By Sonia Tatar

In an industry as dynamic and diverse as hospitality, educators must take a close look at new trends and changes in the industry to tailor their programs to ensure they are designed to equip graduates with the relevant knowledge that will help them advance their careers. With a new and exciting year ahead, let us review predicted trends and their possible impact on Les Roches and our curriculum.

  • Talent gap in emerging economies

As discussed in previous years, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) expects the travel and tourism sector to experience some difficulties in providing enough qualified professionals for the forecasted 80 million new jobs created over the next 10 years, especially in emerging destinations, where a lack of talent limits growth of the continuous developing tourism trade.

To sustainably strengthen localised talent and address the challenging shortage in technical skills and quality of hospitality services in an expanding market like Africa for example, the Workforce Development Authority (WDA) of the Government of Rwanda has entered a new partnership with Les Roches International School of Hotel Management. This collaboration is designed to allow Les Roches to provide guidance and expertise to the WDA to support its creation of a new hospitality management institute in Rwanda that will produce new learning opportunities for African students in hospitality and help develop local talents.

Les Roches is advising the WDA on curriculum design, academic quality, and campus operations. Several Rwandan MBA students have graduated from Les Roches and are now managing the delivery of the project on site, aiming to open the new facility and enrol students by September 2016.

Another major challenge in addressing the hospitality skills gap is a traditionally high turnover and movement of staff in the sector. This is due mainly to increasing global job opportunities. In response, HR business partners within the hospitality sector need to design a strategic, innovative approach. To help equip future HR business professionals within the industry with the expertise they need to source and supply solutions in response to trends in talent attraction, retention and development, Les Roches Marbella is offering a specialization in Strategic Human Resources Management as part of its Bachelor Degree program in hospitality management.

  • Innovation technology and the digital advantage

Last decades, the hospitality industry underwent fundamental changes as new services deeply influenced consumer behaviour: First, online travel agencies (OTAs) changed the way we book our trips, with one third of leisure and half of business travellers booking their trips online.

More recently, the peer-to-peer housing platform Airbnb became a real competition for hotels. It now lists over 800,000 properties worldwide. Additionally, app-based taxi services have introduced the concept of smart mobility, which has revolutionised the transportation sector.

All these disruptions were mainly fuelled by technological advancements: new databases and logarithms allowed providers to aggregate lodging options, shared economy and app-based payment allowed peer-to-peer services to soar.

Technology will only continue to influence the hospitality industry, which means digital skills must be integrated into the curriculum of hospitality programs in addition to the practical, soft skills and business management acumen. Les Roches has been incorporating the latest innovations, technology and tools in its model. The curriculum features more tech-focused courses with an outlook on the future. New computer labs are equipped to teach courses such as web design and support innovation and app-development for students' business or start-up projects. A tech lab collecting the latest innovation technology fosters multimedia development and the collaborative learning process acts as an incubator for young entrepreneurial students.

Another initiative Les Roches has undertaken is making the learning experience more flexible by offering a blended platform. A selection of general education courses are now available online and readings material may be accessed at any time through electronic devices and an online repositories platform.

  • Seamless travel experiences

As identified at the latest Economist Business Intelligence conference on The Future of Travel, there is a growing consumer demand for seamless travel experiences, no longer the privilege of a select few flying first class. Industry stakeholders are working to eliminate obstacles and facilitate mobility through new travel technology and infrastructure.

For hospitality managers, this means using technology to make logistics more convenient for travellers by reducing obstacles throughout each phase of the journey and offering options to check-in online, customize rooms and eliminate queues. Additionally, luxury tour operators are required to create even more complete travel offerings to meet the demand of today's luxury travellers.

As a leading educator in the area of hospitality management, Les Roches accepts its responsibility to track industry developments and update our curricula to continuously benefit our students. It is our mandate to ensure our graduates are skilled in all aspects of today's hospitality to meet the hiring needs of the industry and get a head start when joining the professional world.