Since being a hostess at Sea Pines Resort in Hilton Head, South Carolina, Astrid Barth has had a passion to serve and create meaningful experiences for the public.
“Seating people at tables wasn’t enough for me,” says the business administration major with a focus on hospitality and tourism. “I wanted interaction and connection with customers so I jumped on the opportunity to become a server. I loved it.”
Now a senior at the College of Charleston, Barth has spent the summer in Hawaii as a food and beverage operations intern at Montage Kapalua Bay thanks to guidance from hospitality and tourism management Professor Stephen Litvin and Erin O’Dea Halford, employer relations manager at the College’s Career Center.
The College Today caught up with Barth to find out more about her internship, what she’s been learning and how the experience will shape her future.
How did you get your internship at Montage Kapalua Bay?
Last summer I worked at Montage Palmetto Bluff in Bluffton, South Carolina, which is under the same ownership as Montage Kapalua Bay. I was in retail gaining experience at a Forbes five-star hotel. I had plans to continue working there, but Professor Litvin connected me with alumna Melany Johnson ’13, who worked at Montage Kapalua Bay. We discussed many aspects of the industry, which gave me helpful insight. While conversing, she informed me the resort was offering an internship – and I had to apply! I chose the food and beverage department because I wanted to interact with guests. It’s one of the hardest departments to work in. If you can make it in that department, you can work anywhere.
What are your responsibilities?
My job as a food and beverage operations intern has various responsibilities including working banquets and in-room dining. I started as a hostess, but I wanted to challenge myself. My manager was understanding and flexible. Now I am mostly working as a telephone service agent (TSA) responsible for incoming calls, taking guest orders, completing amenity traces and more for in-room dining. It takes lots of multi-tasking, but as long as you can be organized and professional, it’s extremely rewarding.
How has working in the hotel industry changed your perspective?
There are lots of details that go into every service offered within a hotel. I never realized how much happens for an in-room dining order such as scheduling times for dish pickups. You have to adjust if guests have a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door or don’t answer the phone. I also never thought about what working a banquet entails. I had to take inventory of dinner cloths used and be one of three servers putting out over 50 plates requiring coordination and communication. Not all my shifts have been easy, but with employees who are passionate about their work, it has made my job more fulfilling.
How have hotels bounced back from the pandemic?
It’s truly eye opening because hotels are short staffed in Maui. The tourism industry generates most of the revenue for Hawaii, but many employees are still receiving unemployment benefits and haven’t returned to work. This has had a domino effect because Hawaii is facing more travelers than ever before. It’s challenging to cater to the influx of tourists with minimal staff. People are desperate to travel and are willing to pay higher rates, which means higher expectations for hotels. It’s amazing to have the opportunity to work at a luxury hotel during a time as crucial as this.
How has CofC helped you in your internship?
My hospitality classes were great. Professor Litvin and Professor Brumby McLeod (chair of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management) sparked my interest in the hotel industry. They made me eager to learn about business from an administrative perspective. Erin O’Dea Halford taught me the importance of using LinkedIn for networking. She has assisted me with my résumé, mock interviews and professional writing. After every meeting with the Career Center, I walked out feeling more confident than when walking in.
What is your biggest take away from this internship?
Networking is important. It’s amazing how everything is connected. I wouldn’t be in Hawaii if I hadn’t worked at Montage Palmetto Bluff, and I wouldn’t have had that job without Erin O’Dea Halford. Without Professor Litvin, Melany Johnson and the Career Center, I wouldn’t be where I am now. By reaching out to staff from other departments, I gained an understanding of the hospitality industry. Embrace the connections that you are given and build off of them.
Katherine Jordan is a rising junior at the College of Charleston, double-majoring in English and music.