Age and experience bring wisdom, and perhaps the respect of the younger generations, but for the venerable old hands of the hotel industry, the flood of young graduates from the world’s schools of hotel management might be a development worth keeping an eye on.
Hotelintel.co has been talking to the students at some leading schools about their perceptions of the business and how their schools are preparing them for the challenges ahead. We also asked how they think they match up against the ‘old school’ hotel managers who learned their trade in the traditional manner – starting at the bottom.
Our student interviewees – ‘Millennial Hoteliers’ – came from Hong Kong Polytechnic University, Vatel Thailand, and the prestigious Les Roches International School of Hotel Management. As you’d expect, the schools cover all the academic bases, from finance to food and beverage, with numerous practical classes thrown in. Finally, the students can transfer their learning to the real world during internships in five-star properties around the globe. It’s no surprise that these youngsters were adamant that their courses would leave them prepared for anything.
If Arpan, an Indian student from Les Roches, is anything to go by, graduates are not short of confidence. Arpan believed that the knowledge he’d acquired served him well during his internship in the U.S., pointing out that he “always had things to share that were far above industry standards” and that his input enabled “certain things to be done in a much better manner”.
Arpan was quick to acknowledge that he didn’t have the same length of experience as some of his new colleagues, but observed that thanks to Les Roches, he “probably knew as much as they did”.
Not everyone was quite so bold as Arpan. Katarina, a Slovak at Les Roches, felt that while the education offered at the school was comprehensive, it could “never prepare us for the amount of pressure” which would be involved in being responsible for other people. This view was shared by Tanya, a Thai student at Vatel, who observed that “ways to handle stress is what college can’t really teach”. Meanwhile Yvonne, studying in Hong Kong, said that while knowledge was useful, personality would eventually be the key to success. “You have to be humble to serve”.
As for the question of how the young graduate hoteliers compared themselves with established managers in the industry, their answers highlighted one key point: education provides knowledge, but the principal asset of the ‘old school’ professionals is experience.
Darya, a Les Roches student from Russia, thought that traditionally, “people started working without any basic knowledge”, so in comparison, her training would place her in a stronger position from the start of her career. Vanessa, a Venezuelan at Les Roches, agreed that the biggest difference lay in “the amount of knowledge that they had at the same stage in their lives”, saying that “at our age, I doubt they had the knowledge and experience that we have now”.
These are valid points, but don’t quite tell the whole story. Yvonne explained that during her internship, older managers taught her “what to avoid, what to do and how to entertain a guest and to think before the guest actually asks”. She added that “the hotel industry needs a bunch of these valuable, experienced managers who are willing to teach the future leaders, willing to share, and open to new opinions brought by us”.
It may just be that there’s no substitute for experience, but knowledge and confidence can take you a long way – and the new generation of millennial hoteliers certainly aren’t short of either..