Rocco Bova has travelled all over the world, seen many places, met many people and learned a lot during his time in the hospitality industry. Now he is seeing things clearly and focusing on important things rather than small things. He talked to us about the change in the way we travel, places with purpose and rather going with your own flow. Which means slow to him.
What’s on your mind these days?
I realized that I should stop focusing on small things but rather on important things. The most important thing that helped me move forward was not focusing on the things I couldn’t change. During the pandemic a lot of people became worried and pre-occupied with problems that were beyond their control. I started listening to webinars in my free time. A lot of webinars. However, it was a key fact that saved my job and the jobs of my team – nearly 250 people. Right now I am working on a personal project that was my wish for my 50th birthday – ‘My Humble House’. I wanted to create something remarkable that can make a change in the industry.
What was your biggest learning during times like these?
To never give up and stay positive. Instead of being negative, I tried to find solutions and help the company I work for and to help others as much as possible. Sometimes just by listening to them as well. I’ve met some incredible people during my lifetime because of this and in this sense of helping others I’ve also helped myself. It’s your responsibility to help yourself. If I can do it, I can do it too.
What is it that hoteliers need to do to help themselves? What advice would you give them?
They’ve been very fortunate during the pandemic in Europe because they have government assistance – tax payments, loans, and so on. In Mexico, the government did not provide much support to the private sector, instead it decided to reopen business as soon as possible so life could return to normal.
To my fellow colleagues I recommend staying focused and involve team members in order to find a solution that can benefit everyone. Many employees have great ideas and often understand their job better than a manager. It is necessary to find every possible way to keep the business open. Never give up on your dream.
Do you think that we or the industry need to re-define what success means?
We need to redefine what profit is. We need to scrap what profitability is for a business but what profitability can be for everyone in a business. My family was not rich but rich in their hearts, so I grew up with important values. However, in a business you think in losses and profit. Why do people who already have a good lifestyle feel the need to earn more instead of keeping their lifestyle and share the rest with others? In my last job I implemented a 10% service charge for my staff members, I only asked one condition, to ensure the service was always great and beyond guests’ expectations. During high season staff would make double of their salary. This made the business grow, and the team members earned more. This shows that if you treat your team members well, your profits will increase – the tiniest effort can often show the best results.
What inspired you to pursue a career in the hospitality industry?
My mother advised me to get a job when I was 13 years old. I only lasted three days because I broke a lot of glasses and couldn’t carry a tray properly. The owner paid me for three days and told me to leave and return once I learned how to hold a tray because I cost him more than he had to pay me. That day, I went home eager to return because I knew I could do it. The following summer, I returned to another location for one month, and the following year, I stayed for two months. Then a guy at work asked me what I wanted to do with my life one summer. And I replied that I wanted to travel around the world. He invited me to London, and I went with a friend with just a one-way ticket. And I never returned. I progressed from there, working for a hotel at a nightclub in Egypt, returning to London, and then starting my first job in Dubai. Then to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, India, Oman, Mauritius, Dominican Republic and finally I reached Mexico where I currently am.
That sounds very hectic. How did you slow down – personally and professionally?
If you don’t go with your own flow, you may do something you are not ready for. Of course, you learn from mistakes, but maturity does not come from mistakes only, it comes from daily learning. Today when I talk, people listen to me because I know what I’m talking about.
Let’s talk about some trends in the hospitality industry. What are we going to face?
I always say that I don’t carry a crystal ball. What I hope is going to change is the way we travel. A lot of people are talking about how they have been in 120 countries, but they do not know anything about this country. One thing we need to realize is that we need to travel in order to learn and discover, not just because we want to check it off our list. Sometimes just by ourselves too. I also don’t understand why we need to build huge hotels with 3000 rooms. This are the few things I wish to change in the future and that people become travelers and not just tourists that take away only pictures as souvenirs. Last but not least, changing the business model. I hope that the new generations are going to change their mindset around the business model. To not be greedy and keep earning more but to become better and generate a circular economy.
You mentioned solo travelling. In the last few years people are travelling alone to meet new people. Has the industry adapted to solo travelers?
The market is a lot more specific when it comes to solo travelling. I’ve also noticed a lot more female than male solo travelers. Hotels need to be more aware of the needs of a woman. Create a sense of security and a 24/7 point of contact, provide them with a room that is not too secluded. Hoteliers need to make them feel welcome and secure and they are doing a good job at that already, but also provide specifically designed experiences.
Another shift in travel styles went from quick trips to purposeful travelling?
Yes, and wellness travel is another trend. Transformational trips. Have you heard about the Modern Elders Academy? It’s a school dedicated to helping you navigate midlife and beyond. Through transformations you find a new view on life. Another change in travels is working from somewhere else. Working away from home, so to say. Some hotels are already turning their facilities into a work environment to accommodate to working tourists.
We have talked a lot about travelling. So, what trips do you have planned?
I’m going back home to Italy to see my family. This time for a bit longer as I haven’t had a real vacation in three years. And then I want to do a trip in Mexico every month to really get to know the country – following my own advice and travelling purposefully.
About Rocco Bova
Rocco Bova, originally from Italy but a global citizen for over 25 years. A hospitality industry enthusiast, who has worked in 11 countries since 1995 – beginning in Europe, then moving to the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and finally Mexico more than 5 years ago, where he currently resides and works on his project ‘My Humble House’.
Photo Credits: Nathalie Afonso Inacio / Unsplash