Revamped courses aim to turn industry aspirants into professionals well-versed with the interplay of technology with hospitality services
Rapid digitalisation has led to many traditional ecosystems governing the hospitality industry making way for new, evolved and cutting-edge business models.
These models and their digitally enabled systems are driving the industry with progressive strategies and new concepts like augmented hospitality.
Digital strides for the hospitality industry also means that the talent landscape is evolving — the hospitality education sector has been witnessing a change in how programmes are structured, with the aim to prepare students for the jobs of tomorrow.
All of this contributes to the hospitality sector’s new growth strategy, which focuses on understanding customers’ needs and customising lifestyle experiences for both work and leisure. To keep up with the momentum of emerging technologies and consequent transformations in the hospitality landscape, the industry requires more talented professionals who are not only equipped with the right set of skills, but can also keep pace with the ever-changing demands of the new exciting job profiles in this customer-centric sector.
The spectrum of hospitality education has broadened considerably over the last few decades and the degrees, curriculum and skills taught have been reinvented. The dimensions of hospitality management have gone above and beyond traditional hotel operations and F&B management. The age of digitalisation has introduced new practices including standard operating procedures, new payment services, revenue optimisation, cost control strategies, advanced human interface system, personalised product-service packages and much more.
While reflecting on this ongoing transition, academic institutions, along with the industry, are realising the need to revisit existing curriculum structures. They are redesigning their programmes and adapting pedagogical approaches in line with current challenges. These new-age hospitality degrees aim at transforming industry aspirants into empowered professionals who are well-versed with digital trends and interplay of technology with hospitality services.
Some of the digital trends that will shape the hospitality industry will include adopting AI-driven technology like chatbots; robotics for customer facing interfaces like front desk and information centres; facial and retinal recognition systems which minimise physical contact and keep up the safety standards. The other side of digitalisation includes exploring the power of the internet and social media platforms for more efficient customer relationship management.
The hospitality sector is also investing in the power of virtual reality and augmented reality, which provide the unique ability to transport people to different digitally charged environments effectively, opening up much potential for growth.
In addition, almost all brands have adopted online reputation management systems and user engagement online, all of which heavily impacts an organisation’s brand value. To effectively manage these arenas, hospitality degrees are evolving to include modules that take into account not only traditional business subjects, but also incorporate technical know-how so that students are prepared for the changes taking place today and tomorrow.
In an age where online interaction influences over 50 per cent of customer bookings, it is imperative to have mindful employees highly deft at soft skills, required to handle genuine concerns faced by customers, offering solutions, and regularly keeping in touch while also achieving brand loyalty and recognition among users.
Overall, it would be fair to say that digitalisation has led to a paradigm shift in services, operations and management of the hospitality sector, at the same time readying the industry for the new present and newer future. In turn, technology-driven jobs have led to the emergence of degrees which incorporate these changes. Hospitality schools across the world have embraced these robust changes in accordance with the evolving global and economic landscape as well as structural shifts brought about by technological disruptions, new market players and changing leisure patterns.
Besides incorporating upgraded academic structures and new business strategies, institutions are systematically redesigning internship programmes to add value to the evolving student-industry dynamics. Institutions have also replaced traditional concepts with new-age practical approaches, which are critical for both young aspirants and working professionals in upgrading their profiles and skill sets.
The hospitality sector is no longer limited to the hotel industry. It has undergone expansion and become an integral part of many businesses and has permeated almost every other service-oriented industry. Therefore, it is more important for hospitality schools to widen their horizon to cover broader areas and include a more holistic approach. Newly structured degree courses now aim at equipping students with specialised skill sets packed with the understanding of advanced technology and strategic communication to enable a smoother transition into the future of hospitality and allied industries.
(Kunal Vasudeva is the COO of Indian School of Hospitality)