Essential Soft Skills for Hospitality Managers & Professionals

Hospitality management is an extremely rewarding career, allowing you to build an international name for yourself and provide meaningful positive experiences for visitors from around the world. To achieve as much, it takes a balance of developed hard skills and nurtured soft skills.

Soft skills are a permutation of interpersonal people skills, social skills, communication skills, character traits, attitudes, career attributes and emotional intelligence quotient among others. Sometimes, it also refers to the character traits and interpersonal skills that distinguish a person’s relationships with other people.

I. The soft skills needed to succeed in hospitality management

“86 per cent of the essential skills for hospitality managers are soft competencies.”

Soft skills typically encompass introspective and interpersonal skills that are much harder to learn or quantify without the benefit of real experience. Soft skills are similar to emotions or insights, in that they depend somewhat on character and intuition. That’s not to say, however, that these cannot be learned.

Leadership and teamwork are some of the most crucial traits of a successful hospitality manager.

Research by East Carolina University identified several soft skills common among hospitality managers:

  • Team leadership,
  • Coaching,
  • Problem solving,
  • Influence.

Team leadership is the ability to build a rapport within a team. Managers must understand how to gain the trust of their team while listening, cooperating and ultimately creating a positive team environment. Although large hospitality organisations have many disparate departments, it’s vital managers are able to foster cooperation, collaboration and communication to meet and exceed the needs of guests.

Coaching refers to the development of skills. Excellent hospitality managers will be able to improve the competency and job satisfaction of team members through training, performance evaluation, recognition and motivation. With hospitality and tourism known for above-average staff turnover, the role of the manager in equipping new staff with the right skills and retaining trained employees is paramount.

Problem solving is all about thinking on your feet. Hospitality is an industry heavily reliant on service and perception. That means providing customers and staff with the best outcomes, all while maintaining a calm exterior. Facing problems head-on, managing impressions and potentially handling culturally sensitive disputes requires practice and a can-do mindset. Whatever your specialty, you will need to learn how to manage a crisis, from identifying the problem to evaluating how well you did and what could be improved in future.

Influence is similar to leadership. Holding influence with your staff means being capable of shaping employee behaviour and performance through ongoing mutual feedback. Effective managers are able to see the bigger picture and both give and receive feedback to ensure the best results for the whole establishment. Leading by example and exhibiting excellent time management and self-motivation are key for a manager with influence.

II. Other soft skills needed to succeed in the hospitality indystry in general for managers, supervisors and team members

In order to be successful in the hospitality industry, there are a core set of skills that you will need to possess. After all, hospitality is all about providing outstanding service and leaving customers with a smile on their face, which is a role that isn’t necessarily suited to everybody.

Therefore, to help you determine whether you have what it takes to make your way in this field, we’ve compiled a list of the key attributes required.

Here are the top soft skills needed in the hospitality industry.

Customer service skills

It should never be forgotten that it’s the customer who provides the funds to pay salaries and other expenses which allow a hotel or restaurant to remain profitable and reinvest in its infrastructure. Thus, it is essential that employees and managers succeed in satisfying and even delighting customers. Excellent customer service skills is all about understanding the customer’s needs and being able to deliver a positive customer service experience.

Networking skills

One of the key skills needed in the hospitality industry is to be able to network effectively. Unlike many other sectors of business, networking in this field is not about job-hopping, but is rather a way to stimulate repeat business from customers. Building a loyal clientele who are interested in returning to the hotel/restaurant/tour will, in the long run, also enhance one’s career. Of course, it’s also important to be able to demonstrate to employers that customers are returning thanks to the relationship cultivated with them. Learning to use language that employers like to hear, such as ‘client relationship management’ and ‘guest relations’ during job interviews, can enhance one’s chances of being hired.

Communication skills

Exceptional communication skills are highly valued in most industries and the higher up one gets in the hierarchy, the more important they become. In the hospitality and tourism business, each day can involve contacts with people of a variety of backgrounds, ages, nationalities and temperaments. Thus, it is important to be able to communicate in a way that represents the business while at the same time speaking to customers in a way that they can understand and relate to.

Clear communication is the most important soft skill, whether you’re communicating face to face, over the phone, via text, or through email or letter. When you communicate clearly with other people, you can build trust, decrease the odds of misunderstanding, foster community, and build teamwork and understanding.

Communicate well by making eye contact and acknowledging everyone in the room. Use clear, open body language. Monitor others’ non-verbal cues and respond to questions using non-judgmental language.

For written communication, write what you mean to say, proofread for errors, then check for tone. People often misconstrue emotions in written communication. If you are satisfied the other person will understand what you mean, hit send.

Flexibility skills

Compared to other professions, hospitality and tourism jobs often demand that employees work odd hours like nights and weekends. It is also necessary to be able switch rapidly from one task to another as the situation may arise. Thus, flexibility is an essential attribute to succeed in the hospitality and tourism sector.

Organizational skills

Organizational skills are at a premium in the hospitality and tourism trade. Given the need to multi-task and respond to spur-of -the-moment requests, it is necessary to maintain an organizational structure so as to be able to accomplish daily tasks in an efficient manner. One piece of advice: plan each day ahead keeping a checklist of things that need to be done. This will also help you develop strong time management skills.

