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Blog : Hospitality - time for a perception change


Hospitality - time for a perception change

By Linda McAulay - Managing Director, Scotland, Ireland and Northern Ireland

I was recently at a HIT Scotland dinner where 120 scholarships were awarded to individuals working in the hospitality industry. These scholarships recognise the professionalism, enthusiasm and dedication of individuals in the industry; offering recipients a once in a lifetime opportunity to expand their international knowledge of hospitality and forge new, long lasting friendships.

During dinner the conversation turned to emerging talent in the hospitality / tourism industries; leading us to compare this, and levels of professionalism, to those in service industries in other countries. We concluded that for those in the UK, individuals tend to enter this industry in a transient role whilst travelling or attending university. And while some may enjoy the industry enough to linger, few start with the idea that this could become a career. 

By contrast, however, in other countries this is quite another story. Food, wine and being a great host have long been important through nations such as France and Italy and therefore to be involved with the delivery of these lauded treasures is considered an honour. Dispensing exceptional customer service is the mark of a master craftsman - and is respected as such.

Take for example visiting a hotel in Europe. The usual first impression is that their teams are more mature than you would find in the UK. Why is this? Because they view service as a career, thus take time to develop, learn and become experts in their domains; ensuring your experience is of the highest standard.

Why is there this disparity?  We certainly have employers, educational institutions and industry bodies who promote the benefits of the service sector, who nurture and grow young talent for this ever-growing industry.

To me is seems there are a number of mitigating factors:

  • Career guidance – whilst at school, how is the hospitality / tourism industry perceived by both the career advisers and students?  Often careers in law, accountancy and professional services are deemed to be more appealing than those in the tourism and hospitality industries.  And is there no surprise when, having asked a number of students recently, they told me that roles in hospitality and tourism are rarely spoken about.
  • No transparency – young graduates often aren’t aware of the infinite possibilities for exciting, glamorous and rewarding careers in hospitality and tourism.  Conferences such as the HIT Emerging Talent Conference, hope to change this; opening the eyes of those present to the various roles and travel opportunities available to them.
  • Undersold – those in the industry are mostly aware of the opportunities, but how good are we at selling these to individuals before, during and even after the critical interview stages.  Often there is an immediate requirement to assist with increasing demands which result in many individuals being recruited quickly and not necessarily being afforded the opportunity of well-structured inductions and career opportunities.
  • Those who shout loudest – many organisations are guilty of focusing attention on rising stars to the detriment of others in the team.  Sometimes talent is wrongly recognised in those who appear to be the most confident, passionate, curious and ambitious and sometimes failing to notice those who have worked diligently for years without being heard or seen.  It is up to us to recognise each and every individual within the team and to help them drive their own progress through development, support, nurturing and mentoring.
  • Embrace experience – the hospitality and tourism industries are viewed as a young industry in the UK to the detriment of the wealth of experience and talent which exists everywhere in those who would be strong ambassadors for any brand.  We need to encourage more diversity in our teams, and particularly our front of house teams, which will resonate with customers and guests alike.

Now is the time for action. With the Olympics and Paralympics on our doorsteps, as well as the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Ryder Cup and the Commonweath Games to name but a few, we have an opportunity as an industry to shine. It is our chance not only to showcase to the world the UK’s warmth, compassion, fun, creativity and ability to deliver exceptional levels of service. It’s also our opportunity to demonstrate what great industries hospitality and tourism really are, and that they can truly offer a beneficial career path.

What do you do to promote the benefits of working at your organisation? How do you retain talented individuals?

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