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What is the stuff of professionalism?

Di Antonio Caneva, 4 giugno 2015

In a nice town of Central Italy, during a pleasant summer-heralding evening, the tables were set for dinner in the garden and the fragrance of jasmine overpowered all other scents.
The restaurant was lit softly, the comfortable armchairs allowed to foretaste an agreeable night. I was out for dinner with my wife and a couple of friends.
The menu was interesting, the wine list was rich in valid proposals.
My friend, a hotel manager who has recently retired, is a very precise person; at one point, I saw him talking to the waitress, little more than a whisper. I heard “… the bread-and-butter plates are missing”. The girl, embarrassed, fetched four plates and placed them incorrectly to the right of the dinner plates. With looks of disapproval, the dinner went on. The waitress was a forthcoming girl who was doing her best, trying to compensate with kindness for her lack of experience.
Up to the dessert course, when three of us were given dessert spoons, and my friend – poor luck – received a soup spoon. At this point he did voice his chagrin, stating that he was not going to eat soup, and therefore he also wanted a dessert spoon. No sooner said than done, a dessert spoon was brought, from a different set than the other three spoons: nasty looks.
I recently spoke to Dennis Zambon, a professional with a great history, deeply aware of evolving times, who appreciatively mentioned an article which has been recently published in this newspaper, about Moxi, the new Marriot brand.
He praised the fact that, on opening the Malpensa airport hotel, inexperienced staff had been hired who had, however, shown to have aptitude for the job..
Let me say right away that I am opposed to considering aptitude as the main element in building the personnel structure of a tourist enterprise, as I believe that experience and the mastery of skills are essential in providing adequate services.
I said this to Zambon, and he contradicted me by asserting that, obviously, people with aptitude will still need to receive training. Nice words, which, however, clash with day-to-day reality. What business will do the job of a hotel management school to provide adequate basic courses? Of course, international companies in particular do offer training programmes to their staff, but the trainees are already in employment and (at least partially) schooled; that is to say, they improve on what is already existing.
I have happened to receive poor quality service in five-star hotels operating on the aptitude notion, which – let me not be misunderstood – I believe is a fundamental aspect of profession, but, alone, is not sufficient.

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