Hospitality Industry Certification
by Kirby D. Payne, CHA , January, 1999 

Kirby D. Payne, CHA is President of Minneapolis based American Hospitality Management Company, a growing hotel investment, management and consulting firm. Payne is also Secretary of the American Hotel & Motel Association, and Chair of the A. H. & M. A.'s International Council of Hotel-Hotel Management Companies. Additional articles can be found on the internet at http://www.American-Hospitality.com


Several years ago I received my draft notice to serve a three year term on the Certification Commission of the American Hotel & Motel Association's (A. H. & M. A.) Educational Institute (EI). I was very flattered. I still am, as this group assists the paid professional staff by providing oversight and industry and academic insight for the hospitality industry's certification programs. 

While there are a number of certifications available the best known and most prestigious, until I became one, is the Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) certification. Other certifications include: 

  • CFBE, Certified Food and Beverage Executive 
  • CHHE, Certified Hospitality Housekeeping Executive 
  • CHRE, Certified Human Resources Executive 
  • CEOE, Certified Engineering Operations Executive 
  • CRDE, Certified Rooms Division Executive 
  • CHSP, Certified Hospitality Sales Professional 
  • CHS, Certified Hospitality Supervisor 
  • CHE, Certified Hospitality Educator. The newest certification is the 
  • CLM,Certified Lodging Manager. Think of it as CHA Light, as it only has limited reference to food and beverage. It is designed for limited feature (service) hotel General Managers.
  • The Educational Institute also offers the Master Hotel Supplier (MHS) recognition program for suppliers of products and services to the lodging industry.
Growth Demands Quality 

Today's technological advances and global economy have fueled rapid changes and unprecedented growth in the hospitality industry. More than ever, strong competent leaders are needed to guide hotel and motel operations toward higher standards of service and profitability. 

Hospitality and allied industry executives who demonstrate an exceptionally high level of expertise, competence, and experience qualify for professional certification and recognition from the EI, which is acknowledged worldwide as the highest industry honor of professional achievement. EI's certification and recognition programs elevate the professionalism and image of both the individual recipient and the industry as a whole. 

Over 15,000 people worldwide have become certified through these programs. Each EI professional certification program requires that applicants be currently employed in a qualifying industry position. Educators with industry experience who are currently teaching hospitality courses may also apply. 

Certification Gives an Edge 

In a white paper titled Certification: Networking With the Best, George R. Conrade, CHA former Executive Vice President of EI, wrote, "Certification is an excellent way to gain a competitive edge and give proof of your abilities, knowledge, and level of skill. To be certified in any profession, whether it's as a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) or as a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), means you have joined a network of individuals who meet consistent, knowledge-based standards of ability, position, experience-even ethics. When you pursue certification, you're testing yourself against these standards of proficiency." 

Certification has created the framework for each hospitality professional by defining exactly what it takes to be successful in that particular department or as a General Manager. Not all educational programs and experience foundations are the same. Certification creates a level playing field and a new starting point for ongoing professional and leadership growth. 

Maintaining Certification 

Newly certified professionals are automatically enrolled in re-certification or maintenance programs that recognize and reward an individual's continuing efforts to grow his or her hospitality career. The CHA maintenance process features a systematic program of professional development opportunities with flexible, built-in options. The process is structured to make staying up-to-date convenient, enjoyable, and rewarding. 

Based on a 60-point system, it includes professional work experience, continuing education activities, industry-related professional involvement, and an optional category of educational service. These activities may be completed at any time during each five-year maintenance period. If maintenance requirements are not completed, the designation will expire. The EI's professional certification programs are fast becoming a requirement for practice in the hospitality industry. 

Certification Becoming a Regular Requirement 

Many hotel companies are already moving in this direction. Holiday Inns Worldwide is mandating that all General Managers must be CHAs within 12 months of being GM. Sunburst Hotels also requires it of its General Managers. Richfield Hospitality Services is moving in that direction. Our company, American Hospitality Management Company, is also requiring supervisors of all types to become certified, in addition to working with existing General Managers to get them certified as soon as practical. 

Canadian Pacific Hotels has over 600 supervisors who have become certified, and over 80% of the supervision and management staff of the famous Opryland Hotel have a professional certification behind their name. U.S. Franchise Systems, Inc. (Microtel, etc.) is considering the mid-level Certified Hospitality Supervisor CHS as a beginning standard. 

Clearly with these companies and many others, certification is becoming a requirement for practice. Maintaining and enhancing the industry's professional certification programs have one central purpose according to Karen Giles, the Vice President at EI responsible for certification programs, "To increase the value of certification so that in turn, certification raises the professionalism of the entire hospitality industry and everyone who works within it. Certification and the standards of competency it brings will help the hospitality industry become recognized as the profession it is. By defining a body of knowledge necessary for each hospitality position, certification gives everyone, from housekeepers to general managers, concrete goals to strive for and a way to benchmark their personal successes." 

If one is serious about the hospitality industry and committed to a career in it, certification is a must and I encourage its pursuit. 

You should also consider assessing line employees' skills and knowledge -- and reward top performers with the professional recognition they deserve by using Hospitality Skill Certification for Restaurant Servers, Front Desk Agents, and Room Attendants. The industry's all-new Hospitality Skill Certification programs for front desk employees, room attendants, and food and beverage servers bring the professional clout of A. H. & M. A.'s certification programs to the people who are on the front line with guests. 

Benefits include:

Reduced turnover - By highlighting strengths, Skill Certification builds loyalty, encouraging staff to stay with a property and excel. 

Measurable improvements in guest service - By building confidence, Skill Certification helps employees deliver quality service. 

More knowledgeable, competent employees - As the culmination of job-specific training, Skill Certification demonstrates that employees know their jobs inside and out. Employees will benefit from increased job satisfaction and a greater awareness of their career potential as their jobs become opportunities to learn and grow. They will take pride in their accomplishments and display commitment to improved performance as they wear their new lapel pins -- and are recognized around the world as having attained the industry's symbol of professional excellence. 

Anything we do collectively to improve a person's skills and pride in their work and our industry will go a long way towards employee retention. Even if, in the long run, we don't retain that person at our own hotels but do motivate them to stay in our industry we are all winners. The A. H. & M. A.'s Educational Institute is a tool for all of us when it comes to growing our employees and retaining them.

Also See: EI Introduces Accredited Certification Instructor Program / May 1998 
EI Revises CHE Program, Offers Certification to High School Educators / April 1998 
Hospitality Industry training tools available from EI 
For additional information, contact: 
Kirby D. Payne at the firm 
American Hospitality Management Company
1500 South Highway 100, #375
Minneapolis, MN 55416 
Phone: 763-591-7640 Fax: 763-591-1593 
email: kpayne@american-hospitality.com

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