In Culture & People, Europe, Featured, HSMAI, HSMAI, News, News items, Talent, Upcoming

Let’s Talk Talent

Today’s students and recent graduates are the lifeblood of the hospitality industry. The knowledge and skills they are learning and have already acquired, means they are well-equipped for the modern era of hospitality.

Yet, many of you will be aware of the recent statistics released from hotel business schools that 60% of graduates do not enter the industry.

Attracting and retaining talent in our industry has been a challenge for a while – yet what seems to be an ongoing conundrum must be dealt with.

Listening to the talent is where it starts. On Tuesday 26 January, six members from the HSMAI Europe Student Council took part in a panel discussion (see photograph). Our thanks to Susan Meinl and Gil Mulders who co-chaired the panel.

The debate, insights and call to actions were invaluable, and below we’ve summarised some of the core takeaways, recommendations and call to actions for our industry.

The Panel:

Emile Schelfhout
Chair of The Student Council
Student at EDHEC Business School

Daniel Groot Koerkamp
Hotel Management School Maastricht – Netherlands

Maria Andrés
Hotel Management School Maastricht – Netherlands

Yana Kyrylyuk
Breda University of Applied Sciences – Netherlands

Sammie Berendse
Breda University of Applied Sciences – Netherlands

Theo Curti
Essec Business School – France

Susan Meinl
Chair of the HSMAI Europe People and Culture Advisory Board

Gil Mulders
Member of the HSMAI Europe People and Culture Advisory Board

Recommendations and call to actions for hotel business schools, hospitality brands and others in the industry include:

Pre-student/applying for degree stage

Call to action: Industry /Hotel business schools to embark on an ‘education drive’. Students in secondary/high schools, careers advisors, parents and guardians need to understand about the depth and breath of skills gained in further education hospitality degrees, and the much wider choice of entrance level jobs and career prospects.

  • The Panel felt perception lacks reality when it comes to skills and expertise gained on hospitality/hotel management degrees and entrance level jobs and career paths.
  • Attracting talent to the industry has to start with an ‘awareness campaign’, so that students in secondary education – and particularly those aged 16-18 who are considering university courses – understand the depth and breadth of skills and expertise gained in hospitality, including business and revenue management, human resources and marketing.
  • It is also about educating other influencers such as parents and school career advisers who may believe the career path is restricted to either a hotel or restaurant manager, when the qualification can open doors to many different jobs and possibilities in the industry.
  • In short there needs to be a PR campaign to address the lack of awareness and to also remove the perceived stigma that getting a job in hospitality is a ‘servant job’.

Call to action: Hotel schools to include a mandatory module which focuses on leadership/leadership skills to focus on issue of retention of talent in industry 

  • The Panel were united that all Hotel Business Schools should include a leadership course in the degree module, so that today’s students are armed with the vital leadership skills as they progress into their career.
  • Many felt that the issue about retention of talent in the industry lies in that more leaders/managers in the hospitality world need to be leading by example.

The Intern Stage (Student)

Call to action: The hospitality industry to consider new ways to improve the intern experience and focus on how this can be a ‘learning’ as well as ‘a work experience’

  • The Panel felt that work needs to be done around respecting and appreciating the role of the intern; with one panellist stating “an intern isn’t about just about getting cheap labour, and companies should look at ways to show their appreciation”.
  • The Panel also felt that some of their intern experiences could have been improved had the company recognised that an intern can also provide valuable insights. There needs to be recognition and a shift in the future to ‘listen more to interns.’
  • The Panel believe that companies need to provide a well-rounded experience for the intern during their work placement, which could include providing information and access to meeting senior personnel in other operational departments. This way they have a much clearer understanding of the possible hospitality career paths and the different layers in the organisation.
  • There is also a clear call to action for larger hospitality brands to ensure the intern is clear of how the local brand fits into the bigger picture and the overriding corporate mission and vision. In essence, to sell “why our company would be a great place to work?”
  • Hospitality companies need to consider that if an intern has a great experience, they are also great brand ambassadors for their business school or university and for potential future interns.

The post Intern Stage before graduation

Call to action: Hospitality industry should be looking at different ways to cultivate their network and contacts and nurture relationships with potential talent and interns on social media

  • Senior management and HR executives working in-house for hospitality brands should be making more of an effort to keep in touch, be more approachable, and follow the progress of their interns via social media channels such as LinkedIn.
  • Susan Meinl added ‘this isn’t just about adding an intern on your LinkedIn and leaving it there, this is about cultivating a two-way conversation between the under-graduate or graduate and building your talent network.”

The retention of talent stage

The Panelists were asked, based on their experiences to date, what changes they would make if they were in charge

Call to action: Leaders need to inspire by example and provide clarity on structure of possible career paths

The Panelists felt it is difficult to find career satisfaction and growth if managers and leaders at companies are not leading by example and providing the opportunities for professional development. At all stages of a career, it’s important to be challenged and have the opportunity to learn more. “Keep an open door and be approachable as a manager. It’s about getting people to work with you, rather than for you” Daniel added.

Call to action: Senior management need to show they care about new recruits and employees at all levels

  • Retention of good talent comes from leaders and senior management recognising the important part each and everyone in the company plays, from the front desk, concierge to those at the top. Yana added” it’s about listening to employees, showing appreciation for everyone – because everyone is important. If I was a manager, I would think “what can I do to make a better working environment and also to make the ‘work- place into a joy-place?”. If you put your people first they will take care of the bottom line and guest satisfaction. Always put your people first.”

This is clearly an important time for everyone in the industry to re-group and look at how we can how forge ahead with attracting and retaining talent. As Emile concluded, “We [the industry] have a great future ahead. We need to keep this debate going.”

About HSMAI Europe Student Council

The HSMAI Europe Student Council is an industry-first initiative intended to support hospitality students and recent graduates based in the UK and Europe by connecting them directly with other peers and hospitality brands across the region.
The first formal meeting took place in January 2022.

The Student Council holds virtual, hybrid, live events and workshops for members of the council in an attempt to harness the skills required in the industry.

Students have regular access to potential mentors from the HSMAI Europe membership including senior management and marketers who work for both large and independent hospitality brands in the UK and in Europe.

The Student Council facilitates networking between students and businesses, but also bridges many of the skill gaps that are required in the modern era of hospitality.

Emile Schelfhout, who recently graduated with an MBA in International Hospitality Management at Hotelschool The Hague, and is completing his MSc in Corporate Finance & Banking at EDHEC Business School in Nice, is Chair and leads The Student Council.

To find out more information about how your school can join the HSMAI Europe Student Council please get in touch with HSMAI Europe at

Contact Us

Send us an email for any queries you have about HSMAI Europe and we'll get back to you, asap.

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt

Start typing and press Enter to search