Bringing Hotel Training into the 21st Century

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The training provided to modern day hospitality industry staff is still based upon the techniques developed in the 19th Century, the is highly ineffective for the growth of the industry

In 1893 Ecole Professionnelle de la Societe Suisse des Hoteliers opened in Lausanne, Switzerland, as one of the world’s first dedicated hotel schools. Providing both practical and classroom-based tuition plus professional teachers, students learnt how to provide a higher level of hospitality than their colleagues in the hotel industry. The school, now known as Ecole Hoteliere de Lausanne, was a huge success, and scores of other hotel schools opened up, and we saw the professionalization of the industry.

Today hotels around the world continue to train their own employees along the same lines. New employees often undertake a structured induction course that includes both theory, learnt in the classroom, and an apprenticeship period where the trainee can learn on the job, usually taking turns to experience different departments within the hotel.

These training techniques have served the industry well and has enabled employees to cope with the growing sophistication of their guests, and the advent of new technologies and amenities through the ages including the lift, en-suite bathrooms, electricity and lighting. However, today’s hospitality environment has experienced a rapid rate of change, and training regimes developed in the 19th and 20th centuries may no longer be entirely fit for purpose.

People are traveling like never before, and new tourist trends are emerging that requires flexibility and adaptability on the part of hotels if they are to remain competitive and provide high levels of service. For example, Chinese tourists have rapidly become the largest travel demographic in the world, and by 2025 over 220 million a year will be traveling overseas, spendingOpens a new window USD$450 billion on hotels, shopping, F&B, and experiences.

These tourists come with their own unique demands, from green tea sachets in their hotel room, to Chinese speaking employees and Chinese language signage. Yet current training methods have been slow to adapt to such change, either providing expensive, inefficient classroom-based language learning courses for employees or more likely employing one or two Chinese language speakers to act as ‘ambassadors’ to the Chinese guests, at the much higher expense.

Modern technology has the power to transform the way hotel employees learn their craft. Not only that, but using the right technology can improve service levels, and reduce costs for the hotel.

One of the more exciting technologies that is just around the corner is Virtual Reality (VR). VR is already used by some of the world’s militaries to train their soldiers in battlefield leadership and teamwork and is something that is ideally suited to the diverse nature of the hotel environment. VR can replicate a busy Front Office, or hectic hotel restaurant, and test an employee’s ability to handle complaints, deal with two or more requests at any one time (even in multiple languages), all the while assisting colleagues with their tasks.

Augmented Reality (AR), while still in early developmental stages, could potentially help guide employees in their work. For example, AR glasses worn by housekeeping staff can help to train them correctly to clean a room, ensuring they do not miss any areas of the hotel room.

Lastly, one innovation that is already available and in use today is mobile learning. This type of learning is ideally suited to the modern employee – each of whom has a smartphone – and is perfect for the hectic and busy schedules most employees have, and they can learn anytime, anywhere. Furthermore, mobile learning is able to provide training in bite-sized formats, something that works well when it comes to language learning where just 10 minutes per day can make a real difference. The ability to track progress in real-time and update curriculum is also a plus when it comes to adapting learning to changing guest needs.

While technology is unlikely to completely replace on-the-job learning, it can play an important support role, one that is both effective, and much more cost-efficient. Additionally, with over 100 million employees working in hospitality globally, according to the World Travel & Tourism CouncilOpens a new window , the industry and its employees are too important not to train to the highest standards possible. The training regimes of yesteryear have served the industry well, just witness the remarkable growth the industry has undergone, and it is time to continue this by leveraging the power of technology.