The Struggle for Skills

The hospitality industry has always been a demanding industry to work in. What with the unsociable hours and the demands of discerning and sometimes difficult guests. It’s hard enough to find skills let alone people who can make a unique contribution to the hotel, restaurant, lodge or conference centre. It’s all about differentiating your product. It’s immaterial how beautifully appointed the establishment is if the team serving the guests is below par. Perhaps with millions of rands spent on new fixtures, fittings and facilities wasted and  making way for poor reviews about service and low ratings on trip advisor.

It stands to reason that getting the right team together is a matter of success or failure for hospitality.

At this years tourism Indaba, I asked a number of exhibitors how they are adding value to the guest experience through their team members.

Katie Christie the GM of Walkersons highlighted that their strategy of developing people from the local community and upskilling internally has given them excellent results. They don’t always recruit based on skill, they are looking for attitude, energy as well as the keenness to be committed to a career in  the hospitality industry. Qualifications are not the deciding factor and in Katie’s experience, practical experience often trumps academics.

Hospitality industry skills in Africa have never been in more demand. I spoke with Mike Devereux, the Senior Director of Development in Sub Saharan Africa for the Hilton Group. This year alone they are rolling out at least 7 new projects in the region. This adds to the general buzz at Indaba about new developments and exciting projects. Certainly confidence has returned and investors are getting on board with African tourism.

I often hear the complaint that Millennials have no interest in joining our industry . A general consensus amongst some of the “older” generation of hotelier, I count myself in this number,  is that the youngsters are not interested in working hard, and prefer careers where they have more freedom to be themselves and be creative with a defined development plan.

Some businesses are looking at how they can adapt themselves to accommodate the new needs and talents of those born around the mid 1990’s instead of throwing them out with the old blackberry. Some establishments are doing this and reaping some very tangible benefits and results.

I had a very enjoyable discussion with Nicci Fourie of Newmark hotels. A lot of their sales and on line marketing teams are young, alternative and full of fresh young ideas. The management at Newmark give them the room to use IT skills and analytical skills in an environment that affords them plenty of freedom of expression. Nicci loves the new ideas and the energy they bring to the group. The results have been excellent.

Development plans are the key. Training and resourcing from the local community essential, and look to the Millenials for alternative talent. Let’s grow our skills to give our visitors a true African service experience

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