Migrants in Austria who have refugee backgrounds often face significant challenges to entering the job market. Such difficulties range from discrimination by employers to the standard hurdles of moving abroad, such as mastering a different language quickly.
The Magdas Hotel aims to address such gaps by training recently arrived refugees who have a background or interest working in hospitality.
“For most of them, it’s the first time they get the opportunity to work [in Austria],” hotel manager Martina Healy said. “The hotel business in Austria always needs employees and is looking for trained people, so this is a market where they really have a chance to find a job.”
The length of time each employee has to train varies. “They stay with us until they are, from our point of view, professionals and then we encourage them to move on and find work in another hotel – or they stay with us and become trainers for new groups here,” Healy explained.
The hotel opened as a social business — one that reinvests profit into projects for social good, as described by the charity Caritas, which organized the project.
Working in the kitchen, bar, housekeeping and reception, staffers from 16 countries speak over 20 languages, a skill Magdas Hotel management calls a major benefit for those working in the tourism industry.
After recent parliamentary elections, Austria is set to be ruled by a conservative coalition under Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. The 31-year-old ran on a platform of curbing immigration and cutting social benefits to migrants, among other elements.
In such a climate, projects like Magdas strive to combat misconceptions of people coming to Austria from the Middle East or Africa.
“Sometimes many companies hesitate to hire refugees,” hotel manager Healy said. “I think Magdas Hotel [is an] example to other companies and to other hotels.”