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Class-room to Virtual-class : Major shift in hospitality education during COVID crisis

Sunday, July 5, 2020, 11:05 Hrs  [IST]
HBI Staff | Hyderabad

By Carlos Díez de la Lastra, General Director Les Roches Marbella 

The exceptional situation that we are going through globally will inevitably imply a radical change in the tourism model. However, this crisis also represents an opportunity, and that is that the hospitality industry, due to its multiplying impact, is one of the sectors that will allow the economic recovery to occur at a faster rate. A context in which education will play a determining role.

Our school has been able to adapt and turn this period into a strength. From March 17th, all the programs were adjusted to distance learning with the use of digital textbooks, video-conferences, and online evaluations. 

Since then, our online academic content grew substantially with more than 100 new videos daily and more than 3,000 additional audiovisual support pieces that are currently available on our internal network. It has been a challenge for us because we have a large international student body that right now is located in many countries around the world.

In my opinion, the most critical and complex factor during these months has been the establishment of protocols to care for the students and the faculty, and to help them not only to know how to handle themselves in this situation of uncertainty, but also how to take advantage of it. Now we can clearly say that we are connected again under the Les Roches brand, despite being in different parts of the world, and with the students’ return to the classroom already in sight. 

This form of learning provides the essential knowledge that is then discussed and validated in small sessions with the students' regular teachers or with invited experts, who are scheduled several times a day in order to adapt to the time slots in all countries. In addition, the Les Roches Marbella campus has opened this July and students will begin returning to the classrooms at the end of the month to continue with the practical training modules of their program curriculum.

Regardless of the method, if we look deep down, perhaps the greatest lesson that the coronavirus leaves us is that crisis management should be an integral part of any academic program that aims to educate the next leaders, regardless of the sector or its specialization. At Les Roches Marbella we carry out drills and simulations in which our students must face stressful situations, in which they learn to manage the emotional aspect in these types of situations. To further support this preparedness training, we created a series of online lessons titled “Leading Hospitality in Turbulent Times”, where students obtain, from the hands of industry experts, a thorough understanding of how the hospitality industry is being affected by the current pandemic crisis. We believe it is crucial for our students to learn how to face these crisis situations in the future.

In this new context, it is vital that professionals in the sector know what tools and decisions make a difference in an environment of uncertainty. Factors such as immediacy, having a global vision of the situation around the world, having an open mind for solving problems and setting priorities quickly and well, will distinguish good management practices in tackling a crisis successfully. The new tourism models that are evolving will require professionals who are capable of working well with others, in any environment and modality. These professionals will need to be flexible, entrepreneurial-minded, and innovative. If there is one thing that is clear at this stage, it is that the industry will prioritize the best trained talent, without forgetting that the hospitality sector is, and will continue to be, in the post-covid world, a people for people industry in which human contact is fundamental. 

Therefore, a strong emotional and collective commitment together with solid ethical principles must be added to these management skills, technical tools, and to multicultural and linguistic knowledge of industry professionals. Employees will be key actors not only to implement new strategies in companies, but also to create and improve them. We are facing a situation of little-known dimensions, in which the resilience of companies and their employees has taken a special role.

It seems undeniable that in a world in which advances, or in this case crises, repeatedly reshape the workplace that it is essential that people practice lifelong education. But also, the post-covid reality will necessarily imply that training is understood as a vital need for a new way of life that occupies the place that such a task deserves. Les Roches has extensive experience in this regard, it is part of its historical DNA.

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