills: cooks, waiters and maids, to name a few. In due time many move to more senior positions if they have proved their mettle.
Soft skills matter
Naturally, some skills are more important than others. All hospitality workers, regardless of their qualifications, need to have basic soft skills. Working in the hospitality and leisure sector is both about the attitude and the aptitude that a worker can bring on the table. Being constantly in contact with the customer, employees need to be equipped with a ‘can-do’ attitude, patience and stamina.
Essentially, working in the hospitality sector is an investment that can benefit both workers and employers if they are on the same page. A seasoned hotelier, Stelios Kizis, General Manager at Columbia Beach Resorts in Pissouri, Cyprus, offers a valuable piece of advice for young hospitality workers in a short interview with Movinhand: “Enter the industry with an understanding that you're entering a lifestyle job and not just a job. Lay your foundations of knowledge early in your career so you can depend on your knowledge later on.”
Hospitality employers should take note too. Education is a start, but nothing can replace real-life experience and a ‘can-do’ attitude. Use your employees in positions that match their skills and knowledge and they will pay back with outstanding performance.