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Hospitality without borders. How Ukrainian hoteliers and restaurateurs help displaced people

Hospitality without borders. How Ukrainian hoteliers and restaurateurs help displaced people

Since the beginning of full-scale military operations, Ukrainian business has accumulated all the experience and resources to help our citizens abroad. About five million people received temporary protection in European countries. This colossal population needed a place to live and a means of subsistence. Using established and new contacts in Europe, domestic hoteliers and restaurateurs undertook to help Ukrainians.
Text: Tatiana Majevska

Shelter for Ukrainians
In the first days of the full-scale war, in February of last year, the Ukrainian Hotel & Resort Association (UHRA) received more than a dozen messages from the heads of hotel associations in France, Germany, Poland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Latvia, etc., who asked why they can help. "Of course, at that time, the most important thing was to quickly solve the issue of accommodation and shelter for our citizens in Europe," recalls Iryna Sidletska, CEO of Vertex Hotel Group, president of the Ukrainian Association of Hotels and Resorts. And foreign colleagues responded. During the first weeks, work was carried out with appeals: the Ukrainian association received requests from colleagues in the hotel sector who needed help abroad, and at the level of industry organizations of border countries, namely Poland, Romania, Hungary, as well as organizations in the Baltic States, resolved the issue of accommodation. "At that time, everything was done by the point method: we found and helped with the settlement. It was a very short-term period - like "putting out a fire", - says Iryna Sidletska. Therefore, in such conditions, the main task of the association became the development of a system plan and mechanisms for transmitting information to our citizens about the possibilities of accommodation in hotels abroad. Subsequently, the issue was resolved at the highest level: the UHRA helped at the level of state governments to create a common policy for the resettlement of Ukrainians.

Further, UHRA's cooperation with European colleagues was transformed depending on the urgency of needs in one or another period of 2022. However, as Iryna Sidletska notes, the fact that the Ukrainian Association of Hotels and Resorts is a member of the HOTREC international association, which unites 46 public organizations in the restaurant and hotel business from 35 countries, became an important basis for effective communication and cooperation with the European side . This allowed our country to receive real support from specialized foreign unions in the spring of 2022. "The joining of UHRA to HOTREC, which took place in 2021, has become really the biggest and most valuable lever today, it has given us the opportunity to communicate on an equal footing with other hotel associations. Verification and formalization are very important for the European market. Membership in HOTREC gave us this, and therefore added confidence to the activities of UHRA on the part of European colleagues," said Iryna Sidletska.

а Ірина Сідлецька.

Photos courtesy of the Ukrainian Association of Hotels and Resorts
The Ukrainian Association of Hotels and Resorts helped Ukrainian immigrants with resettlement, and later with job search. Together with colleagues from Poland, the association started the direction of humanitarian aid. With her participation, courses and programs of professional development for specialists in the hotel industry have already been developed or are being prepared.

Humanitarian help

Cooperating with European associations, UHRA established fruitful communication with colleagues from Poland, which contributed to the initiation of a new direction of operators' cooperation - the provision of humanitarian aid. It consists in the fact that, with her coordination, Polish hotels, which are in the process of reconstruction or simply renewing decor elements, began to redirect used furniture, textiles, equipment, electrical equipment, etc. to Ukraine. Here, all this is used to arrange various kinds of departmental facilities, such as, for example, dormitories, sanatorium-resort complexes, etc., for the residence of internally displaced persons or even military personnel. For example, only during the last two months of 2022, UHRA together with the Polish Hotel Holding (Polski Holding Hotelowy) sent about 16 trucks with various stores - beds, mattresses, kitchen furniture, washing machines, TVs, etc. Dormitories and several sanatoriums in the Lviv region were equipped with them.

