Leonie Andereya from Radisson RED discusses why, even after Covid, the hospitality industry is still the ideal space for people to learn, grow and experience.

Almost overnight, a viral organism brought the world’s most prosperous, resilient industry to its knees. Faced with the most catastrophic moment in history, a sector that had previously enjoyed a rep for stable, albeit rigorous, jobs had suddenly lost its ‘stability’ factor. Small wonder then that industry staff, especially among the Millennials and gen Zs, resigned in their droves since 2021, in a phenomenon dubbed ‘The Great Resignation’ – a trend that further imperilled the industry, still reeling from the effects of the pandemic.

Such are the dreary narratives of yesteryear, but it’s time to throw those out, like so many soiled linens. Enter 2023, the year of good news. Boasting a growth rate of over 150% of the global average the sector has been plunged headlong into what is perhaps the biggest bounce back in economic history. It’s in our nature to roam, and revenge travel was bound to be a big driver for the sector. But some might say it’s happening a bit too fast. Now, in the face of the mass staff exodus, the world is once again seeing chaotic airports, understaffed hotels and restaurants closed on peak nights, all because they are simply understaffed.

Having taken learnings from both Covid and the Resignation, hospitality must humanise and firmly align its values with the holistic, people-centric ethos of the time. Having learned some hard lessons during the Covid years, the industry sombrely reflected as we took stock of the aftermath. Frontline hospitality staffers bore the brunt of the crisis, and as a sector we’ve collectively resolved to take better care of our people – the face, heart and soul of or operations. The sector’s epic bounce-back stands as an optimistic ounterpoint to SA’s high unemployment rate. Furthermore, hospitality presents a wealth of attractive prospects for young entrants into the job market – notably robust career advancement opportunities, and genuine quality of life.

Good leaders are now investing in the people just as much as they invest in the brick-and-mortar aspects of the company, and hotel managers today are increasingly committing significant energy, and money into training and upskilling their staff, to rapidly plug capacity gaps. Unlike other industries with rigidly static, often unrealistic promotion trajectories, career pathways in hospitality are highly dynamic. We promote from within at all costs. Progressive hotels offer active on-the-job leadership training and mentorship for those who show potential or aspire to lead. One of my colleagues started as a porter, and within 10 years he was a General Manager of a large hotel.

Better still, we encourage self-directed growth, actively exposing staff to different sectors within the industry, allowing them to discover their true passions. Another colleague who was entrenched in the Food & Beverage subsector, discovered his true calling after attending a company-run course on marketing, He’s now living his dream, doing what he loves full-time. The industry can certainly be an intense one to work in, but it’s also a beautiful space in which to grow and thrive – one that many have fallen hopelessly in career-long love with. The stress management skills you inevitably acquire will prove an invaluable asset in your career, and life. And it’s not only a place for chefs, cleaners, waiters, and musicians.

The industry is vast and diverse, and every conceivable sector is represented in hospitality. There are thousands of positions, job titles and career paths to explore. The real magic is that the trade is largely driven by multinational chains, so employees have the chance to travel, and work at exciting locales around the world. Networking happens non-stop. A plethora of subskills are shared organically, and so you quickly become imminently employable, with a skill set that can plug and play anywhere around the globe. By embracing the concept of holacracy as opposed to hierarchy, industry forerunners have flattened traditionally intimidating power structures, resulting in an open space in which both clients and staff are free to be their unapologetic selves, but where every nuance of professionalism is nevertheless maintained.

Simultaneously, we’re seeing industry-wide solidarity in which the 5-star / less-than-5-star divide is dissolving, as quality rises across the board. Hospitality has arrived at the life-work balance party and is learning from the important precedents set by other progressive sectors in this regard. We are committed to bringing about meaningful change in our industry, which has traditionally been characterised by intense, gruelling work. “We recognize the importance of valuing our people at a deeper level and are committed to our employees’ life-work balance. We’re implementing meaningful changes that support our people better and ease their work.


Leonie Andereya is a seasoned hotel professional with over a decade of experience. She successfully led the Radisson RED Hotel in Cape Town through the Covid-19 pandemic and achieved growth in the hotel’s key metrics, all while implementing sustainable initiatives AND positioning the hotel as a leading pet-friendly destination in the city.