Beyond Travel & Tourism: How Hospitality Became A Crucial Business Component

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Business expert Dr Erika Zeelie, Deputy Head of Faculty: Commerce at The Independent Institute of Education, says that hospitality helps a business go beyond the transactional exchange of goods and services – and with consumer expectations of service levels currently at an all-time high, hospitality in business has become a competitive edge that can’t be ignored.


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The concept of hospitality is multifaceted and is increasingly extending beyond its traditional association with the travel and tourism industry. With consumer expectations in terms of service levels at an all-time non-negotiable high, the principle of hospitality in business has become a competitive edge that can’t be ignored, a business expert says.

“While hospitality is a crucial aspect of the service sector, it now extends beyond travel and tourism to encompass a wide range of industries and businesses, and can be observed in various contexts, including healthcare, banking and finance, and beyond,” says Dr Erika Zeelie, Deputy Head of Faculty: Commerce at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s leading  private higher education provider.

She says hospitality in the business environment refers to the practice of providing a warm and welcoming, friendly, and highly professional accommodating atmosphere and with a focus on providing high levels of service to customers, clients, employees, and other stakeholders.

Hospitality in business encompasses creating a positive experience for individuals who interact with the business, whether as customers purchasing goods and services, employees working within the organisation, or partners and suppliers involved in business relationships.

“Business success in 2024 is often attributed not only to the quality of products or services but also to the intangible elements and levels of service that enhance customer experience. One such crucial factor is hospitality, which is increasingly being recognised as a vital component across various sectors, and essential for customer satisfaction and overall business success.”

Dr Zeelie says businesses today must be prepared to go the extra mile to understand and meet the unique needs and preferences of individuals.

In our brutally competitive marketplace where customers have abundant options, hospitality helps a business go beyond the transactional exchange of goods or services. By treating customers with exceptional professionalism, businesses can establish strong relationships that extend beyond one-time transactions.

“This relationship-building aspect is particularly significant in industries where customer loyalty plays a pivotal role in long-term success. For the most part, EQ and soft skill training were in the past relied upon to close the gap between the transactional and the experiential. However, as customer expectations increase, hospitality training is becoming a more reliable pathway to ensuring consistency at scale,” Dr Zeelie says.

Customers today not only seek quality products but also demand a positive and memorable experience.

Hospitality is a key factor in shaping these experiences. Satisfied customers are more likely to become repeat customers and brand advocates, driving positive word-of-mouth and contributing to business growth.

“In a crowded marketplace where products and services may be similar, hospitality becomes a powerful differentiator. A business that consistently provides excellent customer service and a welcoming atmosphere stands out from its competitors. This unique selling proposition can be a crucial factor in attracting and retaining customers, helping the business secure a competitive edge.”

Dr Zeelie says when considering their skills development programmes, companies would therefore do well to consider adding hospitality-based components to their programmes, rather than only focusing on developing technical skills of employees.

In our current environment, businesses face unprecedented challenges. Skills development training based on hospitality and service management principles enhances resilience as employees learn to adapt, innovate and maintain high standards even during uncertain times. And by incorporating hospitality principles, businesses can foster a customer-centric culture.

“In addition to the customer-centric competitive edge, hospitality training also emphasizes teamwork, effective communication and collaboration. These soft skills are essential for any organisation, both internally and externally.”

Similarly, Dr Zeelie suggests that students and graduates would do well to consider a hospitality or service management course or qualification to complement their first qualification.

For the reasons outlined above, a qualification augmented by a customer-focused qualification adds a highly in-demand quality to an applicant’s candidacy.

Employers seek tangible skills that are directly applicable to their industry, but also the kinds of employees who have proven themselves to be adept at those transferable skills which make them highly marketable, such as being able to deal professionally with customers under stressful and demanding conditions, and the ability to form lasting relationships.”

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