COVID-19 impact has created extraordinary situations across the sectors, including hospitality education. However, the professionals and the educators in the hospitality industry believe that newer job roles will emerge, and old ones might not be relevant. “All is not well in the hospitality industry, but there is a light. Soon, when the industry gets ready to bounce back (get back to normalcy), there will be dynamic positions announced for the young people to join and contribute to the new normal, as there will be massive introduction of technology to the hotel operations,” says Dr Rajan Makkar, Dean – School of Hospitality, Rishihood University. In an email interaction with Higher Education Digest, Dr Rajan Makkar talks about the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, global challenges in the hospitality education sector, and many more. Excerpts.
How has been the impact of COVID-19 on Indian Higher Education so far? How will it affect the upcoming academic years?
COVID-19 hit our country in the latter part of March. And most colleges and universities in India usually follow the academic calendar January-May. So, many educational institutions managed to cover the remaining syllabus post lockdown via online teaching platforms. As regard to upcoming academic year Institutions will most likely have to follow the blended teaching system where the initial 20% will be done online, leaving the rest of the syllabus to be covered in physical classrooms.
What is the impact of COVID on the hospitality industry? How is it going to affect the job aspirants?
All is not well in the hospitality industry, but there is a light. It will take no less than 24 months for the hospitality, travel, tourism, and aviation sectors to bounce back, but for sure, the industry will bounce back hard. The current situation is not a happy situation for any industry and so for hospitality. This is certainly not a piece of music to the ears.
Soon, as the industry gets ready to bounce back (get back to normalcy), there will be dynamic positions announced for the young people to join and contribute to the new normal as there will be massive introduction of technology to the hotel operations.
Do you think India has an adequate number of institutes that can create quality manpower to support the growth of the hospitality industry in India? Compared to the developed nations, what should be the focus of Indian hospitality colleges now?
In India, there are very few hospitality institutes producing quality manpower. The number is countable on fingers. To feature on the international map, Indian hotel schools and colleges need to bring serious changes in the present conventional kind of curriculum that is the only vocation oriented. There is a call for complete reformation and restructuring of the contents to achieve the desired learning outcomes to produce and develop hospitality leaders.
At present, what are the global challenges in the hospitality education sector? What should be the focus of hospitality institutes when they prepare the workforce of the future?
The global challenges for educators in hospitality education are to sensitize the young students towards workplace safety, new protocols of health, safety, and hygiene of spaces. Students also need to be technology savvy. There will be a lot of technologies including thermal scanners, ultraviolet rays sanitizing systems, electrostatic spraying in the guest rooms and public areas, robotized housekeeping services, use of robots in bar operations and may be robotized reception kiosks for contactless check-in and check-out procedures will be engaged in hotel operations.
What are the significant changes that you have noticed in the way hospitality students are taught to engage with the world? What are the global trends in hospitality education?
To the best of my understanding, students in the hotel schools of international repute are professionally groomed on two different fronts. Choosing one out of the two in the final year, which is also the career-launching year. Students either opt for specializing themselves as business managers within the hospitality industry or join the different hotel operations to their preference and skills.
What are the career opportunities available for students who completed Master Programs in Hospitality?
Career opportunities are endless, with a wide variety of careers from operational functions to managerial roles. With a degree in hospitality and professional experience, one can redirect one’s career into other service sectors too.
What advice would you give to a student thinking about becoming a hospitality professional?
My sincere piece of advice to students thinking about becoming hospitality professionals is, to develop intelligence, sense of urgency, sensitize themselves towards human emotions, hard skills, soft skills, strong theoretical knowledge, and practice.
Tell us about your vision for the School of Hospitality at Rishihood University.
The School of Hospitality at Rishihood University shall develop, in our students, the set of skills in 2 essential areas- the Art of Hospitality and the Science of Business, together with the most excellent industry training, management education and applied academic research. Let me share our USPs: World-class curriculum, International industry exposure, Semester abroad, Students’ institutional exchange with our partner Hotel Schools abroad, Mobility of faculty under foreign exchange ties, and Graduation with perks.
More about Dr Rajan Makkar
Dr Rajan Makkar has a Doctorate degree in hotel management. He is a double graduate from IHM Panipat and Delhi University and has done MBA in Tourism and Hospitality Management. Dr Makkar has a rich industry and academic experience of 21 years in the same sector. He has given numerous talks on Radio on related topics and career in hospitality.
Dr Makkar has extensive experience of organizing international hospitality events from concept to execution and has organized many such events under his guidance and leadership. He formed various strategic associations with numerous hotel companies and placement agencies overseas, for the better placements of Hotel School Graduates.
He was recognized by Indian Hospitality Congress in the year 2015 and was conferred IHC Educators Award in college education. Dr Rajan Makkar has formed and signed collaborations with foreign Universities and colleges to add international flavour to the education delivery system at GIHM.