Q&A: Neil Shorthouse on Hospitality
Cruise Ship Hospitality Expo recently gained Neil Shorthouse as an Advisory Board member. Having worked in hospitality for over 20 years, Neil’s experience with some of the top hospitality brands around the world, both on land and at sea, lends him a unique perspective and overview of the sector. Today we’re talking to Neil about comparisons between the hospitality on land and at sea, and what’s in store for the future of the industry…
Thanks for speaking to us today Neil. Having worked in both land-based and cruise hospitality, how do the two differ?
Where does one start! The initial difference is that the majority of hotels will have guests staying for a shorter length of stay versus a cruise ship. Although resorts tend to have similar length of stays – and in many ways remote island locations like the Maldives or the Seychelles are almost identical with all services being provided on site – the only difference being that one moves and the other one does not.
Additionally, staff/crew live and work onboard ships and on remote islands, and this is rare within hotels. The cruise sector is also far more advanced that its counterparts when it comes to protocols and outbreak crisis management and emergency planning, with regular planning and drills taking place. Most hotels will do a fire drill as and when required; however, it is rare to see a hotel operator actually conducting emergency training as it will interfere with operations!
What key things does a hotel manager on a cruise ship have to think about that a land-based one might not?
A hotel manager onboard a ship has to constantly take into account many factors, and also be able to think on their feet. If they run out of food, they can’t nip to a supermarket! Weather for one, especially in rough seas. Missing a port of call, or being late into port on an embarkation day. Ensuring that the ship maintains public health standards, that can be inspected at any time and potentially detain a ship in port. Crew welfare and wellbeing is key, as everyone lives and works onboard, whereas in a hotel staff go home at the end of the day. Onboard it is not only a place of work, it is home to the crew and it is maintaining that balancing act between the two.
What is your key piece of advice for those considering the move from land-based to cruise hospitality? How can the industry support this move?
The work ethic is very different. Not only are you working, you are also responsible for the safety of those onboard, and will have additional responsibilities within your role. Respecting and understanding the shipboard protocols, and the importance of working together as one team, is key. You are responsible for your department and form part of a team that must work coherently together as one unit. You must be prepared to put in the hours of work, with no days off! Be open minded, flexible, and willing to learn.
From a hospitality point of view, what about cruise is particularly attractive for guests?
For guests it is the opportunity to explore and visit destinations that they may not have been to before. Cruising now caters for everyone, not just the elite. Friendships are made for lifetimes onboard, and once you have unpacked you can sit back, relax, and enjoy! Be prepared that a ship does move, and if it is bad weather it is NOT the Captain’s fault! The opportunity to have authentic cuisine prepared by Chef’s from that country, who know what they are doing versus a local restaurant in the UK that will prepare a bland dish for the British palette; on a cruise you can let your senses go wild, with a true taste of flavors.
What do you predict we’ll see in the future of cruise hospitality?
We have a way to go in order for the ‘old guard’ to see the cruise industry as a fully-fledged member within hospitality. Those working within hospitality on cruise ships have a far better understanding and dynamic when it comes to work ethics and dealing with unexpected situations, they just deal with it instead of moaning about it!
The industry will take time to recover, and the media has not helped that at all, with the misreporting and lack of understanding. Once barriers are broken – and in some ways COVID-19 may have helped this along – those that have been out of work and potentially working on land can demonstrate the capability of what someone who has worked at sea can bring to the table. Hospitality will still be in the forefront of delivering service, and this is even more true now. People have not had the opportunity to travel, let alone talk with others (which hospitality is known for, especially within the cruise sector) – speaking with crew from other countries is part of the fun!
You run your own hospitality services brand, Shorthouse Hospitality Ltd – what’s in store for the future of Shorthouse Hospitality?
At present we are continuing to support our clients here in the UK and overseas. We have been working closely with the Maldivian Government and Resort operators in crisis/emergency planning as no one was prepared. We are also developing strategic partnerships with colleges in the Maldives in relation to developing the next generation in hospitality. We are hopeful that we shall also return to supporting the cruise industry as it comes out of COVID-19 and continue to provide a wide range of support. We are also in discussion with operators in the Caribbean, Middle East, and Asia, although these are all early discussions so like many others, we need to see where we end up once the storm has passed, and continue to provide guidance and support where we can!
Thank you for your time Neil!
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