Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Hospitality Career: Coming of Age

The contribution made by the country’s tourism industry is incredible. Tourism is an important sector of the economy and contributes significantly in the country’s GDP, as well as Foreign Exchange Earnings (FEE). Tourism industry is one of the highest employment generator. This industry provides diverse range of activities offering great job opportunities for people with varied skills and educational backgrounds. Few decades ago, hospitality sector was not looked upon as first preference of the employment seekers and hotel management courses were pursued by few students.

 
But time has changed and hospitality career option has gained grounds in the last decade. There are 33 functional Institutes of Hotel Management (IHMs) comprising 21 Central IHMs and 12 State IHMs. Additionally, there are six Food Craft Institutes (FCIs). These institutes were set up as autonomous societies with specific mandate to impart/conduct hospitality education/training in hospitality skills. Besides, there are numerous private hotel management colleges which has mushroomed over the last few decades. Students from India are visiting abroad for higher studies in hotel management. Hospitality professionals in India can look forward to exciting times ahead. The influx of international hotel companies and mushrooming domestic hotel brands, large inventory adding up, has resulted in numerous job opportunities in the hospitality sector. This has increased the competition in the industry, which in turn has raised the service standards of the hotel sector.

According to World Travel & Tourism Council, the industry will grow exponentially to create eight million additional jobs in India over the next 10 years. The contribution of the hospitality industry to GDP is expected to rise from 8.6 per cent (USD 117.9 billion) in 2010 to nine per cent (USD 330.1 billion) by 2020. Over the next 10 years, the global travel and tourism economy is expected to grow by 4.3 per cent per year, implying that its share of the global economy will rise to just over 10 per cent. This will help create an additional 66 million jobs by 2020, of which 50 million will be in Asia. In 2020, one in every 9.6 jobs in India will be in the hospitality sector.

"General perception of hospitality professionals, by the Indian society, is quite positive, as they are proficient and skillful in not only technical skills but also social skills, which make them distinct from professionals of other businesses. The hospitality professional has always been known for his/her positive attitude coupled with greater sense of empathy and understanding. This industry has always been recognised for providing memorable experiences by anticipating needs of the customer,” informed KB Kachru, Executive Vice President – South Asia, Carlson Hotels, Asia Pacific. Echoing the same sentiments, Sujata Guin, Regional Director – Human Resources, The Park Hotels said, “Hospitality professionals are admired for their finesse, courteousness and over all professionalism.”

WORK LIFE BALANCE


There is a general perception that hospitality jobs impede work-life balance. Erratic working hours, no leaves being granted during festive times, constant pressure are some of the factors, which makes this industry as one of the sad employers. However, appropriate measures are being taken by the hotels to strike a balance between the employee’s professional and personal life and encourage a healthy work-life balance. As far as The Park Hotels is concerned, over two years back, the Group introduced the five and a half day concept with all team members in non-operational areas. However, The Park Hotels is working to make this happen for operational team members in near future. Even other hotel companies have realised the need for this change and have initiated steps in this direction by taking measured approach. Also, there are hotels, which are yet to overcome few other challenges before they introduce this. “We have a five and half day week, which is a deviation from the norm and perceived very well by the employees. With the war for talent escalating, not only within the hospitality but also with competing employment sectors, the hospitality industry could well see more liberal days off policy in near future,” Ashwin Shirali, Regional Director of Human Resources, Accor Hotels – India added.

It is necessary that steps are being taken on part of employers to inculcate a healthy work culture and motivate employees for higher productivity. A happy employee will always show better results. As far the hospitality industry is concerned, the associates are in constant touch with the guest and hence, it is paramount that they are happy and satisfied in order to reflect the same to the guest. Guin added, “Employees are urged to avail their annual leaves every year. Flexi-time and sabbaticals are often extended on need-basis. Fun at work is an important concept we believe in. Small activities and events that help team members to de-stress at work and chill out in the midst of a hectic work day, annual health check ups to keep our team members fit and healthy, counseling sessions for those in need, effective organisation assistance during situations of personal crisis and more, are taken into account.”


