Hospitality: A passion not profession

  • Strictly business

Apr 30, 2018-

Having worked in the hospitality sector for 30 years, Abhinav Narsingh Rana is a veteran who has lived through the industry’s various ebbs and flows. Starting out as an assistant manager at Hotel Yak and Yeti in the early ‘90s, Rana has gone on to work for properties such as Hotel Radisson and Hotel Annapurna during his career. Currently, Rana runs his own hospitality management consultancy, Star Alliance Hospitality, where he works with independently-run Nepali hotels. His team is also working towards opening two new hotels in Kathmandu and Pokhara—Mukhum International and Mountain Glory Forest Resort respectively. In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Rana talks about the evolution of the hospitality sector over the decades and about how competent leaders determine how organisation are operated. Excerpts:

You have spent about three decades in the hospitality sector. What sort of trends and transitions have you witnessed in this field over the years?

For a while, the growth was really slow. In the late ‘90’s, only two international hotel chains—Radisson and Hyatt—entered the market. Then the growth dipped to an all-time low after that. This was mostly due to an investment gap and the socio-political situation of the country during those years. However, the future now looks promising. By 2020, we’ll have a few four/five star international hotel chains in the market. Also, there are a lot of young students opting for hospitality management courses, and this is really encouraging. Our industry is thriving. With some of the world’s top international hotel chains coming in, the independently-run hotels too are gearing up to offer top-of-the-line services that are on par with international standards.

Currently, there are a lot of hotel management schools, hotels are mushrooming and the pool of talent is getting bigger by the year. What would you say makes for an ideal employee for the hospitality sector?

There are a lot of schools that now offer hotel management courses. This is a good sign for us but we need to be cautiously optimistic. Although, hospitality management schools are providing students with all the necessity training to become an ideal hotelier, there is also a trend of brain drain in the country.  Most of these ideal students go abroad for better job opportunities. Yes, they need international exposure and should look out for themselves, but the country needs them as well because the industry here is expanding. Earlier, if there was a scarcity of jobs, now there is an over abundance. Fresh graduates don’t have to struggle abroad; they can stay and work at home. What needs to happen now is that Nepali hotels need to have visions, missions and standard rules just like international chains do. This way there is a set standard and an example for future generations.

In your career, you have established yourself as a successful leader in the hospitality sector. Can you tell us what essential qualities all competent leaders have?

First of all, one must understand that in the hospitality industry, there are several levels of employees in the management team. So, a leader must oversee the entire chain of processes. Also, a leader has to have a clear vision for themselves, their team and their organisation. You need to be able to put together a dedicated management team who understand and work along with your vision. It is all about team work. Leaders can only be successful if they have helping hands.  In hotel management, there is a myth that if you are a manager, you are automatically a leader, but that’s generally not the case. Managers are managers, they have to develop different skills to be a leader.

You have worked with various local and international hotel chains. Now, you are helping local hotels rise from the ground up. What sort of strategies do you have in mind to help these hotels establish their own successful brands?

Working as hospitality management company, one needs to clearly understand and know the answer to: What is brand for us? A brand represents commitment to service. All these independent hotel investors have to understand the level of services they want to offer to their guests. Once, there is a set vision, they can approach consultants or experienced professionals like us. Brands are built by being totally committed to guest satisfaction and services.

Customer service is paramount in the hospitality industry? What values are essential for hoteliers to instil in their employees?

It is simple: There needs to be proper and rigorous trainings. Customer service isn’t really an apt word for us in the hospitality sector; guest is the word that is preferred. There is a difference between a customer and a guest. People frequenting banks and restaurants are called customers but guests come in for a different, enriching experience. People choose different properties to have different experiences. When working in this industry, we need to grasp these things: Why are they here; what are their expectations; and, now how do we exceed the expectations? One needs to pay attention to the details. If you pay attention to details, you’ll be successful at providing great services to the guest. The core aspect of hospitality or creating a brand is putting emphasis on the guests. For us, the guest is everything—they are the ones who can make us successful. In every hotel, guests can find similar room size and amenities. How do we do things differently is where leadership comes in.

What advice do you have for fresh graduates wanting to join the hospitality sector?

This is not a profession, it is a passion. That’s hospitality. After acquiring knowledge, you need to convert it into passion and deliver on it.

Published: 30-04-2018 08:58

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