Language skills

Language skills are a particular plus in the hospitality field as they increase one’s value as an employee. Speaking clients’ language enables one to establish a more intimate relationship with them which promotes customer satisfaction and loyalty.


It may sound trite to mention this one, but it can be noted that many young people start out in the hospitality field with an enthusiastic outlook, but don’t realize how demanding the work is and consequently get bored quickly. If they fail to understand that their job is to keep clients happy no matter the cost, such individuals will never progress beyond entry-level jobs.

Can-do attitude

It is essential that hospitality professionals be prepared to accept challenges in the workplace no matter how difficult the task may appear. Resolving a difficult situation for an employer boosts one’s chances of getting a pay rise and /or a promotion. Exuding enthusiasm for one’s job, instead of being sour, will enhance one’s esteem both from customers and employers.

Multitasking skills

Being able to fulfil multiple roles in a hospitality or tourism enterprise is a way for employees to render themselves indispensable to their employers. It’s important to be able to juggle different tasks simultaneously, while completing each task assigned. Thus the ability to multitask may be one of the most important skills in this industry. One way for students to get a head start in developing their ability to multitask is to work on the side while pursuing their studies.

Cultural awareness

Hospitality and tourism enterprises are more likely than most to deal with customers of a variety of nationalities and cultural backgrounds. The ability to be culturally aware and get past one’s own cultural norms is crucial to building a successful career in this sector.

Typically customers will not always share the same values, belief systems and perceptions, so it’s important to break free from cultural barriers. Cultural awareness is an essential social skill that will help customers feel comfortable and at home with their surroundings. The goal is satisfy their needs and wants, so as to turn them into repeat customers.

Empathy and emotional intelligence

It goes without saying that digital transformation carries the future of the hospitality and tourism industry, but this does not mean the industry will become depersonalized. On the contrary, investing in human capital is key to finding innovative solutions in an ever-changing scenario. People determine the success of an organization and, if this holds true across all fields, it is even more important for service-based industries like hospitality and tourism.


Among specific qualifications demanded by a wide range of host companies and organizations, the ability to integrate into the existing team is often considered essential.

Stress and time management

Hospitality managers will often work on several things at once, managing a heavy work load at a fast pace. It’s easy to let your emotions run wild when you are asked to do several things at once over a short time span and forced to deal with unexpected problems… For careers in hospitality and tourism, you need to be prepared to multi-task and remain cool and collected if you are to achieve greater efficiency and customer satisfaction!

Active Listening

Active listening is among the hospitality skills critical to your success. When you actively listen to a customer, you can not only understand what they need, but demonstrate that you hear them and proactively work to address the situation. By solving a problem for them, you can make them happy, cultivate loyalty, and win praise. It’s easy to see how this benefits you directly, but how can you improve your listening skills?

First, don’t assume you know what someone is saying. Allow them to finish speaking before you ask a question. Make eye contact and pay attention to their body language. Can you see things from their point of view? Then ask yourself what you can do to remedy the situation.

Positive Attitude

If you’ve been around someone in a bad mood, you know how quickly the toxic cloud can spread to customers and coworkers alike. Stay positive and you’ll find that you’re a joy to be around. Positivity is rewarded by praise from customers or promotions at work.

Practice positivity by keeping a list of what you are grateful for, finding ways to laugh at the little things, and striving for optimism and resilience. Use motivational hospitality quotes to foster a sense of resilience and positive thinking.

Taking in Criticism

Change the way you think about criticism. “It’s an opportunity to improve,” says self-improvement author Leo Barbuta.

Try to remember that someone is not giving you feedback to make you feel back, but to improve your job performance.

Listen to them and thank them for taking the time to offer feedback. Think about what they said. Is there a kernel of truth to their comments? Can you change the negative experience into a positive one by learning from it?

The best hospitality leaders are always open to learning and improving, so practice remaining open to change. If you can do this, you will reap many rewards.

Motivate Others in all you do

When you become a hospitality manager, make sure your management style incorporates these soft skills. Communicate clearly with your subordinates, maintain a positive vision for the future, and strive to motivate others in all you do.

Soft skills will drive 85 percent of your success on the job, while hard skills only affect 15 percent of job performance. Yet most employers invest professional development funding in hard skills instead of soft ones! By taking your soft skills development seriously and always seeking to improve, you will position yourself far ahead of your peers — and your hard work will be rewarded by employers.

Work Ethic

If you’re working in hospitality, then regardless of your role, you’re going to have to work hard. It’s likely that you will be on your feet for most of the time, working long shifts for little reward – all while maintaining a cheerful and friendly façade in front of customers.

Therefore, if you have a tendency to skive, or you’re not willing to roll up your sleeves and get stuck in, it’s likely that you will not succeed in in this career path.


Most employers in the hospitality industry rely on their customer-facing staff to uphold the reputation of their brand; therefore, it’s important that, at all times, you remain highly professional.

Usually, this means ensuring that you look tidy and well-groomed, are on time for your shifts and are not caught doing anything you shouldn’t be, such as smoking outside the main entrance or not washing your hands before handling food. It also means keeping your cool and not reacting negatively when dealing with an angry or irate customer, especially at the end of a long and tiring shift.