Strathmore School of Tourism and Hospitality

Bilha Mucuha is professionalizing Kenya’s hospitality industry one student at a time. Only four years ago, Mucuha was a hospitality student herself at Strathmore University in Kenya. In 2012, she won the school’s prestigious Chancellor’s Award, beating out classmates from all other disciplines for the university’s highest honor.

After graduation, Mucuha went on to work at Tamarind, Mombasa’s No. 1 restaurant on TripAdvisor, ultimately rising from intern to restaurant manager. But Mucuha wanted to do more with her career. She sensed a skills gap in the hospitality industry — recent graduates and even veteran staff lacked the necessary training to perform their jobs well. She wanted to help bridge the gap and returned to Strathmore University’s Center for Tourism and Hospitality as an executive training manager, where she develops training courses for professionals in the industry.

AkilahNet caught up with Mucuha to learn more about what it takes to make it in this growing sector. Mucuha shares the top five skills required to excel in hospitality:

1. Passion and commitment

It’s a tough industry with long working hours. As a restaurant manager, I worked 12 to 14 hours a day. Sometimes we’d be catering a wedding and we’d work for 24 hours straight. We’d have to prepare the food and then sell drinks and maintain the food and beverage service while guests continued celebrating. The passion has to be there for you to keep going.

2. Orientation towards the customer

Customer complaints come from left, right, and center. If you don’t have a service orientation, you won’t be flexible in your problem solving. The hospitality industry is a service industry. You may be providing customers with a product — a room, a meal, or a beverage — but you must also ensure that the guest has a memorable time experiencing that product. That’s the unique thing about hospitality: You’re providing a product as well as the services necessary to enhance consumption of that product.

From the moment the guest walks in to the moment they leave, I’m doing everything I can to ensure they are having a fantastic time and that every single moment counts. You have to do that to excel in this industry.

3. Innovation

This is very, very important. It’s a dynamic industry. Hotels are changing, and guests are changing. Our generation wants to walk into a hotel where they feel comfortable. You see more no-frills hotels and you don’t find the seriousness that you did before. Many tourists want a more causal experience, so you have to adapt to the changing preferences of guests.

You also have to adapt to new guests. For instance, the Kenyan government is pushing to bring in more tourists from East Asia. So if you’re running a restaurant, you might start offering Chinese food or entertainment.

4. Attention to detail

You must pay attention to detail in all departments of a hotel. The worst thing that can happen is that you miss something and then a guest points it out to you. I see staff take shortcuts, such as when the housekeeping department is supposed to change the linens, but they don’t see any stains, so they don’t bother.

You learn attention to detail through exposure and experience. It’s important to expose new entrants in the industry to the proper way of doing things early on. People already in the industry should continue learning and sharpening their skills so they can be good role models to new employees.

5. Flexibility and adaptability

Hospitality is not limited to hotels. It’s important for students to see that there are so many opportunities in this industry. They have to think outside the box when it comes to their careers.  The other day I met a friend who manages members-only clubs, such as golf clubs. I know others who run casinos, night clubs, and other types of venues. All of these managers have gone through training in hospitality.

There are also career opportunities in entrepreneurship, event planning, banqueting, fast food, or conferences. Even within hotels, you could be thrown into any part of the hotel — housekeeping, front office, food and beverage, or the restaurant. There is a lot of growth in this industry and not just in Kenya — you can work around the world.

See original article here.