While ‘hard’ skills like accounting, financial analysis and marketing are essential skill sets for hospitality & tourism managers, soft skills are of paramount importance for succeeding in what is first and foremost a ‘people business’.
These skills involve not only direct interaction with clients, but also the management of teams whose goal is to satisfy customers in what is most decidedly a labour-intensive industry.
So what are 10 essential soft skills that a prospective hospitality and tourism manager should master?
1. Customer service
It should never be forgotten that it’s the customer who provides the funds to pay salaries and other expenses which allow a hotel or restaurant to remain profitable and reinvest in its infrastructure. Thus, it is essential that employees and managers succeed in satisfying and even delighting customers. Outstanding customer service is all about understanding the customer’s needs and being able to cater to them.
One of the key skills needed in the hospitality industry is to be able to network effectively. Unlike many other sectors of business, networking in this field is not about job-hopping, but is rather a way to stimulate repeat business from customers. Building a loyal clientele who are interested in returning to the hotel/restaurant/tour will, in the long run, also enhance one’s career. Of course, it’s also important to be able to demonstrate to employers that customers are returning thanks to the relationship cultivated with them. Learning to use language that employers like to hear, such as ‘client relationship management’ and ‘guest relations’ during job interviews, can enhance one’s chances of being hired.
Exceptional communication skills are highly valued in most industries and the higher up one gets in the hierarchy, the more important they become. In the hospitality and tourism business, each day can involve contacts with people of a variety of backgrounds, ages, nationalities and temperaments. Thus, it is important to be able to communicate in a way that represents the business while at the same time speaking to customers in a way that they can understand and relate to.
Compared to other professions, hospitality and tourism jobs often demand that employees work odd hours like nights and weekends. It is also necessary to be able switch rapidly from one task to another as the situation may arise. Thus, flexibility is an essential attribute to succeed in the hospitality and tourism sector.
5. Organisational skills
Organisational skills are at a premium in the hospitality and tourism trade. Given the need to multi-task and respond to spur-of -the-moment requests, it is necessary to maintain an organisational structure so as to be able to accomplish daily tasks in an efficient manner. One piece of advice: plan each day ahead keeping a checklist of things that need to be done.
6. Language skills
Language skills are a particular plus in the hospitality field as they increase one’s value as an employee. Speaking clients’ language enables one to establish a more intimate relationship with them which promotes customer satisfaction and loyalty.
It may sound trite to mention this one, but it can be noted that many young people start out in the hospitality field with an enthusiastic outlook, but don’t realise how demanding the work is and consequently get bored quickly. If they fail to understand that their job is to keep clients happy no matter the cost, such individuals will never progress beyond entry-level jobs.
8. Can-do attitude
It is essential that hospitality professionals be prepared to accept challenges in the workplace no matter how difficult the task may appear. Resolving a difficult situation for an employer boosts one’s chances of getting a pay rise and /or a promotion. Exuding enthusiasm for one’s job, instead of being sour, will enhance one’s esteem both from customers and employers. For example, Kurt Ritter, the former CEO of Rezidor Hotels (and a graduate of the Ecole hôteliere de Lausanne), adopted the motivational tagline of “Yes, I can!” for his staff.
Being able to fulfil multiple roles in a hospitality or tourism enterprise is a way for employees to render themselves indispensable to their employers. It’s important to be able to juggle different tasks simultaneously, while completing each task assigned. Thus the ability to multitask may be one of the most important skills in this industry. One way for students to get a head start in developing their ability to multitask is to work on the side while pursuing their studies.
10. Cultural awareness
Hospitality and tourism enterprises are more likely than most to deal with customers of a variety of nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The ability to be culturally aware and get past one’s own cultural norms is crucial to building a successful career in this sector.
Typically customers will not always share the same values, belief systems and perceptions, so it’s important to break free from cultural barriers and help customers feel comfortable and at home with their surroundings. The goal is satisfy their needs and wants, so as to turn them into repeat customers.