Friday, July 21, 2017

Mass Versus Quality: Hotel Jobs

Now here's an interesting point. Workers in the food and beverage sector - chefs, waiters and others - are willing to take jobs for lower salaries if the conditions are more to their liking. In other words, if a hotel (this mainly applies to hotels, but not exclusively) provides a working environment with a commitment to training, to high standards and good professional relations, it will attract talented personnel prepared to accept less money than they would receive at an establishment without these attributes.

The point is made by Antonio de Juan, who is the CEO of Talent Chef, a company which specialises in recruitment for the food and beverage sector. His words have been quoted in an article in Hosteltur magazine. It is a particularly interesting point, given the Balearic government's insistence on employment quality and salaries to match. In certain instances, it seems that workers will forego the quality salaries in preference to the quality employment: the government appears to have its work cut out in pairing the two.

De Juan's conclusion is that a tourism of the masses without quality has repercussions for the quality of personnel and for their availability. The matching of higher salaries and higher standards of employment can be found in some overseas countries. There is therefore a drain of talent from Mallorcan and Spanish hotels because of this.

A problem is, and it is another one that the government would like to deal with, creating tourism of the masses with quality. The notion can seem mutually exclusive. How do you retain mass and also ensure quality? It depends on how mass is defined, but in Mallorca the mass is increasing without a discernible impact on quality. This is the evidence, for instance, of hotels in Magalluf chucking out more badly behaved tourists than ever before. So long as tour operators and hotels operate according to principles of mass and volume, the situation is unlikely to change. The mayor of Calvia might plead with the providers of tourists, but he can't mandate what type of client is brought. This is the very point that the mayor of Alcudia has made regarding spring-break students, the cause - so it is said - of much of the Magalluf malaise this year. Town halls, regional governments have no power over this type of business decision.

One feels for people who work in some hotels in Mallorca. Chefs, who might earn decent money, churn out stuff for the masses. Their talent goes to waste. Their professional abilities are not reflected in their output. The same applies in the bar/restaurant sector.

Clearly, though, this doesn't apply across the board and also doesn't apply solely to the kitchens. One goes to somewhere like the Meliá Palma Bay Hotel and can witness the fine attention to detail and scrutiny in preparing tables. The quality of personnel extends to management. This same attention was evident in a tour of the five-star Palace de Muro Hotel. It was from the now director who, once upon a time, had been on the management at Bellevue in Alcudia. A very different place, during a tour there much time was spent picking up litter. A forlorn task, but at least there was a constant attempt at dealing with the downsides of mass all-inclusive tourism.

Mallorca has the means of developing talent. The university's Hotel and Catering School, to give one example, is where certain Michelin-starred chefs in Mallorca trained and received instruction. Some hotel chains have their own in-house training set-ups. Their commitment to quality has been exported. A reason for high standards elsewhere is the insistence on quality that characterises the likes of Iberostar.

But in Mallorca there is a vast gulf, which is the consequence of the diversity of hotels. In order to satisfy the masses, this is inevitable. So, one wonders if the mutually exclusive notion of mass and quality can ever be harmonised. One very much doubts it, and so there will be an enduring mismatch between the quality of salaries and employment.

The government, of course, is more concerned with an employment quality in terms of contracts: full-time, well-paid, adherence to strict working hours would be ideal. But it also concerned with the nature of jobs, given that they reflect the overall quality (or not) of the tourism offer. The hoteliers' federation is on the same page in this regard. It advocates quality without a loss of quantity. But what quality do they put first? The job or the pay? Is it both? In some cases, yes, but not all. The federation is set for a major scrap over pay negotiations next year. Unions are demanding that their profits go towards significant pay increases. If these are forced through, are passed on to already high hotel prices, have ever more tourist tax added, the mass part of the problem might well be solved.

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