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Updated: June 1, 2012 14:48 IST

Challenging times for hospitality sector

    Liffy Thomas
    Deepa H. Ramakrishnan
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A trial run in progress at The Leela Palace — Photo: K. V. Srinivasan
The Hindu A trial run in progress at The Leela Palace — Photo: K. V. Srinivasan

As the hospitality industry readies for unprecedented growth in the city, people from varied cultures and different communities are gradually making Chennai their home.

With youngsters from the North East looking towards South India for greener pastures, and executives from the West being roped in to bring in an international perspective, recruitment patterns are facilitating a rare cultural exchange.

For Roger Brantsma from Netherland, it's his first stint here. Although he was cautioned about the humid weather, the general manager of The Hilton has little qualms settling down with his family. “The dinner invitations extended by Indian families and getting invited for festivals such as Diwali is only adding to my international experience,” says Mr. Brantsma, who came to the city 10 months ago.

With inventory going up, the number of people required by the industry is also on the rise. But challenges such as poor remuneration, long working hours and limited career prospects, are not attracting the kind of talent the industry needs.

According to I. Raj Galli, Director (HR), The Park, to meet the challenges, the hotel industry is increasingly “dropping its threshold salary” and taking in a good number of candidates from the north-eastern states. “Ten years ago it was difficult. Probably only 10 per cent of staff comprised those recruited from outside the state. Today in some hotels it is a 50:50 ratio,” says Mr. Galli.

Hotels too are going all out to bring in manpower. As an executive says, previously only luxury hotels provided accommodation to their staff. Today, it has become more or less a standard. More international chefs are also being flown in to add to the culinary experience in the kitchen.

Hotels also put in a lot of time training the staff. For instance, one hotel has a cross cultural training in place. It invites industry experts hailing from different nationalities to address its employees and educate them about the nuances of their respective culture. Another hotel had a sensitisation programme about the differently abled and their needs and how they must be treated.

When a hotel is set up, many groups seem to welcome executives from the West as they would set standards for the different processes that come together to make the hotel — its just not about the building.

“It is hard work to get a hotel going. A lot of things have to be pieced together, systems have to put in place and work timings should not matter to staff at that point of time. But many youngsters don't understand that it is a learning experience and not always will one get an opportunity to work in a hotel that is being built from scratch. Which is why there is a high turn over rate in such projects,” said a person, who has been in the industry for over 20 years.

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