Graduates in high demand

Companies are increasingly appointing Hospitality Management graduates to senior positions outside of their ‘traditional’ roles, because of the tremendous breadth of transferable skills gained during their studies and practical training – particularly their ability to interface effectively with the public and handle diverse crises.

“A fairly fixed perception and expectation of the role and responsibility comes to mind when we refer to a doctor, a lawyer, an engineer or a teacher. But what do we know about the careers of professional hospitality management graduates? Are they all employed as hotel managers and chefs?  Absolutely not,” says Susina Jooste, Director of The Private Hotel School, a brand of ADvTECH, SA’s largest private higher education provider.

She says in recent years, examples abound of Hospitality Management graduates being appointed to major roles that wouldn’t normally have been associated with their qualifications, for instance client relationship managers at banks, key account managers at large corporate companies, real estate company principals, training and development, customer service, business development and PR managers, and facilities managers at private hospitals, to name a few.

“We are certainly witnessing a trend of more and more corporates recruiting hospitality graduates for management positions,” Jooste says.

“Due to an increase in expectations regarding what constitutes good customer service on the part of the general public, companies look for those leaders who have a track record of being able to fulfil the needs and demands of their customers, and a hospitality management background is emerging as a qualification that encapsulates the diverse range of skills required to do so.”

Jooste says that in recent years, the definition of hospitality evolved beyond the traditional one of ‘the cordial and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers’ into a whole new perception of what it means to live and work in the hospitality industry.

“And this is opening up an abundance of career opportunities for graduates,” she says.

Therefore it is crucial for hospitality and tourism training institutions to continuously review their curricula, to incorporate the shifting demands of the industry and to ensure that graduates are empowered to fulfil their responsibility in a wider hospitality management context, says Jooste.

“The demands of a dynamic industry necessitate the development of integrated competencies that draw on various disciplines, including management, entrepreneurship and innovation, finance, law and legislation, and leadership development,” she says.

“A prime example of this shifting customer demand in hospitality and tourism is the growing consumer desire to adapt to an all-encompassing ‘Wellness Lifestyle’. According to the Global Wellness Tourism Economy Report of 2019, Wellness Tourism has been growing at more than double the rate of ‘general’ tourism and is creating new opportunities for all tourism and hospitality-related businesses.

“Aspects of wellbeing should therefore also feature in the curriculum at educational institutions and should focus on health and wellness, nutrition, resorts, retreats and spas as additional services to enhance the guest experience. This focus will also impart valuable information for the personal wellbeing of the hospitality professional.”

Jooste says within this evolving landscape, academic institutions must ensure they provide a relevant, career-focused education in order to be able to produce graduates who have mastered appropriate knowledge and skills and are able to apply them in a dynamic workforce locally and globally. 

“Twenty years ago, few would have imagined that holding the title of Hospitality Manager could open key leadership opportunities outside of the traditional Hospitality field, today it is increasingly becoming par for the course,” she says.