On 7 March, the Les Roches Marbella International School of Hotel Management welcomed the national presentation of the “Status and Prospects of the World Economy, Spain and the Tourism Sector Report “, prepared by the Research Department of BBVA, a leading Spanish financial institution. The document is of great interest and the choice of our school for this presentation has been especially gratifying since it involves public recognition of the work we have been developing over the last two decades.
In addition to BBVA’s report, a day earlier Exceltur, Alliance for Tourism Excellence, also presented their signature monographic report in Marbella titled “Tourism Results in 2012 and expectations for 2013, Redefining Tourism: New Customers, New Models. ”
Both studies provide an excellent strategic base to reflect on the current situation of the Spanish tourism industry, its prospects for development in the short and medium term, and the role they must play in preparing future professionals who will lead the industry well into the future.
The new model of the Spanish tourism industry
According to the estimate made by BBVA, in 2012 the Spanish tourism sector remained stagnant, with a 2.6 percent decline in the number of tourists nationally and a fall of 1.6 per cent in tourism GDP. These same findings were corroborated by the Exceltur report as well. Despite these shortfalls, Spain still registered the entry of more than 83 million tourists. In addition, 23.2 percent of hotel stays in Europe took place in right here in Spain, well above other important tourist regions like Italy (17.3 %) and France (11.9%).
However, there is no doubt that there is still much room for improvement, especially in three key areas: reduction in the overall paperwork that are required to obtain a license when opening in hotels and restaurants, the development of new growth strategies, and a comprehensive rationalization in the sector as a whole.
As regards the first area, at present the average number of days that are required in Spain to obtain a license to open a business stands at over 60. This figure is well above countries like Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Ireland and Italy, all of them between 40 and 60 days, and is infinitely greater than in the UK or the Czech Republic, both below 7 days.
It is no coincidence that while in the Spanish case the economic cost required to obtain such a license is placed around 300-400 euros, in a place like France it is between 100-200 euros and in countries such as Denmark, Cyprus, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Germany and Czech Republic the cost is under 50 euros. Streamlining this process is vitally important to foment future investment in the industry.
The second factor to consider, and one that has been targeted by Exceltur, is that the new competitive global tourism scenario for Spain demands new growth strategies to provide more value to international tourists. Expressed in other words, it is not viable, nor sustainable for the industry to grow based solely on indiscriminate tourism at low prices.
And, a third element for reflection focuses on better coordination that will be needed to allow the rationalization of infrastructure management and greater control over the logistics of transport, given their impact on distribution profiles and the potential to attract more diverse and profitable tourist markets.
As a result of this, both BBVA and Exceltur as well, agree with the logic of different entities that possess their own nuances and represent some of the biggest challenges to the competitiveness of our industry. Among them I would emphasize the need for the Spanish tourism industry to diversify its activities and focus their efforts on those economies with the best growth prospects by presenting itself as a quality destination that makes for one of the best tourist offers in the world.
Identification, innovation, development, integration and management of the largest differential range of tourism products and experiences, are also important considerations to keep in mind, possibly more important than mere promotional efforts whose return is never assured.
Additionally, the sector needs be able to maximise yields from price adjustment efforts with an improvement in competitiveness over other markets. Importantly, as is the case with other sectors, the evolution of the tourism industry will depend on opening its arms to untapped markets in order to revive and strengthen the path of growth.
In short, the Spanish tourism industry must adjust and reinvent itself, reduce the oversupply of uneven quality, stimulate renewal and strategic alliances, and strive for a set of marketing strategies whose focus is on the end customer while incorporating new habits that include the systematic use of new information technologies and communications resources.
The role of schools specializing in management training in ‘hospitality’
As an educator specializing in the training of senior managers for the hospitality industry, I believe that today more than ever the industry must invest in the substantial improvement of the current levels of education and professional qualifications.
Obviously this consideration is linked to the “leitmotiv” of Les Roches Marbella: the pursuit of excellence in the training of future professionals in our industry.
