Where next for the hospitality industry?

Relationship-building, trust and why students should be flexible over where they set their career sights within the hospitality industry. The short-, medium- and long-term outlook for one of the hardest-hit sectors during the Covid-19 pandemic

The hospitality industry is among the sectors that have been hit hardest by Covid-19 with more than $2.1 trillion USD of GDP loss at risk, according to the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO). Yet, the sector has shown strong resilience in the past to cope with the effects of 9/11, the financial crisis of 2008 and the SARS virus, and is known for its V-shaped recovery curves.

As one of the world’s largest economic sectors, providing 330 million jobs, the hospitality industry will also be a key driving force of economic recovery. The travel and tourism sector, in particular, has been leading the way in providing employment and other opportunities for women, youth and rural communities. Even so, the global education industry and those who specialise in hospitality education must transform with utmost agility in order to adapt to the situation.

Short term: digital and trust

The outbreak’s repercussions are still very difficult to evaluate globally. UNWTO has estimated that 75 million jobs are at risk along with 80% of small and medium-sized enterprises. Many corporations are taking drastic measures to ensure continuity of their businesses once demand returns. For instance, hotel chains such as Hilton Hotels & Resorts closed a large number of establishments temporarily.

Covid-19 is also acting as a catalyser of digitisation as businesses will need to create or improve their online services. In order to be competitive and recover from the crisis, businesses will also need to think creatively about their operations. They will need to enhance their logistics and delivery systems to accommodate surges in demand based on changes to consumer preferences or new behaviours in readiness for any future pandemic.

Covid-19 might have changed the way we work, interact, shop and spend time but it will not change who we are and what we want from life. Having had time to reflect, people will value authenticity and meaningful values more than ever before. And finally, after months of isolation and anxiety, customers the world over will want to experience life again. Companies which will figure out how to offer rethought and authentic experiences will be leading the way.

Building or re-building trust with customers will be at the core of the experience. Health and safety protocols are now basic to any product, service or brand promise. A recent study from media agency network, Mindshare, shows that trust will be at the core of the relationship between a business and the customer more than ever.

Brands and companies that are ethical today and place people before profits, investing in medical research or supporting local communities, for example, are building their relationship with the consumer of tomorrow.

Medium term: preparing students for change

Today more than ever, education is key to being able to cope with the changes and challenges of our times. To enable students to make the most out of this remote learning period, Glion Institute of Higher Education (Glion) has implemented small group sessions of expert coaching in revenue management, hotel valuation and spa management in collaboration with fellow member of the Sommet Education Group, Les Roches Global Hospitality Education. These complimentary courses are designed to meet industry needs and allow students to obtain professional certificates in addition to their academic degree.

Glion has also created the series, ‘Leading Hospitality Through Turbulent Times’, which gives students the opportunity to attend interactive sessions hosted by both faculty members and leaders from hospitality, finance, luxury and other key sectors. From these panel discussions, individual guest speakers, webinars and Q&A sessions, students can gain knowledge that will better prepare themselves for their future careers.

Educational institutions are already at the forefront of the required transformation. Relying on emotional intelligence to manage complex environments, reinventing models, mastering the codes to better create new ones, and being committed to a sustainable future, are all part of what we are seeking to transmit to our students.

Long term: career prospects in hospitality after Covid-19

According to some analysts, domestic tourism will recover faster than international tourism and mid-scale demand is expected to recover faster than upscale and luxury demand. According to Chris Gray, Founder of consumer psychology consultancy, Buycology, and among the first to study the shopper psychology field, consumers will feel the need to build their identity and show the world how well they are doing to compensate for the level of anxiety and insecurity felt during this time. However, spending in luxury is usually reasoned by emotions and feelings rather than rationality, making this area harder to predict.

For students to succeed in job hunting after the crisis, a key element is flexibility. They should have a high degree of flexibility around what segment of the industry they would like to work in and around geographic location. With new markets in development and becoming more popular with tourists, such as Saudi Arabia, the number of opportunities worldwide is increasing, and it is important for students to take these opportunities to develop themselves and build their career. Another key element is personal network. For Fabrice Tessier, Vice President of School Relations and Partnerships at Accor, your network is where you should be investing your time ahead of the rebound.

Students who intend to pursue careers in the hospitality industry should not be worried about the situation post-crisis. One of the primary reasons this industry is so popular is the wide range of career opportunities it offers across so many different types of businesses and organisations around the world. This means students have a limitless number of options for building a career in a variety of sectors such as hotels and resorts, FMCG, events management, restaurants and foodservice, cruise ships and airlines, theme parks and casinos, retail and fashion, consultancy, tourism and many more.

Georgette Davey is Managing Director of Glion Institute of Higher Education, having previously launched Glion’s campus in London and served as Dean of its campus in Switzerland. She has 25 years of experience in academic leadership and hospitality management.