Hyatt Hotels & Resorts Area Vice President – Pacific, Robert Dawson.

What was your first job in the accommodation industry and how long were you in it?

My first full time role in hospitality was as a Page Boy on the Concierge desk of the Grand Hotel Krasnapolsky in Amsterdam. My duties were to run errands and connect guests with incoming phone calls and messages. This opportunity gave me a great insight into the workings of a true Concierge service both good and bad.

It is a good thing I moved on as the position has long since been made obsolete by the technology of the mobile phone.

Can you tell us a funny, embarrassing or memorable story involving you from the early part of your career?

In Johannesburg I had the immense privilege of greeting and escorting President Nelson Mandela through the hotel to a gala dinner in his honour.

Halfway across the lobby, en route to the welcome line of VIPs, he spotted one of our cleaners hiding behind a large column peering out to get a glimpse of him. Much to her surprise and embarrassment, he immediately veered off to speak to her. He asked her name, what she did in the hotel and if she liked her job. He then asked her if I was a good boss because if not, he would sort it out!

She replied “Yes, yes he is a good boss”. He then smiled at me and we went back to our original path to meet the UK and US Ambassadors. This was Mandela, a truly inspirational man I was honoured to meet.

What’s the best piece of advice you can give to young people assessing whether hospitality or tourism is right for them as a profession?

The industry is rapidly changing and career paths are evolving. I would recommend speaking with as many individuals within the industry as possible, preferably from a variety of age groups and ask about their experiences.

With the large variety of job opportunities available, it is also worth just jumping in to assess if it is the right fit for you.