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Hospitality sector: The way ahead for hospitality students

With the sector impacted the most due to Covid-19, should hospitality students wait for relevant jobs, upskill themselves or look for jobs in other sectors?

The impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector has been severe.

Ritesh Sharma, who recently graduated from a hospitality management institute in Chandigarh, is in a fix. He didn’t get a ‘relevant’ job, and with the second wave hitting the country he isn’t hopeful of getting one any time soon. In case he decides to wait till next year, when, hopefully, the sector will bounce back, there will be a fresh pool of graduates in the market, making his job chances slimmer.

The impact of Covid-19 on the hospitality sector has been severe. The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Associations of India (FHRAI) last month said the Indian hotel industry took a hit of over Rs 1.3 lakh crore in revenue for FY21 due to Covid-19. “The Indian hotel industry’s revenue in FY20 was Rs 1.82 lakh crore. In FY21, about 75% of that (or Rs 1.3 lakh crore) got wiped off,” the FHRAI said.

However, as India vaccinates her population, things are expected to get better. Hospitality consulting major HVS Anarock anticipates that occupancy and average daily rate (ADR) will reach pre-Covid-19 levels by 2022 and 2023, respectively.

In the meantime, what should jobseekers like Sharma do? Should they wait for ‘relevant’ jobs, upskill themselves or look for jobs in other sectors?

Noémie Danthine, sustainability director of the EHL Group, which runs the Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Switzerland—regarded the best hospitality school in the world—told FE that hospitality students tend to perform well in the services sector. “Soft skills acquired in the hospitality management learning journey are transferable to other industries also. While many EHL graduates pursue careers in traditional hospitality, about half of them work in other industries (finance, real estate, luxury and consulting, among others), delivering service excellence to customers,” she said. “Excellence in the future will be defined by the quality of human interactions, which explains why other industries are actively recruiting hospitality graduates.”

Although hospitality sector will bounce back, the growth is likely a few quarters away, said Rahul Kapur, partner, Advisory, Grant Thornton Bharat. “Skills acquired across the hospitality value chain can be leveraged in many other areas. Soft skills like customer service, multitasking and people management can be used across industries and more so in new-age digital businesses. As more e-commerce, retail and other technology businesses emerge and large ones become bigger, customer service personnel will be in demand,” he said. “Content writing is another viable option for hospitality graduates to consider in the interim.”

Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder, TeamLease Services, said it’s not a good idea to wait for relevant jobs. “Any kind of job experience will work to people’s advantage. Most employers give additional weightage if they know you have kept yourself gainfully occupied even during the pandemic,” she said.

While in hospitality there are hyper-specialised roles (such as in the kitchen), there are also roles that can be found in other sectors, such as sales, customer service, front desk, etc. “Sales jobs, for example, will remain relevant across sectors,” Chakraborty said. “For those students who have trained in hyper-specialised roles, they could shift their attention towards cloud kitchen and similar opportunities.”

Dilip Puri, the founder & CEO of Gurgaon-based Indian School of Hospitality, said that for students who have just graduated or are about to graduate, this is an ideal time to look for continuing education opportunities that are focused on inculcating new skills. “They can consider higher education that incorporates a whole set of new skills required for jobs of the future,” Puri said. “Hospitality students must also broad-base the opportunities of employment available to them besides just the core hospitality sector. Several sectors that have strong customer centricity are now recovering, such as real estate, aviation and retail, and they look for hospitality graduates.”

Upskilling

Going forward, norms on sanitisation and operating procedures of restaurants, hotels, etc, are likely to change. Dependency on digital tools will increase and processes to track customer behaviour are likely to rise. “Hospitality skilling sector will do well to adopt digital tools, research and customer psychology-related modules in their courses. To make hospitality courses fungible with other customer-centric sectors, customer relationship management, research and related digital courses will need to be embedded,” Kapur said.

As far as current graduates are concerned, Chakraborty said they should add digital and entrepreneurial skills to their portfolio. “We are entering an era where instead of hyper-specialisation you need to have to 2-3 livelihood options. Digital skills add a safety net. As does entrepreneurship certification; if you’re an enterprising person, you will thrive,” she added.

Puri’s advice to hospitality students is to consider courses that specialise in service operations, design, quality and excellence, so they can be ready for jobs of the future.

While many edtech companies provide upskilling courses for hospitality students, the Food Industry Capacity & Skill Initiative (FICSI), a Sector Skill Council for food processing, last year launched the FICSI Online Training & Assessment Academy, with an aim to provide skilling in food processing.

Foodtech experts FE talked to said that hospitality graduates who have trained in hyper-specialised job roles can start small units such as baking bread with a capital of just Rs 2-3 lakh, catering to localised requirements. “In addition to baking, manufacturing of pickle, papad, jam, jelly, ketchup, etc, can be easily set up. Artisanal food and customisation of food is another promising area,” said an expert.

Advice to hospitality students

Students who have trained in hyper-specialised roles can shift their attention towards cloud kitchen: Rituparna Chakraborty, co-founder, TeamLease Services

Soft skills acquired in the hospitality management learning journey are transferable to other industries also: Noémie Danthine, sustainability director, EHL Group

Hospitality students must consider courses that specialise in service operations, design, quality and excellence: Dilip Puri, founder & CEO, Indian School of Hospitality

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