According to Iryna Sidletska, cooperation with the Polish side turned out to be very successful and continues to this day: "I think this line of work will be one of the key areas for us in the first half of 2023." According to her, UHRA is currently negotiating and calling on other European associations to introduce similar practices. This would significantly expand the geography of assistance to other regions of Ukraine and speed up the process of equipping and furnishing premises on a humanitarian basis.
Photos courtesy of Andrii Magaletskyi

The main goal of Horeca.Angels is to help Ukrainians find work in their specialty abroad. The project also performs a cultural function - it organizes charity gastronomic evenings to popularize Ukrainian cuisine and collect funds to help displaced people or military personnel

Employment of Ukrainians
After the lion's share of migrants from Ukraine found a place of refuge, another issue became urgent - finding means of livelihood in Europe and providing for children.

Spring-summer is a traditional seasonal period when the resort hotel and restaurant business is busy. And last year, in the 2022 season, the so-called post-Covid period, when strict quarantine restrictions were lifted, further contributed to the increase in demand. Accordingly, the need for additional staff increased in the hotels, they were actively looking for employees with work experience. UHRA also joined this process. In particular, the association organized a series of events at which its representatives told HR managers in detail how to help employees who have moved outside of Ukraine to find work in hotels of Croatian, Romanian, Polish and other operators. A Telegram channel was also established through which UHRA helped connect our citizens who were looking for work with European hotels that were hiring experienced workers. "Our main principle has become providing recommendations specifically for verified places. The reputation of the employer was extremely important. After all, desperate people left their homes, country, and workplaces and in desperation were ready to take on any kind of work. We took on the mission of protecting them from possible problems with unscrupulous employers," says Iryna Sidletska. In addition, the HOSCO platform became another platform for obtaining operational information about actual vacancies from real institutions. This is a kind of social network that unites specialists in the hotel business. "On the basis of this platform, UHRA and European hotel associations held joint online events. Our colleagues encouraged their members to post vacancies on the HOSCO platform. And we encouraged Ukrainian operators to use HOSCO to search for useful information," says Iryna Sidletska. According to her, it gave a tangible result. In particular, about 1,000 Ukrainians registered on HOSTCO in just two months.

The Horeca.Angels project also helps with finding a job abroad. The idea of its creation came last year in mid-March from Andrii Magaletskyi, managing partner of the Restetika restaurant company, president of the Ukrainian Culinary Association, who has been volunteering since the first days of the full-scale invasion. "I thought that it would be good to help the huge number of Ukrainians who left, especially the women who worked as maids, housekeepers, waitresses, administrators, receptionists in hotels and restaurants, to get a job in a specialty abroad and thus support their families. ", he recalls.

Andriy Magaletskyi shared his idea with his colleagues, including Artur Lupashko, founder of the Ribas Hotels Group hotel company, and Tetyana Goncharenko, a hotelier and founder of the BeeSMART marketing agency. Business partners appreciated the idea and decided to implement it. At the initial stage, a core of about 20 people was formed, which included top managers of hotel and restaurant chains. On March 24, 2022, work began on the project, which was initially called HoReCa Jobs in UA, and later became Horeca.Angels.

In general, the project has several goals. In particular, information: creating useful content about the necessary documents for registration in one or another European country, about internship programs in the field of HoReCa, language courses, etc. Horeca.Angels also performs a cultural function - it organizes charitable gastronomic evenings to popularize Ukrainian cuisine abroad and collect funds to help displaced people or the military, as well as to support the project itself. In total, three gastro dinners have already been held: in Germany (Nuremberg), Austria (Vienna) and Poland (Opole). The last one took place in January 2023. During the event, almost 3,000 euros were collected, a generator and products in the form of humanitarian aid were received. As noted by Andrii Magaletskyi, the funds will be used for the purchase of generators and/or solar panels for military personnel and their families. Currently, Horeca.Angels has approved the fourth location for holding gastro dinners in Germany in the city of Fulda, and negotiations are underway to organize such events in Italy.

