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As the world shrinks with increased connectivity, tourism and hospitality prospects are register an astonishing surge, with increasing numbers of new pathways and sub careers. Students now think of tourism and hospitality as a ‘safe bet’.

Education spoke to Fabienne Rollandin, director of industry relations with Laureate Hospitality Education, Switzerland, which has representative alumni in Dubai to help prepare young executives for the challenges of this burgeoning sector. 

Hospitality and tourism is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the world. What’s responsible for its exponential growth?

Several factors, mostly related to development, have made modern tourism one of the key drivers for socio-economic progress. To name a few: more affluence throughout the world, particularly after World War Two. As people become wealthier, there is more disposable income and also paid time off-work to enjoy travelling during the holidays and vacation time. This has been particularly true for emerging economies where the middle class is experiencing not only growth but for the first time, the ability to travel at will in a faster and cheaper way.

Second, improvements in technology: travelling today is much quicker and considerably less expensive. Highways and air travel have helped reduce the time to move in between countries and the internet has made it easier for people to book online and choose budget options for their travelling needs. Third, the wide choices, with vacation packages by ‘destination’ travel and ecotourism, which encourages travellers to go to places and in ways that match their interests and values. 

Is there an essential difference between eastern and western hospitality traditions?

I do not think there is any essential difference. Hospitality in western or eastern part of the world is about welcoming people and making them experience a unique hospitality journey. 

What are the strengths of hospitality and tourism in the Middle East?

The growth happening in this region. According to the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO), the number of travellers in the Middle East more than doubled, from 24.1 million to 60.3 million between 2000 and 2010. This level of growth is unique in the world and it happened despite the volatility experienced in certain parts of the region.

Dubai, for example, welcomed 10 million visitors last year and keeps growing, with its ambitious plan to welcome 20 million visitors by 2020. This growth means investment, which allows innovation in building hotels, innovation in service, international mix and diversity.

Factors like powerful branding campaigns on the part of governments to promote their countries and/or cities, religious tourism, and of course, the beauty of the region and the UAE’s positioning as a thriving business hub renders this a sustainable tourism growth.

For a young professional in the hospitality industry, this is an ideal time. With such growth, the industry also demands highly skilled professionals who can support the expansion and demands of tourists coming not only from the region but from all over the world.

Glion and Les Roches’ programmes have been recently recognised by the UAE’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research (MOHESR) as one of the universities where nationals can pursue an education and get full scholarship (financial support) from the government. Indeed, we are very proud to be part of the UAE’s efforts to professionalise the industry and prepare the country for the increased demand resulting from a dynamic and growing tourism and hospitality industry.

Many of our graduates are currently employed in the UAE, excelling in their work and shaping the way the industry is evolving and adapting to current growth challenges and the ones to come as the region prepares for events such as the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar. 

What are the challenges or weaknesses in this industry?

The one that immediately comes to mind is the recent turmoil in the region. However, tourism has proven to be a quite resilient industry and countries affected by the Arab Spring, for example, are showing slow recovery in the last year.

Countries which are stable remain very attractive destinations and pull other areas of the region as well – Dubai and Abu Dhabi have brought increased tourism to neighbouring countries as a kind of domino effect. You may also note that intraregional travel accounts for 80 per cent of the total travel, with regional tourists also seeking to stay and enjoy the attractions in the area.

In terms of the hospitality industry itself, the industry is making efforts to change the generalised perception that hospitality is more a vocational than a professional choice. This is far from reality. In the case of Glion and Les Roches, our programmes lead to nothing less than a bachelor degree in business administration but are tailored to the needs of the hospitality industry.

As more and more members of the general public realise this, and this is a positive trend, and the industry maintains the growth it is expected to generate, we will see the numbers grow.

Indeed, we have already seen an increasing growth in the demand for our programmes across the region. 

What is the most important thing you teach about hospitality during the masterclass?

First, hospitality is about passion: passion to work with people, passion to work hard, passion for service.

During this media challenge, we went through different type of challenges such as risk management, managing cost, reservation and revenue management, hygiene fundamentals, mise en place in order to explain to the audience that our model of education is unique.

Our schools, Glion Institute of Higher Education and Les Roches International School of Management (both part of Laureate Hospitality Education network), follow the exceptional Swiss approach to hospitality education, combining theoretical and practical learning as well as professional development.

The curricula is divided into three sections — professional development, entrepreneurial competencies and general education — each one is focused on developing specific aptitudes in order for graduates to be fully prepared to lead and manage teams.

They also look at developing self-confidence and discipline, and students are required to wear business attire to class, which is part of their preparation for successful entry into the professional world. Additionally, courses offer craft-based learning where students get hands-on practical experience to be able to understand the functions they will manage and the operational challenges they will face throughout their careers. 

What are the strengths a student of hospitality seeking to be successful must possess?

In addition to passion, I would say a top-notch, first-class attitude towards service. Our recruiters come to our schools because they know that beyond their excellent academic level, our students have the right attitude with customers: they are humble, flexible, hard-working and pay attention to details. All these soft skills are mandatory if you want to be successful in this industry. 

Today, a student of hospitality can diversify into IT, human resources, financial management. Walk us through the promising new sub-sectors that have now opened up within this large parent sector.

Our hospitality management schools deliver an education in management, focused on the hospitality industry and aligned with the needs of this industry. However, since they are preparing business managers, our graduates are fully prepared to work in many different sectors and industries.

Over the last 10 years or so, hospitality higher education has shifted from offering general undergraduate programmes in hospitality management to specialised education in order to respond to the current demand for function-oriented professionals within the field.

The combination of these two – a business degree with a focus on different areas of specialisations — allows our students to follow diverse career paths in and outside the industry, from marketing to finance to human resources, in sectors such as luxury brands, entertainment, sports and finance.

The hospitality industry continues to be one of the most dynamic in the world.

Just to give you some statistics, according to the World Trade and Tourism Council, over the next 10 years, the industry’s total contribution to global GDP is expected to rise by 4 per cent per year, which translates to approximately 69 million new jobs over the same period. (WTTC, November 2011).

The same source forecasts travel and tourism’s contribution to global GDP to grow steadily by approximately 3.3 per cent in 2012, despite the current global economic slow-down (WTTC, November 2011). Certainly a very attractive field for students.