Tourism, hospitality and empathy

Tourism, hospitality and the importance of empathy

Insights from Peter Ducker from the Institute of Hospitality and Jonathan Stapleton from The Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa

'Almost one in five of all jobs in the UK are now related to the hospitality and tourism sector’. Yet hospitality is changing. The industry’s moving away from chains, and back to boutiques and start-ups. New technologies, including AI, could soon play a bigger role in the guest experience. So what does this mean for students and graduates of tourism and hospitality courses?

Dr Li Li, Pathway Leader for our Tourism Management course, and Bath Business School student Miray Ozdogan, interviewed Peter Ducker and Jonathan Stapleton to find out more about the challenges – and the opportunities – being created for newcomers to the industry. Here are some of their conclusions.

About the interviewees

Peter Ducker is the Chief Executive of the Institute of Hospitality. The IoH promotes professionalism in hospitality through lifelong learning, providing support, guidance and trend forecasting for people from the beginning of their studies and throughout their career. Bath Spa Business and Management students can gain additional accreditation through the IoH during their studies.

Jonathan Stapleton is General Manager of Bath’s Royal Crescent Hotel and Spa. Established in 1971, this five star rated hotel is entirely independent; it’s part of an iconic, centuries-old building and operates at the top end of its five star rating.

Hospitality and tourism – a good career option?

‘Hospitality and tourism is the UK’s fourth largest industry, employing 4.6 million.’ – The Caterer.

Hospitality and tourism jobs are often seen as a career stop-gap. Plenty of people work in these industries temporarily, perhaps while waiting for their ‘real’ career to take off.

Despite this, there are significant opportunities, both skilled and unskilled, for people joining the sector. One in ten jobs in the world are supported by travel and tourism, and not all are in the bars, bedrooms and kitchens. The industry is also powered by the people at the core of any business: accountants, human resource managers, entrepreneurs and marketing professionals.

The growth of technologies such as AI means that new opportunities are on the horizon, which is where ‘digital natives’ – particularly those with a degree – come in.

“[Our industry] employs accountants, it employs marketing people, it employs finance people, it employs HR people. Whatever management discipline you’ve pursued, or you’re interested in your career being in, you can apply in hospitality,” says Peter. “Ours is an industry which is growing so fast… this is where the opportunities lie.”

What qualities do you need to work in the industry?

A degree can help fast-track you to senior positions, but there’s an attitude that you'll need that simply can’t be trained. According to Jonathan, employers are facing a shortage of skilled workers, creative thinkers, and perhaps most of all, new hires with the empathy and dedication to succeed in the sector.

Teamwork, personal accountability and attention to detail are key. He looks for candidates that have the attitude – if not the skills – for a career in hospitality.

His staff deal with service as a team, are driven by attention to detail, and always ensure that the customer journey is seamless throughout.

“I think the challenges are all around keeping and developing a workforce that is skilled, devoted and passionate about delivering a service.”

Peter Ducker.

Are qualifications necessary?

While it’s possible to enter the sector without a degree (according to Jonathan, 80% of hospitality and tourism jobs are skills-based rather than qualified) formal education is also beneficial.

Employers need both qualified and skilled workers – those with the essential qualities of empathy, accountability and dedication – to meet future challenges and respond to opportunities.

Jonathan’s team works as a unit to exceed the hotel’s goals and guests’ expectations. He says:

"It’s always a mix. We need graduates because we have to keep progressing in terms of technology, and progressing in terms of systems and procedures… those individuals who are going through the graduate system will probably be well-prepared in that area.”

Ultimately, some skills can’t be trained, but a blend of soft skills such as creative thinking and teamwork could give you the edge.

Is the future bright for tourism and hospitality?

Staff shortages mean that new technologies such as AI and robotics could come into their own. This is where new roles are likely to emerge in this tech-dependent industry. Using tools intelligently to outsource tasks that don’t directly impact on the guest experience could be the way of the future. Right now, the emphasis is on using tech wisely, and anticipating more growth. But both Peter and Jonathan agree that technology won’t replace service.

Jonathan says: “People can never be removed from the equation…”

New generations will bring new skills and attitudes to tourism and hospitality. Creative thinkers – with practical business skills and a commitment to the guest experience – could shape the roles of the future.

Interested in a career in hospitality and tourism? Find out more about our Business and Management courses, including Business and Management (Tourism Management), or learn more about Bath Business School.

Disclaimer: The Bath Spa blog is a platform for individual voices and views from the University's community. Any views or opinions represented in individual posts are personal, belonging solely to the author of that post, and do not represent the views of other Bath Spa staff, or Bath Spa University as an institution.



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