The future of the world of education for hospitality students and how businesses in the industry will thrive in the years to come has been a popular topic for professionals across the industry. The changes that the pandemic has introduced, alongside technological innovations, have created a world for travel and tourists that looks very different from the one we saw just a few years ago. Understanding how to educate today’s hospitality students, so that they are prepared and equipped to thrive as leaders in the sector tomorrow has become a pressing concern, and one of the subjects of our focus here at EHL.
Alexia Muteke-Ceppe, the Senior Consultant Head of Education Consulting and Certification, EMEA, LATAM at EHL Advisory Services, recently articulated her findings on the topic when she participated in a webinar with Hospitality Insights’ Katherine Doggrell. The meeting focused on discussing these issues and how they will impact the hospitality industry moving forward.
Future of hospitality education
The future of the hospitality industry, and therefore hospitality education, has been a growing question in the minds of professionals and investors. As the pandemic has swept around the globe, it has impacted nearly every industry, but hospitality has been hit particularly hard. Closed borders between countries - and sometimes within counties - as well as crowd restrictions, and stay-at-home orders have drastically limited the number of people in need of any type of hospitality service. This has led to many closing their doors and questions about the future of the industry.
However, at EHL, we have found indications that people still want to travel and consume. They are interested in exploring new places and having new experiences. The question lies in uncovering what these experiences will look like moving forward.
At EHL now, training programs have begun to focus on what the hospitality industry will look like in the future. We are focused on helping students who graduate ensure that they have the training that will allow them to adjust to the changing future of the industry. When they graduate, they will have the capacity to easily pivot and adapt to what customers want to see.
The new skills required in the hospitality industry
With the big questions surrounding the future of the hospitality industry, we have found that some of the most important skills of students to use are soft skills. Training people in areas such as emotional intelligence helps them improve the services they can offer customers. People want to be treated with emotional care. The experience of the traveler of the future might differ, but the care and consideration they expect from those they interact with will not.
Students also need to have creativity, agility, and the ability to pivot as needed to change circumstances. As industries, including the hospitality industry, navigate their path forward after the changes of the past year, they will need to have adaptable skills that allow them to learn and meet those needs.
Soft skills training also helps students transform their learning into a viable future career. In some parts of the world, hospitality is not viewed as a good career option, but these skills can also translate to other service-oriented industries, such as banking. Understanding how to prove customers and clients with outstanding service and to use soft skills to easily adapt to a wide range of roles can help people gain an advantage across a number of different industries.
Challenges facing the hospitality industry
As businesses look towards the future of the hospitality industry, they must consider the role of the quarantines and restrictions of movement between locations. This has led to the adoption of different types of technology, including the digital transformation of the classroom to help students continue to learn and engage with the material even if they cannot physically be in the classroom. Teachers have been using digitization, so they can make sure students continue to progress with the curriculum.
With the pandemic, there was no choice in the adoption of digitalization for EHL and other educational solutions. Fortunately, EHL had already been thinking about the potential of digital adoption prior to the shutdowns, which made the transition smoother. However, the rapid adoption and the impact around the world has presented a challenge for many educators and students.
EHL and schools need to make sure that teachers are well-trained in the digital platforms so that they can continue to deliver their message easily and clearly. This often means working with teachers directly before classes begin so that they understand how to use the different platforms to convey their lessons and create strong lesson plans that can be broadcast to students without interruption, even if there are more shutdowns or restrictions in the future. This training ensures that schools and training centers can continue to deliver their lessons easily and engage with their students despite the global changes.
The response to the digitalization of lessons has been overall going well. Among teachers, many have found the adoption relatively smooth and have acclimated to providing online lessons easily. Others have needed more instruction regarding the platforms and have found the process a bit more challenging.
The impact for students
Students understand the importance of the digitalization of lessons and the reasons why schools and training centers have adopted it. They have been overall responsive and supportive. While they have appreciated the efforts there have been some minor challenges and delays when students were not able to adequately connect to the lessons because of problems with their bandwidth. When this happens, teachers can use pre-recorded lessons that the students can then retrieve to watch on their own, so they can continue to learn and ensure that they remain on track to finish their curriculum on time.
The importance of having the pre-recorded lessons available has highlighted the importance of creating both a Plan A and a Plan B. Plan A might be the ideal scenario, in this situation, broadcasting lessons to students live to enhance their engagement and allow them to interact with their classmates and professors, but that plan does not always materialize. Having a Plan B ready to implement in the case of a problem will help institutions integrate digitalization and technology in education more smoothly.
At EHL, the group also serves as an advisor to the schools and training centers interested in helping their students better adapt to the challenges of educating the hospitality student of the future. We know that making the investment in the technology needed for the digitization of the hospitality classroom can be a challenge for many organizations. We work with the clients to see what they precisely will need to allow them to reach their students and can be used to create the best possible learning environment for their students. This type of analysis helps people invest in only what they will need so that they can streamline their service and lessons as much as possible.
Although the hospitality industry has certainly experienced tremendous slowdowns over the past year with the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still many reasons to have hope for the future of the industry. For students themselves, a number are still attracted to the hospitality industry as a place to find an exciting career. The students come, interested in opportunities to connect with others and travel. Studies on millennials have shown that this younger generation places a greater emphasis on finding meaning in their work. Entering a position in the hospitality industry gives them an opportunity to achieve this goal.
What interests investors in the sector
Investors have also seen potential in the emerging hospitality industry. They have been inquiring about what the future might hold and are eager to see how the travel industry might transform and adapt to the future in the coming months and years as the world recovers from the pandemic.
They have sometimes reached out to EHL because they have purchased hotels and properties that now sit empty. They see the potential in using these empty businesses and transforming them into training centers and schools for those interested in the world of hospitality or the general service trade. Taking the time to educate the emerging professionals in the field now, while the travel industry is slow, and then having them ready to go as the world begins to open back up can help businesses thrive and can entice travelers in the future.
The education of the hospitality student of the future
The world of hospitality has undoubtedly gone through tremendous changes over the past year as the world shut down. Even prior to these closings and the subsequent decline in travelers and tourists, the industry had faced the emergence of trends like digitalization that impacted how businesses and customers interact. As companies and educational advisory groups, like EHL, look towards the future, they can begin to form a plan for educating the hospitality student of tomorrow.
It is clear that the travel world of tomorrow will look different from the one of today. However, placing an emphasis on the potential of digital education to engage students, regardless of shutdowns and travel restrictions, can help to bring education in hospitality and service to all parts of the world and prepare them for a wide range of career options. Additionally, focusing on teaching students about valuable soft skills can help them better engage the modern consumer and then adapt to what the future of the industry holds moving forward.