The changing face of hospitality education

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With the pandemic impacting the way businesses operate, the hospitality industry too has to accordingly adapt and innovate to stay ahead

Irfan Mirza

The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the global business community. In the past year the pandemic has changed the way business is done the world over. The same is the case with the hospitality industry and hospitality education.

Let’s be honest. The road ahead has its fair share of challenges. But there are opportunities too. Because every cloud has a silver lining.

Businesses who manage to adapt to the changing landscape, strategize, innovate and rise above the challenges will stand a better chance to sustain themselves.

And that’s why it’s all the more important to up-skill and upgrade our education curriculum to ensure that the managers and leaders of the future of this vibrant hospitality industry are equipped with the skill sets required to lead the global industry into a new tomorrow.

How can a hospitality business integrate technology into its operations? How can we formulate better hygiene and sanitation processes? How can we keep health checks on our employees? How can we use qualitative and quantitative metrics to predict trends and patterns which will impact business? Being able to innovate and respond to these questions is critical for hospitality trainers and faculty.

The new normal for the industry of the future will include vaccine passports, contactless check-ins at airports and hotels, virtual menus, high levels of sanitation and hygiene and most importantly transparency in communication to travellers.

Technology will be the cornerstone to the new processes which will define a new-normal for the industry. As academicians and trainers who impart knowledge to students of hospitality it is critical that we are able to introduce modules that tackle these issues and encourage curiosity and innovation.

Hyper-personalisation is a hospitality sub-trend that allows hotels to tweak and customise services based on data collected from each guest via their smart rooms. It can work together with property management systems to prompt guests for services such as late check-outs, in-house activities for the day, and tour reservations.

Chatbots have already made their presence felt in the industry as they personalise experiences for guests while also collecting and analysing data to help hotels make better business decisions. Chatbots backed by artificial intelligence offer quick response time, a necessity in the industry given the competition and customer expectation.

The world is moving towards augmented and virtual reality and is already being experimented with, as hotels consider showcasing their rooms and amenities through virtual tours. Airbnb is dipping its fingers in to allow users to explore properties before they arrive (VR) and access useful information from hosts by simply scanning the property with a smartphone (AR).

Near-field communication and Bluetooth has already caught on with big hospitality brands and the cruise industry. Guests can unlock their rooms, pay for food and drink, and purchase add-ons, completely contact-free and without staff intervention.

Customer expectation is changing rapidly and hotels must adapt digitally to stay astride or become redundant. The travel, tourism and hospitality industry is looking at the bottom line more closely. Companies therefore need a multitasking, skilled, motivated and technologically savvy workforce who can match up to the needs of the changing industry. The industry will need teams which are leaner and better equipped to manage the tasks at hand.

As hospitality industry trainers and educationists, we are responsible to ensure that these needs are met. And that the industry workforce is equipped to identify opportunities and find solutions to challenges when they are faced with it.

In a world with an ever shifting new- normal where the global economy has been impacted, we need to be prepared to emerge as leaders of the future.

(Writer is the director/principal of V M Salgaocar Institute of International Hospitality Education (VMSIIHE). The institute offers a BSc and MSc programme in hospitality.)