The Malta Independent 27 January 2022, Thursday

Re-employing professionals for hospitality and tourism – why is it such a big deal?

Monday, 29 November 2021, 06:19 Last update: about 3 months ago

Julian Zarb

In my last article, I wrote about the problems of not investing enough in hospitality and tourism. I recommended what we should have included in our national budget had there been an iota of national interest instead of the usual political egocentricity we have come to expect over these last few years on these islands!

Today I will deal with another issue that I understand is a global one rather than a regional one – the employing professionals (as opposed to the hands-on unskilled, uninspiring and unsophisticated staff that populate the industry today – migrants from all across Europe rather than locals with an interest in civic pride and behaviour) into the hospitality and tourism activity.

There was once a time when human resources managers in hotels and other tourism-related businesses looked for qualified, interested and committed personnel because these were certainly a cheaper substitute to someone who needs on-the-job training and constant supervision. Now let me make myself absolutely clear on this issue. I have worked in the UK for a number of years in my career; I have managed an international team from all quarters of the globe, I made no exceptions to race, colour or nationality but I did insist on three critical qualities – qualifications, experience and commitment. And it always came out as a plus for the business bottom line.

In these islands today, I see a team in tourism-related businesses that is disheveled, uninterested and downright arrogant in many (though not all) instances. There are those who make no effort to learn an international language such as English, they hardly understand the menu or the bar list (forget the question of upselling, mind you!), the idea of service with a smile needs to be set aside for now and replaced by a wry smile which looks and feels so superficial. We have lost the idea of working in the hospitality and tourism activity as a career, but more as a job.

What we need here is a concerted effort by the practitioner, the authorities and the academics (there are a number of institutions locally offering tourism and hospitality courses of a certain level from 6 upwards, not just the University of Malta and the Institute for Tourism Studies) to create a drive together with professional associations such as the Institute of Hospitality Mediterranean Group and the Malta Tourism Society to recharge the interest in school-leavers to enter this career in the Tourism activity. There should not be a crusade by government and the practitioner to seek employees literally “off the street” and then pay them peanuts (tourism is among the “precarious” employment sector at the moment). We need to restyle our work conditions including remuneration, incentives and initiatives.

In conclusion, what we need is to rebuild confidence in the hospitality and tourism field, instead of using this as a basic job, and make employees and prospective employees proud to want to work in this field. Remember, tourism and hospitality is not just about the glitz and glamour of a five-, six- or seven-star establishment but it is about the care, professionalism and knowledge of the employee.

Let us put the smile back into tourism and hospitality if we want a quality activity that attracts quality clients.

Recommendations for a better investment in tourism

  1. We need to reintroduce a code of practice and behaviour for employees in the hospitality and tourism activity that includes grooming, knowledge, qualifications and consistency in service delivery
  2. We should plan for an increase in career-related employment not just jobs
  3. Hospitality and Tourism are not just stepping stones or stop gaps for anyone (migrants or locals) who are still seeking other avenues for their careers
  4. If we want to add value, then we have to invest in our employees and this includes financial bonuses as well as awards and continuous professional development that includes employers paying for courses and other learning methods

It is only when we invest seriously in our employees that we will maintain their respect, loyalty and consistency in adding value to the client experience.

Dr Julian Zarb is a researcher, local tourism planning consultant and a visiting senior lecturer at the University of Malta. He has also been appointed as an expert for the High Streets Task Force in the UK. His main area of research is community-based tourism and local tourism planning using the integrated approach.

 

 

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