It’s time for us to put another of our fantastic partners in the spotlight and this week it’s the turn of the University of Greenwich. As students prepare to start or go back to university, we caught up with Dr Maria Gebbels MSc, FHEA, MIH who is a senior lecturer in Hospitality Management so that we could learn more about the fantastic work going on in Greenwich.
What makes the University of Greenwich a special place to learn about hospitality?
We have a dedicated teaching team who are very diverse, international and multicultural. The University of Greenwich also has great networks with hospitality industry professionals from various sectors of the industry who, as guest speakers, share their industry knowledge and experience with our students.
We are located at the Old Naval College, the UNESCO Heritage site, which is an amazing campus to study at. Being very close to the O2, there are many opportunities for work experience in this area. Another important area for us is the hospitality internship, a compulsory module for all students studying the BA Hospitality Management programme. We believe that students need to gain valuable work experience whilst studying, to ensure they are fully equipped for their careers in this vibrant industry.
What are your hopes for the hospitality industry?
For the industry to be more inclusive and diverse and proud that hospitality can change lives through engagement in the social enterprise model.
What’s the biggest challenge for the industry right now?
Sustainability in all its forms – social, environmental and economic – whilst still meeting customer needs. Customers are increasingly looking for sustainable ways of living whilst wanting luxury and a personalised service. Sustainability also includes issues of gender, bearing in mind the traditional and almost paternalistic nature of this industry, which is already undergoing some major changes.
How the industry can attract more people to see hospitality as a valuable career choice?
We need larger campaigns, reaching out to parents who, as research suggest, continue to play a major role in helping future students decide on their programmes of study. It’s vital that we show the diversity of opportunities beyond hotels, pubs and restaurants, to include career opportunities in the public and third sectors.
Tell us more about some of the research you have been involved with.
Projects include gender issues in the hospitality, tourism and leisure industry including barriers and enablers for career advancement of women; food and authenticity; professionalism in the hospitality industry and what makes a hospitality employee ‘professional’. I’ve also worked on wellbeing and hospitality as a social enterprise.
I am a member of our internal research group called Tourism Research Centre (TRC), which is a community of researchers passionate about advancing knowledge in tourism and hospitality research. TRC members’ areas of expertise include heritage, wellness and island tourism, place branding, economic development and many more topical issues.
What do you think people need to succeed in hospitality?
1. Passion for what hospitality really is, a service to others.
2. Commitment and willingness to work hard.
3. A vision for a better tomorrow.
What do you think makes the hospitality industry so special to work in?
It’s about people and being able to make a lasting impact on someone, or simply make someone’s day more enjoyable.
You are an Institute of Hospitality Business Partner, why is the IoH so important for our industry to support?
The Institute of Hospitality is at the forefront of current debates on a national and international level and it brings people together including academics, students and industry practitioners.