However, the main goal of Horeca.Angels is to help Ukrainians find work in their specialty abroad and in this way provide an opportunity to support their families, provide support to women, and distract from thoughts about the horrors of war. After all, fleeing the country was a severe psychological blow for Ukrainian women who, leaving home, had to save their children. By helping with employment, Horeca.Angels stimulates our citizens to gain new experience in European hotel and restaurant chains, which they can apply in our market after returning home, and also performs an image, representative function. "We wanted to demonstrate that Ukrainians are not emigrants who only want to receive budget funds for maintenance from the recipient states," says Andriy Magaletskyi. - Ukrainians are not refugees who have no desire to learn the language, do not accept local moral and cultural norms, and are alien to European values. On the contrary, it is a full-fledged part of European society, a hardworking nation that strives to provide for itself and make its own contribution to the formation of the GDP of this region."

Assistance with employment has several components and stages: finding a job, primarily in the facilities of global networks; establishing contact with HR managers, general managers, executive directors, etc. to check vacancies and reliability of the employer. After updating, the information is published on social networks: groups for Ukrainians on Instagram, Facebook, Telegram. If necessary, Horeca.Angels established communication between the job applicant and the employer.

In general, as a result of the efforts of Horeca.Angels, more than 3,000 vacancies for Ukrainians have already been found. The project helped our compatriots find employment in 23 countries in Europe and even Asia (Qatar, UAE). Work was established with such well-known international hoteliers and restaurateurs as Hilton, Marriott International, Radisson Hotel Group, Burger King, Subway and others. Horeca.Angels also found outlets for national restaurant and hotel chains in Germany, Lithuania, etc. The project received constant favorable reviews from employed Ukrainians in Poland, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Lithuania and many other countries.
Not only specialized associations or associations were looking for opportunities to help with the job search, but also Ukrainian hotels themselves. For example, the Lviv hotel "Switzerland" together with the HoReCa School introduced a project that combines study and employment abroad, giving the opportunity to officially live in Austria during the war.

"Since the team of the Swiss boutique hotel is small, we did not have a significant outflow of personnel with the beginning of the war. Of course, some employees were forced to go abroad with their families. We wanted to find a decent place for them to temporarily live and work," recalls Mykhailo Shevelyuk, marketing manager of the Shveitsarsky Hotel, head of the Horeca School Hospitality Service School.

It was at this time that the Hospitality Service School Horeca School, together with Austrian colleagues, organized a project for free training, after the completion of which Ukrainians receive a European-style certificate and, based on the results of the interview, get a job in the hotels of Western Austria in three areas: cook, waiter, maid. Workers are provided with housing and food for a period of three months (with the possibility of extension) in the complexes where they are registered. For Ukrainians who left their homes because of the war, and for those who were left without work because of hostilities, this is a good opportunity to get official employment in Austria. In total, during the project in 2022, more than 200 people of various ages and primary professional direction were accommodated - the Horeca School noted.
Photos courtesy of HoReCa School

The Lviv Hotel "Schweitsarsky" together with the HoReCa School have introduced a project that combines education and employment of Ukrainians abroad

Education for Ukrainians
So training is another direction of help from domestic hoteliers. However, not only those who were forced to leave the country can gain new knowledge. Iryna Sydletska believes that it is important to also focus on training events for hoteliers who have stayed in Ukraine and want to continue developing. For example, with the participation of UHRA, free courses and professional development programs for hotel general managers and top management specialists from Cornell University (USA) have already been developed and implemented. An online training course for Ukrainian hoteliers from the Lausanne School (Switzerland) is being prepared.

In addition, UHRA is negotiating with the international organization Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals, which unites financial professionals, including in the hotel business. One of the areas of work of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals is the development of uniform accounting standards. According to Iryna Sydletska, it is important to get an opportunity for free training for financial departments of Ukrainian hotels according to international standards in this field. "We are convinced that after the victory, foreign networks will be very interested in entering our market. Operators will willingly provide their brands to the owners of hotel complexes in Ukraine that will be rebuilt. And, of course, those Ukrainians who will be offered work in these facilities must know international accounting standards. Therefore, we are currently negotiating to open an opportunity for training while there is time," she said.