Covid-19 and the impact on careers of young talents in the hospitality industry

Updated: Mar 25

On March 3rd, 2021, Nova Hospitality Club successfully hosted its first event ever, having had the pleasure of welcoming three distinguished guests from different companies in the hospitality industry. After a brief introduction into the topic done by the club, the invitees were introduced and asked the first question regarding how they have experienced the Covid crisis so far.

Chitra Stern, owner, founder and CMO of Martinhal Family Resort & Hotels, described the past year as a rollercoaster ride. Roughly a year after the group had to close its hotels, Stern pointed at the seasonality of her business as something to rely on, as Martinhal is currently organized to take the most advantage of the summer, in which restrictions would hopefully, similarly to 2020, be eased. Additionally, Martinhal´s strong focus on family vacations is seen as an asset by her and her business partner, assuming that a trend of a family travelling will take more force as a result of the pandemic.

Veronica Soares Franco, an executive committee member at Pestana Hotels & Resorts and a NOVA SBE alumna, shared a similar story to the one told by Stern. Having projected 2020 as a year in which Pestana should make many hires, closing all the 100 properties worldwide was far from what was wished for. However, Soares Franco is optimistic about the future and is proud to have hired NOVA SBE graduates amidst the nightmare that is being experienced. Furthermore, Pestana´s action on social responsibility was outlined. The group opened its doors to medical staff and spent a generous amount on making guests feel as safe as possible.

Lastly, Filipe Santiago, Senior Partner and Managing Director at Blueshift Consulting and a former BCG consultant, shed some light on a very different path that things had taken for them. Operating in different business fields, Blueshift experienced their worst performance within hotel management and ownership. On the other hand, their consulting business, rather focused on advising investors and less on improving operations, was more successful than ever before. Furthermore, Santiago´s outlook for 2022 was very optimistic, pointing out at what could be the best year in tourism´s history worldwide, though a global economic crisis could harden the industry projections for the years ahead of 2022.

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought chaos and an urgent need for a shift and adaptation.

The following topic for discussion focused on the COVID-19 crisis as a driver for change and the challenges that come alongside the recovery (digital and health-related for instance). We tried to understand if the industry was and is prepared for these changes, and whether there is a need to improve the skills of the staff in the sector. A few aspects were highlighted: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought chaos and an urgent need for a shift and adaptation. However, the experts argued that this shift was already going on in the hospitality industry mainly due to the speed of digitization. Verónica Soares Franco explained how the hospitality industry was already experiencing changes and finding ways to adapt to the market demands.

It was discussed how analytical skills had gained importance in the sector and competencies like adaptation, resilience, agility and mobility are now essential, more than ever. Hotels must keep training their staff to make sure they are aligned with market expectations while at the same time developing new competencies. An interesting remark from Filipe Santiago was to look at hotels as products that need to be developed, marketed, and conceptualized, and this is when future managers like NOVA SBE students come into play: the industry needs new and different talent from different backgrounds, such as project managers or strategy developers, for instance. Chitra Stern reflected on her innovation philosophy and concluded mentioning the importance of looking for new elements without losing track of the human element: we need to stay human to serve in this market.

Proactivity, creativity, empathy, willingness to learn, adaptation, and teamwork are the most important skills when recruiting new talents.

In the last question for the panel, we tried to understand what are the three main skills that hospitality players are looking for when they hire young talents and new employees. Experience in the hospitality industry is not mandatory, as Filipe Santiago states. Companies in the industry are also looking for employees with other management related backgrounds, candidates with an entrepreneurial spirit and people who simply believe in the projects and tasks they are working on. Proactivity, creativity, empathy, willingness to learn, adaptation, and teamwork are the most important skills when recruiting new talents.

As we approached the end of our first NHC event with very experienced guests from the hospitality industry joining in the panel for discussion, we concluded that change is part of the DNA of the industry and therefore the outlook on the future is only a positive one.

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