The tourism and hospitality sector is a critical sector for the economies of many countries globally. With the number of people the industry employs and the money visitors spend as they go touring, economies stand to gain more from investing in the sector.
Despite the industry’s contribution to global and national economic growth, it is not necessarily regarded or respected much. In our part of the world, careers in the sector are seen as almost nothing when compared to other sought-after professions which are regarded as more prestigious.
Because of this indifference towards the sector, not much career counselling and guidance is done to guide individuals with an interest in the industry and the various misconceptions about the industry also go a long way to dissuade them from taking this interest to another level. Support is directed to careers in STEM and careers in the tourism sector are neglected such that even very few universities offer courses in Tourism and Hospitality.
Even though we have the potential to do so much more, our attitude prevents us from actually doing it. It can be likened to discovering treasure and just sitting on it; you don’t get anything by not using it. This doesn’t make the industry attractive to others; even those who have a genuine interest in it shy away because of the nonchalant attitude exhibited in the country when it comes to the industry.
It happens that even when it comes to employing individuals in the industry, preference is given to foreign nationals than our indigenous people because we have neglected to grow the human capital in the industry. In countries that value the industry like Dubai, Cape Verde, Mauritius, South Africa, Namibia, Seychelles, etc. they understand the importance of tapping into it for economic growth; they cherish the industry and have put in extra effort to develop and promote it and they are massively reaping the benefits that come along with it This is an indicator that, should the necessary attention be paid to the industry, more results would be seen than what is being reaped currently.
Misconceptions plaguing the tourism & hospitality sector
Tourism & Hospitality is for women
Just as in the previous years, the role of an engineer was regarded as a profession for males, the tourism industry is also suffering from a similar ideology; it is an industry for women. Even in the institutions that offer courses in the sector, the class consists predominantly of females. However, this is not true.
The industry has a place for everybody. In fact, it has just as many males as it does females. An example can be made of Mr. Kojo Bentum-Williams who has made great strides in the tourism sector. He’s a tourism blogger, publicist, and senior communication expert at the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO). He’s also the founder and editor of Vogue Afrique Media Limited, a pan African Travel media company. Contrary to popular belief in our country, this is a clear example of a male in tourism and hospitality who is excelling.
Tourism & Hospitality workers are either uneducated or academically poor
Even though some roles in the industry such as waitressing do not require much formal education, they require some important skills to facilitate interaction with customers. Aside that, a lot of roles require that you be well educated and trained. Courses taken in the field of tourism and hospitality are just as brain involving and tasking as other courses; they are not pursuing tourism and hospitality because they are dumb.
It is exciting and informative to pursue a career in the industry. Low-level roles still require training to ensure success. Again, those hoping to start their businesses in the sector will need a significant amount of training and knowledge to ensure that their businesses survive in the sector. Aviation is one path individuals could explore in the tourism & hospitality industry. It is very important in the industry because it helps to connect so many people to their tourism destinations; it is a tourism booster.
Various job opportunities available in the industry include flight attendant, pilot, air traffic controller, aerospace engineer, aviation manager, etc. The image below shows more career opportunities available in this industrious sector:
Jobs in the sector are underpaid
Though entry-level positions may be paid the minimum wage, mid-level and executive roles offer very competitive salaries. Like any other industry, this one values practical experience coupled with a tertiary certificate; they go hand in hand. For this reason, schools should ensure that tourism students have a lot of practical experience whether in the form of a practical lab or an increase in the number of internships are supposed to do before they graduate from school. This would make them well prepared and better suited to thrive in the industry.
The industry provides an avenue for you to climb up the ladder in your career. As with other industries, the higher you go, the wider your exposure and experience gained and the more you earn.
Tourism & Hospitality is just about frontline service
Aside the people we meet offering frontline service, the industry makes use of marketers, consultants, accountants, salespeople, educators, menu advisors, etc. The sector does not only comprise tour guides, hotel front desk clerks, and waiters. Such is the case in hospitals; apart from doctors, the hospital is an organization that houses human resource experts, accountants, etc. This can be likened to the tourism industry where many others are working behind the scenes to gel the whole industry together.
The organogram shows the various departments in a typical 4-star hotel. These departments work together to ensure that the hotel is functioning as it is supposed to for optimum customer satisfaction. It shows the diverse group of people from different backgrounds coming together to make up the industry. e.g., Engineers, accountants, sales and marketing personnel, logistics personnel, etc.
Tourism & Hospitality only offer part-time work
Depending on the area of interest, there are full-time jobs all year round for individuals. During peak seasons, there is an influx of tourists and this may mean a busy time for the industry and the creation of some temporary jobs. This could serve as a way for students to gain experience in the industry even before they graduate from school. One may also opt to work part-time to complement their income. Even though some people work on shift, others work traditional schedules. In Ghana, December is usually the peak season for the industry and students in the industry may choose to work temporarily then.
Tourism & Hospitality has opportunities only in hotels
The industry is large and hotels are just a part. There are a lot of avenues in other areas such as restaurant management, consulting, spa and wellness, working in airlines, casinos, public relations, finance, real estate, etc. Statistics show that the number of international tourists entering the African continent every year increases significantly and this signifies an immense boost for the sector. The industry has a large umbrella under which everyone can fit. Studying tourism and hospitality does not limit you to a career in hotels. Individuals can decide to divert to consultancy, banking, and other industries as they wish.
Even though, the industry is a booming one, the lack of attention and the misconceptions surrounding it dissuade others actively from venturing into it. It is quite a shame that this very lucrative industry is not given the attention it deserves so more individuals could pursue careers in it. But then again, even the private-owned businesses in the sector are not receiving the required support from the government to enable them to survive the hurdles of the economy. This is another thing that puts off those who would want to invest their resources into the sector. It is however important that individuals who have an interest in pursuing careers in the field conduct proper research before they make decisions and not just rely on hearsays from others who may not know better. This would aid carefully planning and making decisions to tap into this field of gold for maximum benefits.
The writer, Rosalin Abigail Kyere-Nartey is the Country Rep for Swiss Education Group and Lead Consultant at iQ Mundo. She is a seasoned and successful leader with a track record of producing, presenting and managing the implementation of innovative hospitality and tourism business solutions and services in Africa and across the world in the past 15years.
You can contact the author via firstname.lastname@example.org