Bermudian gets experience at four star London hotel
One of Bermuda's bright hospitality stars is currently gaining valuable experience at a four-star hotel in London.
Michael Skinner, 27, the reservation and events manager at the posh Cavendish Hotel in London's fashion district, will receive a diploma from the prestigious Master Innholders group next week after eight months of coursework.
For the past five years Mr Skinner has worked at the 230-room deluxe hotel located on the fashionable Jermyn Street, St James's in the centre of Piccadilly & Mayfair.
He has held various roles from manning the reservation desk to group sales to the night manager and the duty manager, which oversees the front office.
He is now the hotel's reservation manager. Mr Skinner has seen the rush of guests and in the middle of the excitement during the London Olympics, the royal wedding and the Queen's Jubilee.
“There's been a lot of events since I've been here,” he said.
Mr Skinner caught the hospitality bug early when he worked at Elbow Beach as a tennis instructor during the summer months.
“I really liked dealing with different people every day,” he said. “I thought hospitality would work for me.”
The turning point, he said, was when a friend's father, who co-owned a boutique hotel in Bermuda, had a chat with him about what he was going to do with the rest of his life.
“Hospitality has always interested me but it was from that chat I realised I should come over to London to study and focus on a career,” said Mr Skinner.
He applied to the London Hotel School (LHS) and jumped on a plane to England. LHS is the UK's largest college specialising in international hospitality management and offers Higher National Diploma, Degree and Postgraduate Diploma level.
“I did a two-year course, and the first year was all course work. Every month you studied a different subjects dealing with hospitality ranging from finance to food and beverage,” he explained. “The second year was a paid internship at a hotel.”
His internship was with the four-star Cavendish Hotel and after receiving his Higher National Diploma, Mr Skinner stayed on with the hotel and has been there ever since.
Early last year, Mr Skinner was selected by the Master Innholders, an organisation of prominent hoteliers that promotes best practices in the industry, to apply for a spot on a course to achieve the Institute of Hospitality Level 3 Diploma in Hospitality and Tourism Management.
He was accepted and started the programme in April.
“We studied several topics including sales, marketing and finance, but focused on leadership,” he said. “The Master Innholders came together and noticed there needs to be more leadership within the hospitality industry in the UK so the ambition with this programme was to develop those skills in us.”
After eight months of studying, coursework, exams as well as visiting other properties, Mr Skinner will receive his diploma next week by the Institute of Hospitality in the UK.
His ultimate goal, however, is to return home.
“Ever since I moved over here, the goal has been to come back to Bermuda to run a hotel,” he said, adding that he has a sister working in Yorkshire, with the rest of his family living here on the Island.
Since Mr Skinner has been in London, however, the recession has hit Bermuda. The prospects of new hotels opening and thus new management opportunities have faded somewhat for the time being. So in the interim, Mr Skinner will continue to stay in London gaining further experience.
His current employer, he says, has provided plenty of opportunities for career advancement.
“Cavendish focuses on a lot of professional development,” he said. “They've invested a lot of time and energy in me, so I'm not quite ready to move back just yet but definitely in a couple of years.”
Regardless, Mr Skinner is bullish on Bermuda's future tourism prospects.
“Absolutely there is a future for tourism in Bermuda,” he explained. “We've got competition in the Caribbean and other destinations but I think there is a market out there for Bermuda and there are opportunities. We just have to work at it.”
His advice for young professionals thinking of getting into the hospitality industry?
“I would recommend, if they can, getting some experience off the Island — learn about new places and new cultures,” he said. “With the hospitality industry you have opportunities everywhere so I would try something new for a little while. Many hotels invest a lot in their people so there are great opportunities.”