The hospitality and tourism industry employs a diverse workforce yet at a senior level there are still issues of equality. Diversity in the hospitality and tourism industry is frequent in lower paid, less skilled jobs. However, senior positions at board level such as CEOs, CFOs and upper management career track are short in minority representation, clearly an issue for the industry’s future and development of skilled workers mirroring its market base.
When I travel for work or pleasure or attend a conference in the United States, I know I have a great advantage over other attendants and travelers: I speak Spanish.
Hardly I have travelled to any American state that I have not encountered a smiley Latina or Latino willing to go the extra mile to make me feel at home in a hotel or restaurant. The minute I ask, “¿Habla español?” the big smile is there and communication channels open up.
The conversation can go from guessing each other’s nationality to soccer to places I have visited in their country of origin. And they always want to know more about what I do and how I made it there. Inevitably, I feel welcomed, a bond that builds customer loyalty and the desire to be back to that particular place in the near future.
Any major hotel manager or restaurateur’s dream is an organically developed workforce of brand Ambassadors who are proud of their identity, their role in the workplace and interested in their guests’ well-being. Isn’t it?
Now imagine this same effect catapulted from an executive level, transferring their cultural knowledge and perspective from the top down to provide guests with appropriate services included in a strategic and concerted management policy? A win-win situation!
Importance of diversity in the hospitality and tourism industry
The United States Department of Commerce statistics estimated that a total of over 75 million tourists from different parts of the world visited the U.S. in 2014 with a total spending of $220 billion. The US dominates the global markets with a 15 percent share ahead of countries such as France and Spain.
Statistics also show that 8 million people are employed in the travel and tourism industry and the report further reported that 1.2 million of those jobs are linked directly and supported with international tourists. These statistics confirm just how diverse the workforce composition in the industry needs to be.
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Benefits of diversity in the hospitality and tourism industry
Workplace diversity in the hospitality and tourism industry is therefore a key factor in facilitating cultural exchange on a global level. Here are some benefits to expanding diversity into the management workforce:
- The industry presents a unique opportunity to learn new cultural experiences for both employees and tourists. Personnel needs to be trained in the respect and appreciation of differences to enhance the nature of their interactions with guests of varied cultures, religions, races, creeds, colors, ages, genders and sexual orientations.
- This cultural knowledge cannot be left in the hands of personnel who even with the best intentions, might not completely appreciate and accommodate people from around the world. Only individuals with a diverse background in higher management positions can design a corporate vision that not only facilitates understanding of different cultural and social behaviors but also enhances the delivery of satisfactory services through communication and observation.
- In such competitive environment, diversity at higher levels –which should be the most visible face of the corporation–also enables businesses in the hospitality and tourism industry to nurture and portray a positive image of inclusiveness –equal employment opportunities for all without regard to race, gender, age, nationality or any other diversity marker.
- Diversity in the hospitality and tourism industry is crucial. Recruitment from a talent pool also needs a clear vision into diversity. If employers in hospitality and tourism continue to carry a reputation for a lack of diversity at a senior level, talented employees from minority groups will be hesitant to enter the industry. People will certainly not gravitate towards organizations that have a track record of discrimination.
- Studies highlight that developing a diverse workforce at all levels can create a competitive advantage for a business, improving staff moral while increasing levels of worker retention. In the hospitality industry specifically, where customers are sourced from across the globe, a diverse workforce allows employees to bring a stronger cultural insight and understanding of the clients they are serving.
- With the staggering growth of social media, the hotel and tourism industry is one of the most exposed industries out there. Any detail or any complaint can go viral in a matter of minutes. Companies need to be prepared to deal with such type of reputation crisis which definitely hurts their branding efforts.
“Acquiring diverse talent into the hospitality corporate market place initiates a few progressive thoughts: innovation and creativity from a much different cultural perspective; secondly, minority management talent will provide more of a cultural sensitivity perspective when managing a diverse work force,” said Jeffrey W. Montague, Associate Vice Dean, School of Tourism & Hospitality Management at Temple University.
The National Association of Black Hotel Owners, Operators & Developers (NABHOOD), the Hispanic Hotel Owners Association (HHOA), International Association of Hispanic Meeting Professionals (IAHMP) and the Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) are some of several organizations attempting to address this issue by linking people of color with hospitality company sponsors, industry representatives, hospitality organizations, advisors, and mentors to support the leadership pipeline for minorities in the industry.
The benefits of diversity in the hospitality and tourism industry including increased levels of employee retention, recruiting from a wider talent pool and developing a competitive advantage are all essential for any business. Subsequently, promoting diversity at board levels in the hospitality and tourism industry continues to be the treasure yet to be discovered.
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