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Empowering the Youth in the Hospitality Industry with Key Insights for a Successful Career

Marna Swanepoel is passionate about the hospitality industry.

A lecturer in Tourism and Hospitality Management at the IIE School of Hospitality and Service Management campus in Newlands, the Hout Bay resident says the South African hospitality industry plays a significant role in the country’s economy, contributing to job creation and revenue generation.

“Given the recent 2023 Telegraph Travel Awards, which saw South Africa honoured with the prestigious award as the Best Country, while Cape Town won the Best City in the World, South Africa’s hospitality industry has great potential for growth, thanks to its diverse landscapes, cultural heritage, wildlife, and adventure tourism offerings.

“By leveraging these assets and focusing on innovation, sustainability, and service excellence, the industry can continue to attract visitors and contribute to the country’s economic development,” she says.

We asked Swanepoel about her role at school and her advice for anyone wanting a career in the hospitality industry.

What content is covered in your course and what advice do you give students?

The content is diverse and allows one to build a good foundation to kick off one’s career in the industry. My advice to students is to always be prepared to work long hours and be passionate about what they do.

What advice do you have for anyone wanting a career in the hospitality industry?

Acquire a solid educational foundation in hospitality management or a related field. This could involve obtaining a degree or diploma in hospitality, completing internships or apprenticeships, and seeking opportunities to gain hands-on experience in various aspects of the industry. Also, develop a diverse skill set as this will enhance career prospects and allow for different roles and responsibilities. Finally, cultivate a positive attitude, strong work ethic and be adaptable; a resilient and adaptable mindset allows you to thrive in a variety of situations and positive attitude, coupled with a strong work ethic, is highly valued.

Who was your biggest hospitality influence growing up?

My grandparents. They owned a hotel in Sannieshof, North West many years ago and while I was at university we used to go to their home in Klerksdorp for Sunday lunch and, along with their stories of owning the hotel, it always gave me some insight into what it must have been like back then.

In that regard, what are the key qualifications that hotels are looking for in the staff they hire today that were not required five years ago?

The specific qualifications and skills sought by hotels may vary based on factors such as the hotel’s size, location, target market, and brand positioning, but I think some of the most important ones that hotels are looking for are emotional intelligence, digital marketing skills and multilingual abilities.

What kind of qualifications will hotels be looking for in management positions in the next five years?

It is difficult to pinpoint exactly as the industry is everchanging, but crisis management and risk mitigation, along with online reputation management and sustainability will probably be high on the list.

How important is service management in the hospitality industry and what makes for good service?

Service managementplays a pivotal role in shaping guest experience and ensuring customer satisfaction and for me, good service is having confidence and a personal touch while interacting with guests as well as the ability to ‘read the room’.

What are the key attributes for a good hospitalian?

Excellent communication skills, emotional intelligence, attention to detail, adaptability and resilience and – most importantly – a passion for serving people.

In light of the recent World Youth Skills Day, how important is it to combine academics with practical experience to make students fully prepared for the labour market?

Combining academics with practical experience is hugely important in preparing students for the labour market. While academic knowledge provides a foundation of theoretical concepts and principles, practical experience offers real-world application and skills development. It equips them with relevant skills, industry knowledge, networking opportunities, and a clearer understanding of their career goals. By bridging the gap between theory and practice, students can transition more smoothly into their desired professions and thrive in the ever-changing job market

What role does the hospitality industry play when it comes to providing skills and employment to the youth?

The hospitality industry offers significant benefits to the youth by providing skill development, employment opportunities, career progression, practical experience, soft skills development (effective communication, teamwork, adaptability and problem-solving), entrepreneurship avenues, and exposure to a global and diverse work environment. It serves as a valuable sector for young individuals to gain valuable skills, launch their careers, and contribute to economic growth and cultural exchange.

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