Have you noticed that currently many CEOs of the most important hotel chains are not hoteliers? Will this mean that in the future hospitality education will not be worthwhile?

On one hand, we have the current CEOs coming from the world of business, law, finance and marketing. On the other hand, majority of today’s graduates of top hotels schools in the world do not go into hotel operations. Instead, they aspire for more attractive positions in sectors such as banking, luxury, healthcare, consulting, retail and lately, start-ups.

Therefore the question, why will hospitality education still be needed in the future? Why young graduates, the millennial’s, do not wish do work in hotel operations anymore? Is it because the hotel industry is not attractive anymore and does not reflect the expectations their hospitality education created? However, we can also question why other industries hire students who have hospitality educational background. Could we then glimpse into the future for hospitality education?

We all have heard the phrase that the world is changing, but in fact it has already changed!

  • Technology is the most disruptive change to which industries have to adapt. Winners are the companies who succeed in freeing up time and resources, helping customers connect with others using technology.
  • Customer’s behavior and needs are also changing. Everything must go faster and faster! Millennial’s, or the digital natives, are looking for rapidity, tech and authentic experiences, living air & lifestyle of the area there are traveling to. They want to learn as much as they can and on their own.
  • The education system is shifting towards more self-learning, e-learning and tools that can adapt to the capability of each student. The learning happens on multiple devices. The theory is learned online and the practice takes place in the class.

Technology will be the key change agent of the hospitality education of the future. It will shape the way we learn, the way we interact and the way do work. I have the image of students learning in front of their digital devices with headphones but not interacting with professors or classmates. This is a frightening yet plausible image of the education environment of tomorrow. However, this could be a reason why studies explain that the second largest disease in 10 years will be depression!

Let’s paint a more positive picture of the future. With the extravagant usage of technology in the future, companies will have to differentiate themselves from the competition through the human factor. The human interaction is extremely important in the hospitality industry and this could be the motivation of other industries to hire graduates from a hospitality institution. Excellence in the future will be defined by the level and quality of the human interactions even more than today, as technology will be a given.

In the next 10 years, hospitality education will not disappear but will certainly take a different form.

  • Curriculum’s will have to adapt to understand the needs of the traveler and society of tomorrow: Hospitality graduates will have to identify how to balance the offer of technology to enhance the customer experience. They will require the skills to engage guests with digital tools and take advantage of systems such as geo-targeting, new social media platforms, virtual and augmented reality devices.
  • Hospitality vocational programmes will still have to focus on skills to operate a hotel. However, students will need to better use and integrate the technology to enhance guest experience.
  • Hospitality management degree programmes will concentrate highly on developing soft skills rather than hard skills. A combination of business acumen, entrepreneurial mindset, and psychological study of consumer behavior in the curriculum will position students to better understand the customer. Developing and managing human- digital relationships will be the cornerstone.
  • The learning environment will be enhanced by technology. Students will spend less time in class and more time in a virtual reality world to develop their creativity and risk taking mindset. Students will be more prepared for the work life as they would have had the chance to experience case studies with augmented reality. Learning a new language or experiencing a different culture and its customs will take a very different meaning through use of tech.
  • Executive Education (online and offline) will be a key success factor for companies in the future to have a constant and dynamic talent pool. Today’s hospitality industry has an aversion for executive education. Hospitality professionals are usually sent to attend such training’s only as a reactive approach to the changing world but not in anticipation of how the industry will alter in the future.

The biggest challenge will be the implementation of technology that doesn’t overpower the student’s natural learning experience. The professors of tomorrow will also have to be ready for this educational shift. Will they look like robots? Certainly not, but definitely will have to transform their interactions with the students.

The hospitality education of the future will not be able to afford to be a disciple of the industry by just answering short and medium terms needs. It will have to be a driver for the hospitality industry which is not just confined to hotels, but to extend to any company wishing to place customers at the center of the interactions.