Insight into the Hospitality and Tourism Industry with James Doolan

13 December 2021

We would like to introduce James Doolan.


James is a Hospitality Representative that works closely with the PIHMS family. He is currently working as the Strategic Director for Hotel Council Aotearoa in Auckland. James has over 13 years of experience in the Hospitality Industry. He has worked around the world and has recently moved back to New Zealand.

PIHMS was lucky enough to have him speak at our Graduation in April, where he gave us an insight on his perspective and experience on the Hospitality and Tourism industry.

Is now a good time to be completing a 3-year Degree in Hotel and Tourism at PIHMS?

Good times and bad times come and go with overall financial conditions and with external shocks such as pandemics, terrorism and natural disasters. If you choose to build a career in hotels and tourism, you will see a number of these cycles on a 7-10 year basis. Your career will cover a number of ups and downs in overall economic conditions, so a good time to be experiencing your first journey through the down-cycle in when you’re starting out. In one respect, now is an excellent time to be completing a hotel and tourism degree. There is a significant shortage in labour in all sectors in New Zealand – unemployment is under 4%. Hotels in New Zealand and around the world are desperate for talent. It is a superb opportunity to simply “roll up your sleeves” and demonstrate value inside a hotel.

What advice would you give someone entering into the Hotel and Tourism Industry during Covid-19?

My advice is the same as it was before COVID – find a working environment that energises and excites you, then throw yourself into delivering extraordinary customer service. Anticipate the needs of your guests and your colleagues and choose to autonomously solve the problems of other people. If anything, the uncertainty of COVID will create even more opportunities to surprise and delight your guests and your employers

My parents don’t think hospitality or tourism is the right industry for me to get into at the moment, what would you say specifically to them?

The best answer to your parents probably depends on whether their concerns are health-related or career-related. I don’t claim to be an epidemiologist, but from a health perspective, it seems to me that the risks for generally healthy, young and double-vaccinated New Zealanders are fairly low. Hotels are generally a clean and hygienic working environment and most will be implementing enhanced cleaning practices to satisfy guests’ concerns with regard to hygiene. From a career perspective, there are a number of strong arguments in favour of a career in tourism and hospitality. Many careers outside of tourism are now entirely “back office” with very limited interaction with the ultimate customer. Indeed, many careers involve little more than full-time interaction with a screen. Tourism careers teach interpersonal skills. The ability to speak to other people, comfort them in time of need, anticipate their requirements and deliver extraordinary service is a skill that has broad application in numerous fields. I also believe these skills make us better human beings and better family members. At a macro level, I believe the overall fundamentals for tourism are good. Technology might change the shape of the tourists’ industry, but I don’t anticipated technology every fully replacing the tourism and travel experience. Some professions might not even exist in 10-15 years’ time, but the hotel sector will definitely still be here. The industry is growing around the world and there are dozens of exciting paths in front of you for a fulfilled, exciting and financially rewarding future.

I really want to travel, that’s why I want to get into hotels, will I be able to work overseas in hotels in the future?

Yes! The hotel sector is growing, especially in Asia and Africa. Fundamentally, there is a shortage of sufficient high-caliber hotel general managers. Students can get an excellent grounding in a New Zealand hotel, and then leverage this experience to secure employment almost anywhere around the world if you are sufficiently tenacious and determined to get your foot in the door. As a lawyer, I always wanted to live in Hong Kong. Eventually, I simply quit my job in New Zealand and turned up in Hong Kong determined to meet as many lawyers as I could to find opportunities. The world has too many lawyers and not enough hoteliers, so the prospect of finding exciting overseas opportunities are good for all of you.

If I decide to join the hospitality and tourism industry, what will my pay look like?

Initially, not great. But that’s as it should be. Imagine a professional footballer signing up for his or her first contract with a new club. Training and development in school and university is simply the “entry price” to be in the game. Graduates are really useful to any employer once they demonstrate they can perform in a real-world environment, not just in undergraduate studies. Once you are employed, it’s over to you to demonstrate value quickly and grow your earnings as you expand your abilities. There are many pathways as a tourism and hospitality professional, some of which result in extraordinary financial rewards. Pay is definitely important and I’m not advising you to ignore it. However, I am advising that you focus for the first year or so of your working career on understanding the “real world” aspects of a tourism career and making yourself the best hotel professional you can be. Once you have track record and proven ability to add value, that’s the time to start thinking about different career pathways and the remuneration that goes with each

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