The African continent offers a great variety of hospitality experiences for touristic visitors. That experience can be excellent in properties managed by international hospitality companies with behavioral brand standards in place and structured training programs to support it, or downright disappointing in establishments where the owners or management are highly motivated but don’t have the knowledge & skills to implement the right skills and, even more important, the right attitude amongst the staff. The absence of state-of-the-art hospitality schools and training centers in most African countries reinforces this problem.
Without a doubt Africa has a lot to offer to the visitor in terms of unique touristic experiences in the fields of culture, nature in general and more specifically wildlife. However, the evermore demanding guest doesn’t accept a great product combined with service below international standards. That is the challenge many operators are facing.
In my opinion the only solution for this challenge is a structural tripartite cooperation between the most important players, i.e.
- The tourism/hospitality industry
- The government
- The education sector
The roles of the 3 parties
The tourism/hospitality industry should clearly define which knowledge, skills and attitude are needed in the sector, not only now but also in the coming 10 years, in order to make the industry future proof. Every major curriculum change at e.g. Hotelschool The Hague (the Alma Mater of the author) is preceded by both intensive and extensive industry consultations. After all, the industry is the only party that knows or should know what customers/guests expect in terms of product and ambiance and above all of service from well trained staff.
Unfortunately, in many African (and other) countries the government sees that as her role. Moreover, my experience is that many governments also believe that they should be intensely involved in the detailing of the curriculum. In countries like my home country (The Netherlands) the government doesn’t interfere in the content development, but evaluates the quality of the hospitality schools through an accreditation process whereby industry professionals play a key role, as they can best judge the quality of the “output”: the graduates.
Then the third partner in this alliance: the education sector. This party should be able to translate the requirements of the industry in a state-of-the-art curriculum on entry level but also on a level for middle and higher management. Hospitality schools (even on higher education level) are no academic institutions for scientific research, but centers of knowledge with experienced, passionate and motivated teachers who take pride in educating the next generation of hospitality professionals and managers.
In the past decades I have been involved in many hospitality education projects worldwide. The most successful examples I have seen were those where relations between the industry and the education sector were excellent and government only played a facilitating role. In Africa there is still room for improvement in this regard.
Critical success factors
Looking back at the various projects I have carried out, successful curricula designed with the needs and wants of the guest in mind have always the following focal points.
- Future oriented (we educate for the future not just for today’s demands)
- Cultural awareness (culture is often the USP of the destination)
- Relevant knowledge & skills (essential, but not the most important issue)
- Great attention for hospitable attitude building (that is what guests mostly judge on, look at Trip Advisor)
- Great attention for language skills (guests want to be understood and understand the person they talk with)
If the hospitality industry takes its responsibility and the government agrees to accept a facilitating role I am sure that new and existing (private) institutes will take up the challenge and start supplying the African hospitality industry with capable, friendly, guest oriented and highly motivated team members.