Hospitality’s Leadership Extinction: Are We Training Dinosaurs in a Digital World? 

By Pieter van Eck 

The hospitality service industry has undergone fundamental changes in the past five years. Guests today are more demanding, more experienced, less willing to settle for mediocrity. To keep up, hospitality leaders can’t merely provide great service, they need to constantly anticipate the future. They need to be chameleons, adapting quickly to new expectations, technologies, and business models. 

The hospitality labour shortage is discussed extensively. But perhaps we’re focusing on the wrong problem. After all, it’s not about increasing staff numbers – it’s about finding the right people. The hospitality industry needs skilled people with the drive, adaptability, and business savvy required to thrive in a rapidly evolving industry. 

Hospitality Education: Stuck in the Past? 

I’ve seen the results of those with hospitality degrees first-hand. Graduates often need extensive “retraining” to meet the demands of the modern industry. Learning institutions focus on theory rather than the practical skills of digital marketing, revenue management, and data-driven decision-making. 

We undervalue the power of business acumen and data literacy because those skills weren’t as critical in the past. Here’s the surprising truth: tomorrow’s hospitality leaders need to be as comfortable with analytics as they are with guests.

BON Hotels is breaking out  of our insular mindset. Someone with killer data skills to compliment exceptional guest service experience could be exactly what it takes to reinvent a stale hotel concept. Our rigidity is killing our potential for innovation. 

My top 3 must-have skills for leaders are:  

  1. Compassion: People are the foundation of hospitality. Leaders who truly care about their teams create loyalty and inspire excellence. 
  2. Adaptability: The only constant in hospitality is change. Leaders must be flexible, open-minded, and capable of swift strategic shifts. 
  3. Business acumen: This is NON-negotiable. Leaders must understand the bottom line, analyse trends, and make tough financial calls to ensure success. 

At a Crossroads 

The hospitality industry has a choice: we can be dinosaurs lumbering towards extinction or we can evolve. 

We need to change our hospitality education and make in-service work mandatory! Theory is great, but real-world experience is invaluable

And – we need to address the elephant in the room. The hospitality industry isn’t known for its generous salaries, that’s simply a fact. But what if we shifted the perspective? Instead of bemoaning this as an unchangeable hurdle, let’s reframe it as a challenge that requires creative solutions and a long-term investment in our future. 

At BON Hotels, we understand that to attract and retain the high-potential individuals needed for strong leadership, we must also demonstrate that this industry values them beyond competitive wages. We need to consider: 

  • Leadership Development Programmes: Investing in in-house mentoring, targeted training, and career progression paths that show high-performing individuals that their potential is recognised and rewarded. 
  • Reimagined Compensation Models: While this change may be slow, the industry needs to explore ways to tie leadership performance to financial success. This could include profit-sharing structures, performance-based bonuses, or ownership opportunities for key leaders. 

The old adage, “you get what you pay for” is true. However, in hospitality, we need to shift this to: “you get what you invest in.” Demonstrating a commitment to professional growth, financial stability, and an attainable vision of success will allow us to nurture the hospitality leaders of the future, rather than employees opting for our industry as a last resort. 

It’s time to stop complaining about the lack of talent and start creating fertile ground where tomorrow’s leaders can flourish. 

Contact BON Hotels to hear more about our in-service hotel management programme. Visit for all current vacancies.

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