Surviving COVID – What Can Institutions & Educators offering Hospitality Do Now?

Surviving COVID – What Can Institutions & Educators offering Hospitality Do Now?

More than 70 experts from 12 THE-ICE member institutions in 10 countries came together to discuss the impact of COVID-19 and the new normal on tourism, hospitality, events, and culinary arts (TH&E) education and industries for THE-ICE Webinar Series 10: 30 Minute Talks: Surviving COVID – What Can Institutions and Educators offering Hospitality Do Now?

On Thursday 26th November 2020, expert presenters Mr Alan Williams, Dr Andy Nazarechuk, and Professor Perry Hobson from Friend of THE-ICE 30 Minute Talks shared their insights on the state of education given the global pandemic, and how institutions can be better prepared for the coming changes.

30 Minute Talks was co-founded in March 2020 by Mr Williams, Dr Nazarechuk, and Professor Hobson to provide online education and information for students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since April, 30 Minute Talks have hosted 33 weekly webinar programmes featuring different topics and speakers for more than 5,000 students, and collaborated with a number of Academic Partners including THE-ICE. Through the presentations and open discussion several key themes emerged:

  • Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergence of the ‘new normal’
  • The future of TH&E education and industry
  • The value of collaboration
  • Strategies for survival

Within these areas, the following key takeaways were highlighted:

Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and emergence of the ‘new normal’

  • Overnight transition to online working and learning and virtual student support has led to faster adoption of technologies such as Zoom for both education and business.
  • The global pause caused by the pandemic has taken most locations from over-tourism to no tourism. TH&E businesses have had the opportunity to move towards inclusive/regenerative tourism, create more flexible work patterns, and be more tolerant and supportive as everyone adjusts to new interpersonal norms.
  • Although the tourism and hospitality industry has played a leading role in supporting the pandemic response through provision of rooms, food, etc. for essential workers, hotels and restaurants are struggling due to low travel numbers. All TH&E businesses have also had to quickly develop and implement more robust health and safety procedures.
  • The border closures and pandemic have made few changes to where students want to study, but international enrolments are dropping rapidly across the board and this has flow-on effects.
    • How do you refocus international students in a highly competitive market?
    • There is still demand for certain institutions based on prestige, but the entire system has been disrupted and digital competition is bigger than ever.
  • Current changes will become the new normal, but to what extent does the digital age meet student needs and personal demands, as the digital student emerges?

The future of TH&E education and industry

  • Industry is expected to shift towards boutique tourism and away from mass tourism, with health and safety as a top priority for travellers.
  • While COVID-19 has thrown everyone into a ‘coping’ situation, it allows for a revisioning of the future of education. There is no going back, but what will education look like going forward?
    • Cooperative and collaborative
    • Blended learning
    • Utilising Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR)
    • A digital space with digital professors who can be anywhere at any time
  • Institutions can demonstrate to key stakeholders that students have a meaningful future in TH&E by aligning with other concerns – other industries will also be changing significantly as a result of the pandemic.
  • There is a digital disruption to education; training restaurants may be made virtual, chat bots could replace teachers as points of contact.
  • Students do not only pursue tertiary education for academia – most students want to find independence, experience life on campus, meet new people, and build a sense of community. With substantial budget challenges in the future as a result of COVID-19, will institutions have the resources to deliver that student experience? If not, how can they collaborate to achieve it?
  • Students are consumers with choices, and they are making these choices based on their needs and preferences. The age of the student as customer demands a personalised education experience.
    • Borderless, self-directed, personal, mobile learning could form the core of formal education models in the future through adaptive learning apps, one-on-one blended learning models, more personalised learning, and using algorithms to personalise education.
    • Education’s future is without borders, increasing opportunities for offshore delivery and delivery by foreign institutions.
  • Demand is increasing for short courses and degrees, micro credentials, nanodegrees, and curated degrees. Unbundling of degrees will be prominent and this may mean an unbundling of fees in the future.

The value of collaboration

  • Working together, sharing information, and helping each other is key. Institutions which only want to compete and not collaborate will not survive.
  • Finding the right fit for a collaborative partner can be difficult, especially internationally, but meaningful collaboration means working with mutual respect and trust.
  • Cooperating with partner universities can enable virtual exchanges, staff sharing programs, and more.
    • Do all institutions need to teach all subjects? How can knowledge and skills be shared between partners?
  • Institutions can transform (significantly change their strategic ambition or fundamentally shift their value proposition) or optimise (improve organisational effectiveness and efficiency to improve overall performance and meet new strategic ambitions), and many are fast approaching a crossroads. A middle ground between these is to effectively optimise through slow transformation, but this may make institutions less competitive in a market with more agile peers.

Strategies for survival

  • There is an economic pandemic coming, and in order to survive institutions will need to cut costs, reduce salaries, shorten work weeks, eliminate travel, close or consolidate low use facilities, and evaluate every expense. The global economy is suffering, and institutions must offer more for less to retain their students, setting the stage for growth in the future.
  • In terms of health and safety, institutions can reassure students and parents by:
    • Developing and enforcing clear policies and procedures
    • Showing no leniency for those who break rules
    • Creating a university bubble, with no one permitted in or out
    • Quarantining incoming students and testing regularly
    • Utilising contact tracing apps on campus
  • Students who are on campus for the student experience want to meet new people and attend parties, visit bars, be involved in fraternities, etc. These aspects of the student experience can be facilitated by institutions in their controlled environment.
  • Laboratory subjects can be replaced by student volunteering at local restaurants and hotels. This not only helps the industry and gives students an opportunity for hands-on learning, but brings institutions and industry closer.

The recording of the webinar can be accessed here.

For information about upcoming webinars in THE-ICE COVID-19 webinar series, click here.