Employer Soundbite Edition: What Hospitality Grads need to know

Dr Luciano Lopez is the Dean for EHL Campus (Singapore). In this edition of Employer Soundbite Edition, Dr Lopez discusses the current hospitality industry trends and the opportunities in this sector that young graduates can expect.
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The gradsingapore Team
Elliyani Mohamad Ali
Chief Editor, gradsingapore
Employer Soundbite, hospitality grads

gradsingapore's Employer Soundbite Edition aims to share quick thoughts from employers on current industry trends, hiring insights and useful tips for fresh graduates looking to kickstart their career on a high note. 

About the Interviewee

Dr Luciano Lopez joined the prestigious EHL Group in February 2018 as a visiting lecturer Economics. In the same year, he obtained the position of Assistant Professor in the EHL faculty. In March 2021, he was appointed Dean of EHL Campus (Singapore).

EHL Group is the global reference in education, innovation and consulting for the hospitality and service sector. With expertise dating back to 1893, EHL Group now offers a wide range of leading educational programs from apprenticeships to master's degrees, as well as professional and executive education, on three campuses in Switzerland and Singapore. EHL Group also offers consulting and certification services to companies and learning centers around the world.

Can you share some interesting opportunities the hospitality industry offers that other industries may not?

Hospitality is a diverse and muti-faceted industry that provides young graduates with exposure to a wide range of environments. No two days are the same. As a people-centric industry, hospitality professionals will encounter people from all walks of life – it’s not just the clients we meet but also with our colleagues as well, who bring their own language, cultural background and ideas into the workplace.

The opportunities in the industry are endless. From hotels to restaurants and bars, as well as events and tourism, students can dip their toes into all parts of the service industry and experience working in various sectors and roles such as front-end service staff to back-end business management. This also means that young graduates have the room to grow and develop themselves professionally to take on different responsibilities should they be willing to learn.

What are some hospitality trends we can expect to hit Singapore in the near future?

After various lockdowns throughout the pandemic, Singaporeans are more than ready for fun and recreational activities. Many are eager to travel and explore the world again. According to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), people are becoming more confident to travel, with 57 per cent of respondents expecting to travel within two months of the pandemic’s containment and 72 per cent will do so as soon as they can meet family and friends.

EHL’s 2022 hospitality trend report noted that solo travel is on the rise, as individuals seek freedom and adventure on their own terms, as well as bleisure, a hybrid model of working where employees can literally work from anywhere, even on a beach. The hospitality industry will need to cater to these changes by tailoring their offerings, breaking down barriers between hotel staff and guests, and considering interior design choices that evoke a sense of homeliness and an informal atmosphere.

The wellness sector will continue its upward trajectory as more people are paying attention to their health and well-being during the pandemic and may therefore allocate more budget for such expenses. This presents tremendous opportunities for companies in the booming trillion dollar market, and the hospitality industry will do well to adapt to this increasing demand with innovative and interesting experiences that heal the mind, body and soul.

We will also see more technology being used in the industry. Over the past two years, many establishments had to replace various traditional customer-facing services with contactless technology in order to reduce the transmission of the Covid-19 virus, and this is expected to continue into the future. For example, mobile check-ins or outs are now part and parcel of the guest experience, and this may even be enhanced with more advanced fingerprint or facial recognition. Technology has also enabled establishments to personalise the customer experience by leveraging data to tailor relevant and appealing offerings to guests. However, the human-touch is still highly valued in the service industry, and companies will have to find the right balance between technology and service offered by humans.

What are the valuable skills young hospitality students need to be equipped with by the time they graduate?

As I have already mentioned, hospitality is all about the people. It's about providing guests with excellent and memorable experiences. At EHL, we believe that in addition to hard or technical skills, soft skills play an equally important, if not greater role, in the success of young graduates’ careers.

Unlike hard skills, such as project management, marketing, accounting, finance, which require the mastery of industry- or role-specific techniques, soft skills, also called transferrable skills, are traits that blend social and emotional abilities, e.g., cultural awareness, networking, social skills, etc. These are useful in all sectors, especially in the hospitality industry where customer satisfaction is essential.

Additionally, soft skills are also critical to be a functional team member at work, whether you might be a leader or participant. Every team member has a role to play and traits such as empathy, communication and adaptability help teams achieve their objectives.

EHL’s multi-faceted education programs focus on experiential learning to develop soft skills such as cultural sensitivity, leadership skills and an appreciation for lifelong learning. This helps prepare students to enter an ever-changing market and support them in their long-term career success whether they choose to stay in hospitality or move to other sectors. Ultimately, it equips them with the skills needed to fulfill their dreams, whatever they may be.

What are some challenges that you feel young graduates here need to take note of when they start working in a hospitality industry?

The road to success is not easy. The hospitality industry is a fast-paced sector that is continually evolving. The standards in hospitality are constantly being raised and expectations of what a good service is are changing all the time. Young graduates need to be attuned to what’s next in the market and adapt to it or be left behind. Thus, it’s important for young graduates to remember that training does not end when they leave the university; it's a lifelong process of unlearning and learning at different points in their careers.

The hospitality industry offers a range of opportunities should they wish to progress in their professional developments and upskill in order to take on more responsibilities.

As well as a Bachelor in International Hospitality Management, EHL Campus (Singapore) offers mid-career professionals looking to upskill with executive education short courses that are tailored for professionals within the hospitality industry or individuals with a passion in these fields, including Luxury Brand Management, Designing Hotel and Restaurant Concepts, People Analytics and Wine investments.

What are some tips you would give to graduates to quickly excel in their first job in hospitality?

Be curious, never be afraid to ask questions. The hospitality is such a vast industry, and understandably as a fresh graduate, there'll be a lot you don't know about. Curiosity is the first step towards learning, so show your superiors your eagerness to learn and progress by asking questions and train alongside your senior colleagues.

Share your ideas and take initiatives by proposing changes. Younger people are more attuned to new trends and desires that will attract travellers of tomorrow. Businesses that succeed are the ones which have proposed something unique before everyone else.

Do you have other advice for graduates to succeed in their hospitality career?

As a young and fresh graduate, your energy to embark on new ideas or to try something new is high. Don’t be afraid to take some risks and propose something new. It’s not the end of the world if you fail; you can always try again.