Skål mentorship scheme gives IFT students access to senior executives of tourism sector

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A new mentorship programme for young people either studying or working in the travel and tourism sector was officially launched in March. It provides participants with opportunities to gain insights and knowledge from veteran industry leaders and executives.

The programme was set up by Young Skål Macau, an affiliate of Skål International Macau, the latter a group bringing together local travel and tourism leaders.

A total of 8 Skål International Macau members is acting as mentors for the inaugural edition of the programme, running until January next year. The programme is divided into 2 stages, and a total of 12 Young Skål Macau members has been selected to take part in the scheme, including 10 IFT students.

Skål International is a global platform bringing together travel and tourism professionals. It was established in Paris, France in 1932, and the Macao division was inaugurated in 1979. Skål International has today approximately 17,000 members spread across 400 clubs throughout more than 80 countries.

The current chair role for Skål International Macau’s general assembly is held by Ms. Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, Director of the Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO). The board of directors is headed by Mr. João Manuel Costa Antunes, the former Director of MGTO.

In a bid to nurture talent for the tourism sector, Skål groups across the globe have since 1999 began setting up Young Skål chapters. Young Skål Macau was inaugurated last year.

“The reason [for the establishment of Young Skål Macau] is to support future leaders in tourism, creating opportunities for senior executives to share experiences with them,” says Mr. Costa Antunes. This is where the Young Skål International Macau Mentorship Programme comes into play.

“When you start working after graduation, it’s difficult to have somebody to be with you and guide you through,” Mr. Costa Antunes explains. “Via this programme, we the mentors can provide students and young professionals with support: they have the opportunity to ask us questions about their work,” thus helping to enhance their career prospects, he says.

Mr. Costa Antunes advises young professionals in tourism to experience different areas of the industry in the early stages of their career, better to understand in which fields they can thrive. Also, he says, such professionals should work to expand their contact network.

Direct access

The Young Skål International Macau Mentorship Programme offers access to mentors from several professional fields, namely entertainment, marketing and public relations, management and business administration, and hospitality. Each young person participating can select 2 fields in which to be coached.

Ms. Wini Cheong, President of Young Skål Macau, says the current 8 programme mentors come respectively from government bodies such as MGTO, but also from IFT, local hotels and other companies and institutions.

“Each mentor will coach 1 to 2 mentees and they will meet face-to-face at least once a month while keeping in touch on a regular basis,” says Ms. Cheong, an IFT alumna. “Without this programme, it’s difficult for students and young professionals to have a chance to be in direct communication with top management executives.”

Having worked in hospitality for 7 years and now running an event and wedding planning company, Ms. Cheong stresses it is important for young professionals to experience different work areas at the start of their career. “The mentors can inform them about it,” she says.

Ms. Cheong says Young Skål Macau is now boosting promotion about its work and the mentorship programme, in order to increase the organisation’s membership and have more people joining the scheme.

Ms. Ada Chio de la Cruz is Vice-President of Destination Marketing and Brand Strategy at casino hotel Grand Lisboa. She is also one of the mentors on the Skål programme. “We hope that the mentees can find out what is most suitable for them in the tourism industry through this programme, saving them some years of looking around for the answers, as we had to do,” she explains.

Ms. Chio de la Cruz says the mentoring is to help participants gain greater self-knowledge, and therefore assist them in making the right career decisions. “We are not here to teach them anything,” she points out.

Participant Alex Wu hopes the mentorship scheme can allow him to know more about different roles within event planning. “It is a golden opportunity for me, to find out what the hospitality sector is really like,” says Alex, an IFT student of Tourism Event Management.

Alex hopes being a participant in the Young Skål International Macau Mentorship Programme can help him succeed in his 6-month curricular internship – part of his IFT study programme. “Should I encounter any problem during the internship, I can ask the mentors for advice.”