In today’s competitive environment, stress on an employee has increased. Shirali added, “Being part of a 24/7 operation has its obvious challenges with respect to work life balance and is possibly a major factor impacting the attractiveness of hospitality as a career. We strongly believe in a ‘People First’ approach to achieve a balance between the employee’s professional and personal life.” Pratima Jain, Corporate HR Director, The Claridges Hotels & Resorts said, “I think work life balance is equally challenged in all sectors and not just hospitality. We have six off days in a month policy. We also ensure that each individual has a leave planner for the year, which is strictly followed at all units. The other major factor is driving our day to day operation through emotional intelligence by creating an environment of joy at work, which helps in reducing stress and to develop empathy, which in turn helps us in understanding and building an awareness of change towards all aspects of our jobs and life.”

Apart from monetary incentives, it is important that the employee is given an opportunity to learn and grow in the organisation. Kachru said, “Apart from initiating changes in frontline designations, our employees are encouraged to get themselves enrolled for our web-based programmes through the Carlson Learning Network. ‘Our Yes I Can’ programme, differentiates our service philosophy and defines our attitude, not only towards our external customers but our internal customers, as well. This programme lays emphasis on an environment of mutual trust and respect.” Various training, learning and development programmes run in various hotel companies to uplift the employees and keep them abreast of industry happenings.

Retention of staff is a major issue concerning the hotel industry. Hoteliers are in high demand in almost every sector for instance airlines, cruise liners, banks, telecom, BPOs, retail etc. Also, the concept of working in a 10 to 6 or 9 to 5 timings adds to the limitation of hotels. “A certain percentage of attrition in a controlled manner is always healthy for the brand, as it also paves way for fresh talent and new ideas,” informed Kachru.

ATTRACTING POTENTIAL TALENT




 
It is not only about retaining the existing staff but it is also necessary to attract the young and potential talents. According to Guin, “To generate awareness of the immense opportunities that hotels can offer in terms of career development and lifestyle, we connect with students and faculty through our hospitality institute Apeejay Institute of Hospitality. We actively use social networking spaces such as Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Professional networking through commerce, industry and social bodies are also one of the key ways in which we create employer branding, as well as overall awareness of hospitality positives.” Carlson is a partner of a IIMT in Gurgaon with almost 250 students. “This helps us to develop future leaders. Only by attracting and retaining top talent, we can continue to fulfill our promise of delivering exceptional results,” Kachru added.


HOTEL AS WORK-PLACE 


An organisation is known by its people, they are the strength of an organisation. It is a constant effort on the part of the hotelier to showcase the hotel industry as an enticing career option for hotel management graduates. Hence, marketing and advertising the organisation as a favourable career path to potential candidates is necessary. An aspiring hotel management candidate would always like to be associated with an organisation, which would provide him/her better growth and knowledge in future.

“We respect our employees as individuals and believe that teamwork, commitment and integrity are values that will lead us to success. It is our endeavour to promote the well being of our human assets. We extend our employees diverse opportunities to learn, grow and develop professionally and personally. Empowered to make decisions, function with autonomy, experiment, innovate and ask questions, our people are actively encouraged and supported as they explore and achieve their potential. We reward and recognise effort and initiative. As an equal opportunity employer, we strive to create a stimulating, fun and open workplace that fosters teamwork, fairness, respect and diversity. In a nutshell, we put our people first,” informed Guin.

It is said that hotel is a second home. “We believe that by managing our business and interactions with these stakeholders in a responsible manner we must build trust,  relationships and achieve great hospitality! Employee surveys and testimonials also play an important role in helping management to better understand employee needs. We encourage dialogue and ask questions in our Employee Opinion Surveys about work-life balance. Monthly meetings allow employees to discuss pertinent issues and address concerns that may be causing unpleasantness in the work environment,” Kachru stated.

According to the recent Tourism Satellite Accounting (TSA) research, released by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) and its strategic partner Oxford Economics:

  • The demand for travel and tourism in India is expected to grow by 8.2 per cent between 2010 and 2019 and will place India at the third position in the world.
  • India’s travel and tourism sector is expected to be the second largest employer in the world, employing 40,037,000 by 2019.
  • Capital investment in India’s travel and tourism sector is expected to grow at 8.8 per cent between 2010 and 2019.
  • The report forecasts India to get capital investment worth USD 94.5 billion in the travel and tourism sector in 2019.
 Source: Hospitality Biz India

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