Hospitality Education Industry: A Overview Of Post-Pandemic

By Devendren Sathasivam, Senior Teaching Fellow, School of Hospitality and Service Management at Sunway University

It has been slightly more than two years since the Coronavirus overtook the world in an overwhelming wave that saw infection rates rise, resulting in 80% of international borders closing.

Border closures were seen as the first line of defence to curb imported cases. This soon had grave repercussions on economies around the world. The hardest hit was the hospitality industry, which saw widespread retrenchment, salary reductions, and the closure of nearly 120 hotels in Malaysia. By the Malaysian Association of Hotels’ (MAH) estimate, the hotel industry had lost about RM 11.3 billion.

However, the hospitality education institutions were fast to adapt to the situation amidst the chaos. They coped with the increasing demands for online education and short course, both for free micro-credentials and subsided courses. A unique sense of unity and knowledge-sharing took place amongst industry professionals.

The recent surge in demand for these resources underscores the essential role academic institutions will play in the future. Listening to the industry and tailoring educational offerings to shifting market demands will be critical to determine the future of the global hospitality education sector. These tailor-made micro-credential courses are the most suitable for professionals, enabling them to gradually collect credentials and credits, which are then recognised as academic qualifications.

With the pandemic, the education sector, especially the hospitality education sector, had to cope with self-isolation, social distancing, working from home, and communicating in the virtual world. This applies to both students and faculty staff. This triggered the institutions to adopt online learning management systems (LMS). These online LMS have been used for a long time; however, the depth of the usage of these LMS was further explored and incorporated into the curriculum. This has sparked fantastic opportunities for research to reinvent not only courses but also how they are delivered.

There is also an opportunity to explore the realm of virtual reality and simulated environments, which can only be adopted by the big players due to the heavy investments involved. Needless to say, the common denominator here is digital literacy, which is no longer an option but a necessary skill for survival.

The hotel industry’s post-Covid-19 phase will be a balancing act between coping with unknown revenues and maintaining an adequate cost structure. The management of operating expenses, in particular, will become increasingly important for the hotel’s performance, emphasising the significance of flexibility, creativity and innovation. To cope with these new requirements, it is essential for education institutions, especially the hospitality sector, to increase the industry professionals’ participation in postgraduate programs.

This can be seen as a symbiotic relationship as the industry professionals can benefit from the extensive research background work while the academia benefits from active industry engagement to tweak and develop programs to adapt to current service trends and innovations.

Research within the hospitality industry needs to have an active involvement with the industry because research outcomes need to be directly beneficial and applicable in the industry to cope with the rapid changes in demand. Research also needs to steer more towards a multi-disciplinary approach due to the complexity and uncertainty of the global service industry post-pandemic.

The pandemic has caused the hospitality education sector to move away from its traditional approaches and embrace change in its administration and curriculum design and delivery. The industry needs to adopt an individualised approach while being flexible with a global outreach to increase revenue streams. The hospitality education sector may never return to its yester-glory-days; however, there is light at the end of the tunnel. There is a need for the rapid and continuous adaptation of technology to be creative and innovative.

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