Q&A: Norwegian Cruise Line CEO on Navigating a Successful Career in Hospitality
Norwegian Cruise Line President and CEO Andy Stuart recently sat down with Hcareers to break down his own career path and explain what it takes for any dedicated hospitality professional to become a leader in the workplace and make it to the pinnacle of the hospitality industry.
Q: What discipline was your bachelor's degree in? At what point and why did you become interested in the hospitality world?
I’ve always been an avid traveler and knew I wanted to be in the service industry so hospitality was a natural fit. As such, I have a degree in Hospitality from Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom.
Q: You joined Norwegian in 1988. How did you land the position in Sales?
Networking – that’s how I landed the Sales role. I made a very organic connection and a year later, I got a call asking if I was interested. I was!
Q: For those interested in a management or leadership career path in hospitality, what type of skills/education/resources do you find to be most valuable and in-demand today?
Seize every opportunity. Be a nice person. Always keep learning and have a passion for your work. That’s my advice because I believe that’s 80 percent of the battle. Also, get as much of an education as possible; higher education is more important today than ever before. Finally, don’t be afraid to hire people that are smarter than you. If you hire mediocre people, you’ll never maximize your or your team’s potential.
I have been very fortunate to work for great leaders and to learn from smart, strategic mentors. They helped me grow not only as a professional but also personally, helping me focus on family and fitness, and helping me establish a healthy balance.
Q: How important has your sales/marketing and passenger services experience been to your rise and success?
It was incredibly helpful because I really got to learn the business from so many aspects, and I learned what it takes to be successful. I was not (am not) an expert in Passenger Services, for instance. However, I did have a passion for the outcome. I had a vision, built a good team and was able to accomplish what I set out to do. That experience provided me with a framework that I’ve been able to leverage throughout my career.
Q: Any hard lessons you've earned throughout your tenure that have impacted your team-building/management/leadership style and rise to becoming CEO?
Absolutely. There are always lessons. The greatest learning I had was to simply listen. I can’t over-emphasize this enough. You may have great ideas but your team does too, and often they know better what it takes to realize them. Really listen to your team of experts. They know what they’re doing.
Q: For those who aspire to management/executive management roles in hospitality, what are the key traits, strengths you seek in future managers/leaders?
It’s important to ask questions and have the confidence to share your point of view. Also, hire good people and make sure they treat others well. Some people manage up well but fail in other respects. We’re in the people business. It’s important that we recognize that it is people who make the difference.
Q: You have a family life outside of Norwegian. What are some of your daily work habits/principles that contribute to your work/life balance success?
What family life? Kidding! As I mentioned earlier, I had terrific mentors who helped me find the balance and encouraged me to always find time for the people and things that I am the most passionate about. I make family a priority and encourage my team to do the same. We live in a 24-hour world, but we need to know when to put the phone down and the computer away.
Q: What skills and competencies will continue to be in high demand among hospitality/customer service workers in the years ahead? What trends/factors are driving such hiring needs?
Personality isn’t something you can fake. Hire people for who they are. You can teach them the skills they need to be successful but you can’t teach a genuine smile and a hospitable demeanor. A business in this industry needs to create a culture of warmth, welcome and inclusivity. The people we hire should reflect this.
Q: How are new technologies and globalization impacting the hospitality workforce? What can hospitality workers do to stay current, fluent and competitive?
New technologies are helping to create more seamless and personal experiences. We are now able to deliver bespoke experiences to a larger audience. We just need to ensure that the technology we employ is meaningful and positive, and we should remember we’re not working a production line. We should focus on providing incredible service and helping our guests make memories that will last a lifetime.
Q: What are the unique benefits/rewards of serving in the cruise/hospitality industry? Why would you encourage people to consider careers in the field?
The Cruise industry is booming. There is consistent growth and expansion which means more opportunity. And beyond that, this industry is special. The people are different – they are warm, smart and innovative – and those of us who are privileged to work in this business have the opportunity to meet incredible people from across the globe.
Q: How do you keep your sales and marketing efforts and teams on the cutting edge of consumer tastes, travel trends?
We focus on innovation – on breaking the boundaries of traditional cruising. It’s our culture, which we live and breathe every day. The industry has evolved in the last 30 years. It used to be that the focus was on the destination – that was the experience - and the ship was just a means of transportation. Today, the ship is a destination in its own right. Our teams focus on the entire experience and work to enhance every aspect. We look at what’s trending, not just in our industry but in others, to ensure we are providing the most relevant experiences. Our goal is to not only provide our guests with the same quality of dining, entertainment and amenities that can be found on land, but to exceed every measure.