Ahmed Munazil Choudhury, General Manager of The Midori by Lakeshore spoke to the Business Standard about job prospects in the country’s hospitality industry, the importance of branding, and knowing your job well before delving into it
The Business Standard (TBS): How did you enter the hospitality industry? Please tell us about your journey.
Ahmed Munazil Choudhury (AMC): I started my career as an international recruit at DHL Express in the Philippines. I worked there from 2005 to 2006.
I was in Grameenphone from 2006 to 2010 where I was given the best employee award.
I worked in GPIT for their partnership management team. I was also in Accenture as the HR Operations Manager and Head of Internal Communications.
One day, I had a meeting with the Managing Director of Lakeshore Hotels - Kazi Tareq Shams - and he really liked my perspective on hospitality management.
I joined Lakeshore Hotel in 2014 and worked there for two years. After that, I worked as the General Manager at Space Apartments for three years.
The concept of service apartments was completely new in Bangladesh when I was working at Space Apartments, but I liked the industry and I liked its challenges.
Since April 2019, I have been working as the General Manager at The Midori by Lakeshore.
TBS: Given the current scenario of the tourism industry of Bangladesh, how can we make Bangladesh more hospitable to the global market?
AMC: Most foreigners come to Bangladesh for business, operational work, etc. Maybe around two percent come for recreational purposes. But a good thing is that our local tourism sector is flourishing.
To make our country more hospitable, we need to build designated tourist spots, uphold a tourist-friendly culture, and make our guests feel secured. At the same time, we have to be broad-minded.
We do not have key selling propositions; we only focus on the Sundarbans and Cox's Bazar.
Cox's Bazar has become a concrete jungle; going forward with it would be difficult.
Bangladesh has a saturation problem as well, which needs to be addressed. Once someone invested in the garment sector, everyone rushed to do the same. It has happened in our tourism sector, too. Those who are bringing big hotel brands to the country should calculate their operational expenses at first and know whether they are going to sustain.
TBS: If someone wants to build a career in the hospitality industry, what skills does s/he need to possess?
AMC: Every industry has a role model - a face that inspires others to follow in their footsteps. In Bangladesh's hospitality industry, there are none. There are renowned chefs, but no General Managers to look up to.
To want to build a career, one has to be inspired first. That being said, in this industry, it is important to have fluency in English, be presentable, and know the right manners.
TBS: How is the future of jobs in the tourism industry?
AMC: For a better future, owners need to change their perspectives. The local GMs and staff who are working well should be promoted instead of foreign workers.
There should be a union and leadership, sadly we lack both.
The salary structure has to be changed so that others are encouraged to join the hospitality industry. An industry worth crores naturally demand high salaries.
Moreover, the government needs to work on bringing changes to this industry.
TBS: Is there any training/courses from where someone can learn and groom her/himself for the industry?
AMC: There are private universities that teach hospitality management courses but I am skeptical about their standards.
Sometimes we get graduates who either know things half-heartedly or do not know anything at all.
The problem is that the teachers are not updated, and the course curriculum is old-fashioned. But the hospitality world has changed so much over the years.
For example, I teach my staff to say things like "Let me get the door for you, let me give you a hand". These are more modern ways of being courteous to guests.
TBS: From where can they obtain these courses?
AMC: Starting their training at a hotel would be a good first step to gain hands-on experience. I myself have trained many members of staff who went to work at hotels all over the world.
As I mentioned before, it is important to stay updated on technology and understand that the world has changed a lot.
Back in 2014, when I was working at Lakeshore, the internet was not as readily available as it is now. But even then, our hotel cars had Wi-Fi and I put iPads in the cars for the guests.
When the car would be near the hotel, a member of the staff would call the guests and ask what kind of refreshment they would like upon arrival. Making guests happy and comfortable should always be a priority.
TBS: What would be your advice to youngsters who want to join the industry?
AMC: At first they should ask themselves whether they would be able to put up with all the changes that the hospitality industry is prone to - seasonal changes, etc.
Although hospitality staff is seen all decked up in full suits and whatnot, there are struggle stories behind their impeccable looks. One has to understand the pain and pressure.
It is really important to establish yourself as a brand and hold on to your own identity.