Aristotle referred to the three main aims of education: first, create educated people, and second, educate with virtues by preparing them to observe a social and moral code, and finally, training for the challenges that qualified professionals will confront.
These guidelines are the axis, for practical purposes, in what could be considered a sketch of Hotel Management in the 21st century: a person with knowledge of languages that meet the global multilingual reality, with development of management skills, and with the capacity to exercise both leadership and these management skills. This will provide them with a notable advantage in everything that has to do with the processes of verbal and nonverbal communication.
In this sense the role of specialized universities like Les Roches Marbella in the training of such professionals is extremely important when it comes to providing adequate job skills. Keep in mind that not only is it about training future leaders, but always knowing those leaders are going to carry on business in an industry that has become a major generator of income and employment around the world and in Spain, with growth prospects that lie well above the average of the remaining productive sectors.
Of equal importance is the fact that the hospitality & tourism industry is characterized by its notorious complexity by integrating numerous and varied specialized services that are offered to highly demanding end users. This reality means developing staff that is more and better trained at all levels, which unfailingly marks a particular distinction in everything that has to do with the job search process.
For practical purposes this fact involves training with a broad set of skills, of which four major ones are highlighted here (but in no way implies the absence of other relevant skills): mobility, language skills, proven experience in industry leading establishments, and a concrete social commitment with the surrounding environment.
The first skill set is about mobility and is a direct result of a truly global market, where the activity goes beyond traditional boundaries. Tourism is an international phenomenon and many of the leading companies in the sector (hotel establishments, leisure and entertainment companies) are multinational and transnational. They tend towards developing strategies in which the nationality of the worker is an element of little relevance. However, it should be noted that under the notion of mobility not only do we mean the willingness to travel and see other places and cultures, but also the ability to adapt and integrate into many different environments. The development of mobility is thus essential to facilitate access and increase professional opportunities in our labor market.
Closely related to this first skill set we find language skills. This is such an important variable within the hospitality and tourism industry that I assure goes beyond being a mere generic skill set and which provides for improved efficiency, comprehensive and increased intelligence in a changing world where the possibilities for communication and the exchange of information are endless. Language skills are now established as a fundamental technical skill directly related to one’s professional profile when studying a degree in Hospitality Management.
As such, a solid command of English, considered the “lingua franca” of the hospitality sector, is essential and unavoidable for those who aspire to excel in this industry. But the increasing internationalization alluded to earlier starts to demand additional language skills, some more common (German, French, Italian and even Japanese) and others that are emerging in niche markets (perhaps the most significant cases are Chinese and Russian). Since there is also the fact that this aspect is one of the major weaknesses of the Spanish education system (the statistics of various international organizations highlight this), the relevance of this should be noted further for those looking to build a career in this industry.
Third, and of no less importance than those mentioned above, is to incorporate practical experience in proven and relevant establishments into the curriculum. Theoretical learning systems are no longer considered effective in the hospitality industry. It is therefore essential that the applicant for a job in hospitality have practical experience in international hotel establishments of reference. This experience serves, among other considerations, to provide sufficient training in areas that will make young professionals more efficient and effective from the outset of their careers. Largely, practical experience provides for the acquisition of a knowledge model based on the notion of “learning by doing”, which ultimately helps hospitality establishments to limit (with subsequent savings in time and money) the adaptation period of new employees.
The last of the vital skill sets discussed here is the social commitment to the environment of future professionals. This area, perhaps more intangible than those discussed above, is specific to aspects that promote corporate social responsibility, a commitment to sustainable development and environmental protection, as well as the assumption of a deontological behavior according to the new responsibilities assumed. It goes without saying that a socially engaged professional is better able to access a a rewarding career in our industry than one that is not.
In conclusion, we are aware that we form part of an important global industry that possesses great potential to generate successful career opportunities. The expectations of our industry demand professionals that are trained with values such as innovation, quality in their daily work, the flexibility to adapt to a constantly changing environment and global engagement. Those who meet these requirements will be in a very promising starting point to develop successful careers in this sector for years to come.
Maria Teresa Gozalo
CEO Les Roches Marbella