In the short-term, he foresees more focus on crisis management, and Covid-19 in particular, across all classes. “Already several education support programs, such as simulations, have incorporated Covid-like situations,” he explains.
This is certainly a time to reassess, agrees Paris, and the industry as a whole may benefit from that. “The pandemic has accelerated emerging trends in tourism education to focus on understanding how we can do tourism better by aligning practices to sustainable development, supporting small and medium enterprises, and encouraging entrepreneurship at grass-roots level,” he says.
The pandemic has also highlighted the importance of preparing students to engage with technology, he says, and has accelerated the integration of particular technologies in the industry. He envisages that post-Covid-19, there will be a greater use of smart technologies, automation, and robotics.
Dubai has long been a rich location for travel industry students looking for on-the-job training. For now, though, access to key industry partners is on hold.
Essa Bin Hadher, general manager of Dubai College of Tourism, says his institution had to innovate to get around the challenges, including creating a virtual internship program for students who finished their academic year in June. The virtual internships, designed to help students prepare for working life, featured real-time training and mentoring by experts in the students’ chosen fields.
The internships focused on five key disciplines: culinary arts, hospitality, tourism, events, and retail business. “DCT partnered with Hilton to deliver internships in culinary arts and hospitality, and with Dubai Tourism to provide internships to our tourism, retail business and events students,” Bin Hadher explains.
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With the gradual reopening of Dubai’s tourism sector, some of the practical aspects of the learning process may be getting back on track in the coming academic year, says Bin Hadher. These will work alongside virtual classrooms, with practical demonstrations, live guest lecturers, Q&A sessions, group presentations, role-plays and assessments, which are then presented online.
“Subjects and learning outcomes have not changed but more emphasis is placed on new areas of importance such as health and safety,” says Bin Hadher. “Hospitality education will continue to play a pivotal role in efforts to further enhance the quality of the industry workforce, and education providers will have to adapt to the changing realities to ensure the student is able to complete a program from start to finish without any disruption.”
Hopes for Job Opportunities
In Tunisia, where tourism is a key part of the national economy, the sector’s revenues through August 20 this year decreased by 60 percent, compared to the same period last year, according to statistics published by the Central Bank of Tunisia.