The Malta Independent 21 April 2024, Sunday
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Forgetting the Professionalism and Motivation in Tourism and Service

Julian Zarb Saturday, 2 March 2024, 08:31 Last update: about 3 months ago

This week I was appalled again to hear that two wonderful areas are to be the victim of more tree vandalization by the government and authorities! The road to Marsalforn in Gozo and the busy valley road in Msida with its Cathedral -like environment that have been created as nature produced wonderful trees in this otherwise over commercialized and traffic-ridden area. I thought for a bit and then it occurred to me that this irrational thinking is being brought about through any lack of knowledge about services, hospitality and professionalism today. 

People have become mechanical robots, they act first and (possibly!) think after the ill-deed has been done.  My article this week will focus on the need to re- establish professionalism and motivation in tourism and service before we attempt to build on the tourism activity and utter suggestions of “quality” and “six star service”. 

I will now discuss with you the need to act professionally, to have a sense of civic responsibility and to act in the national interest when it comes to taking decisions that will most certainly reduce the attractiveness of these islands and lower the quality of life for the local community (if there is any left after the last decade!) ; this lack of professionalism and civic responsibility was certainly evident in my last article when one considers the erratic way in which roads are being dug up, again and again, left in this state for weeks and months on end (the road in Iklin – PP Saydon I still unfinished four months after it was started…a half kilometer stretch of urban road!). 

As Chair of the Malta Tourism Society and the Institute of Hospitality Mediterranean region, my role and that of our committees and members is to encourage professionals to select a career in the tourism sector.  Professionals are persons who are committed to delivering a service and hospitality that reflects the value experience for the visitor and client rather than simply satisfying some mechanical job that uses that person as some kind of robot – uttering words that do not show the care and respect for others. I have noticed how there is no longer any consistency, standards and encouragement in the many and varied types of courses offered in tourism and hospitality.  This discipline has become a necessity to prepare the student for a job rather than a career; there are too many courses that are based on theoretical topics and very little that allow the student to be innovative, creative and think about new methods for managing tourism.  In the three main institutions on these islands the emphasis is on the number of students graduating rather than the quality.  What this country needs is thinkers not just brawn and muscle!

These are my six proposals in which these islands may start to reconsider the professionalism and career-building exercise for these thinkers:

1.       We need to ensure that all those institutes – private and public – who offer courses in hospitality and tourism come together as a working group or advisory committee to discuss the issues relevant to the industry’s needs and apply these to courses that design studies, discussion and research that will lead to the development of policies that will enhance tourism.

2.      Employers must ensure that they select their staff and teams carefully , not simply to fill jobs but to encourage motivated and incentivized professionals at all levels to participate in the mission and objectives of their various enterprises.

3.      You should remember that tourism is not a rather flimsy “stepping-stone” to other disciplines and careers.  If anyone does not feel cut out for this career then every institute must have a team of counsellors to advize these students.

4.      Tourism entrepreneurs must remember that without a professional team their business is doomed to failure, if not today, definitely tomorrow.

5.      Let us all encourage and design careful CPD (Continuous Professional Development) courses in these working groups that can add value to the  attractiveness and career in tourism.

6.      Finally, the working group must work with the industry to ensure that remuneration reflects the effort, commitment and professionalism of the employee.  Some of the pay deals by employers are, frankly, so appalling they are an insult!

 

By following these six stages, we can ensure that these islands are managed professionally, sustainably and with the idea of developing a quality activity that attracts the visitor who wants to be here not the one who wants to be here.  Travel and Tourism to these islands today is about quantitative gains for the greedy and uncouth.  We need to put professionalism and hospitality back in the equation.

Dr Julian Zarb is a researcher, local tourism planning consultant and an Academic 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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