Why Hospitality should be considered as a skillset, not only as an industry
The HEC Paris Summer School Marketing & Recruitment Manager, Julia Pearn, met with the head of Business Development & Sales for EHL Graduate School, Catherine Rey, to discuss their joint summer program, Luxury Hospitality Management, and to answer this key question.
For most people, the word ‘Hospitality’, tends to conjure up images of hotels and restaurants. But since working more closely with EHL on our joint Luxury Hospitality Management summer program, I’ve realised there is a lot more to it than just that. Catherine REY from EHL has thrown some light on the broader meaning of the term ‘Hospitality’.
JP: What does the term Hospitality mean to someone working in a Hospitality Business School?
CR: The term Hospitality means providing exceptional service and creating memorable and unique experiences for our guests. It’s about the human interaction and authentic connection where you listen to your customers’ needs and preferences, understand and even anticipate them. A bit of kindness, a lot of attention and making people feel at home, whether it is in a personal or professional setting.
JP: So, this focus on the customer, which characterizes hospitality as a skill, can be transferred to other professional business fields and even to life in general.
CR: Yes, precisely. As the hospitality industry is quite a complex environment to evolve in, it demands a set of skills and abilities that are not only recognized, but also highly appreciated and transferrable to other industries that deal with customers and require human interactions.
In essence, I would say that the core principle of hospitality is putting the customer at the center of everything. And obviously, this approach can be applied to any sector, ensuring that the needs and satisfaction of your customers are prioritized, leading to improved customer service and positive interactions.
JP: On the EHL website we can read about how Hospitality is a skill, or more precisely, a set of soft skills, attitudes and approaches. Can you elaborate for us on what you mean by the qualities and approaches of the hospitality skill set?
CR: One of the key qualities associated with hospitality is excellent communication, which means listening attentively to your guests, effectively conveying the information, as well as understanding and adapting to different communication styles. Having a customer-centric mindset is another one, being responsive to your customer requests, striving to exceed their expectations, going the extra mile for them. But it is also about finding solutions, having a critical thinking mindset and problem-solving abilities, paying close attention to detail, and having a high sensitivity to cultural differences. You will also find skills like teamwork, collaboration, being a force for good within your team, having a high sense of value creation and an understanding of the role each of your colleagues plays in the satisfaction of your guests or customers. Finally, being flexible and highly adaptable to handle the unexpected on a daily basis, always with a positive ‘can do’ attitude.
JP: In terms of employability, it’s noticeable that many of the top soft skills listed on LinkedIn are related to thinking: Analytical thinking; Critical thinking; Complex problem-solving; Reasoning and so on. You just mentioned some of those. Why is a background in hospitality management so well-adapted to prepare students for a complex, uncertain workplace and to enable them to strengthen these skills?
CR: The hospitality industry is well known for its unpredictable nature. In hospitality you learn how to navigate and adapt to changing circumstances, such as fluctuating customer demands, unexpected challenges and evolving market trends. This ability to adapt equips students with the flexibility needed to thrive in a complex and uncertain work environment. Hospitality management students learn to think on their feet, identify issues, and find creative ways to ensure guest satisfaction. Hospitality students can tackle complex problems with confidence. Their focus on customer service excellence helps them to develop strong interpersonal skills, empathy and gives them the ability to build and maintain positive relationships with customers and colleagues.
JP: Yes, empathy. Another skill the World Economic Forum lists as being increasingly in demand is Emotional Intelligence, or EI. Can you briefly explain what this is and how it relates so closely to the hospitality industry?
CR: Emotional intelligence is about recognizing, understanding and managing one’s own emotions, as well as effectively recognizing and responding to the emotions of others. Being able to empathize and understand the emotions and needs of your guests is essential as this will allow you to provide personalized service, create a welcoming and comfortable environment for them and foster their loyalty. A high level of EI will help professionals to effectively manage and resolve conflicts by remaining calm, listening actively, and finding mutually beneficial solutions.
JP: At the beginning of that reply you mentioned recognizing and understanding one’s own emotions. Can you elaborate on that?
CR: Of course. Emotional intelligence also means self-awareness and self-management. In the hospitality industry you need to manage your own emotions and reactions, especially in high-pressure circumstances, always staying composed, adaptable, and focused.
Another aspect is that Emotional intelligence is vital for effective teamwork. A high level of emotional intelligence means you will be able to inspire and motivate your team to communicate effectively, as well as foster a positive work culture. And of course, we know ourselves that a positive work culture will lead to better employee engagement and therefore to improve customer experience and contribute to the success of our organizations.
JP: Yes, you’re right. And again, it’s these transversal skills that can be finely honed by a specific hospitality-focused training. So, if we consider more closely our joint summer program in Luxury Hospitality Management, it’s clearly not simply designed for young adults who are envisaging a career in the Hotel & Restauration industry?
CR: Not at all. While it is, of course, suitable for participants who are considering a career in the classic hospitality industry, as we said, it will benefit individuals interested in any fields that depend upon customer-centricity and a service mindset because it will equip them with valuable skills that are transferrable to so many other industries.
JP: Are there any other benefits that you can see?
CR: Definitely. The hospitality industry thrives on diversity and cultural understanding. By participating in this luxury hospitality program participants will gain exposure to different cultures and learn to appreciate and respect diversity. Participants are also involved in group projects where they will have to exercise their collaborative spirit. Lastly, our joint summer program will allow participants to connect with professionals from various industries, and these networking opportunities can open doors to a wide range of career paths and provide valuable connections for their future.
JP: Thank you for your insights, Catherine. Rendez-vous next summer for the next edition of the Luxury Hospitality Management summer program with HEC Paris and EHL Graduate School!
Link to the article that inspired this interview