The purpose of this study was to examine and assess the relevance of hospitality management programmes to the current and future industry needs in Greece from an industry perspective. Two single session focus groups consisting of hotel general managers highlighted the need for hospitality management programmes to address industry current and future requirements. The outcome of the study, based on qualitative data, also supports the need for a virtual education/industry co-operation. Keywords: hospitality education, industry needs, hospitality curriculum
INTRODUCTION On the threshold of the third millennium, the tourism industry faces a constant changing and demanding environment where the human resources element plays a vital role. This places even g reater demands on the tourism and hospitality management programmes which train future managers. Yet, rela ted literature documents that tourism as an area of study is attested to be immature. The lack of a discipline base, agreed definitions and conceptual frameworks are but a few issues for ineffective curriculum development (Cooper et al., 1998). Hence, in the international scene, tourism-related programmes are as diverse as the industry they serve and the types of academic units they belong to, while most of them are not relevant to the needs of the real world (e.g Fayos-Sola, 1995). To compound the situation further, academe and industry have differing opinion as to why the approaches employed by educational programmes to preparing present and future generations of managers are inadequate.
In Greece, the increased importance tourism and the expansion of the hotel sector, coupled with the trends and developments occurring within the industry, have generated critical needs for w ell-rounded, well-educated and capable human resources in fields related to the operations and the management of hospitality businesses. However, a survey of tourism and hospitality education in the country and an analysis of the quality and quantity of hospitality management courses in particular, have identified numerous issues. For instance, the BA courses in Tourism and hospitality in the Public Sector Tertiary Level Institutes (Technological Educational Institutes and Superior School of Tourism Professions) are centrally planned with little or no collaboration with industry. The Private Sector courses in tourism and hospitality management are said to be planned in close collaboration with industry. In addition, all programmes are supposed to be relevant to the needs of the real world and to prepare capable graduates to serve the tourism and hospitality (Law 1404, 1983; Alpine, 2000; ASTE, 1999). The work described in the present paper was aiming at investigating these two issues.
The specific objectives of this research study were to evaluate the relationship between current policy in Tourism and hospitality Education, and the business and managerial needs of the indust y; to evaluate the structure, content, and r characteristics of the tertiary level undergraduate courses in Greece; to get insight about industry attitudes towards the preparation of management personnel with specific reference to the hospitality; determine the management level educational needs of the industry; and finally to identify existing problems and limitations of education-industry collaboration and to propose alternative courses of action according to the research findings. Mainly, however, apart from providing qualitative data about the above issues, qualitative data from these groups will be used to develop insights for the later stages of the study. Curriculum that reflects the needs of the real world and education/industry partnership are regarded to be critical components for designing quality based hospitality and tourism educational programmes.
The planners of these courses (government officials and educators) need to look for ways for effective co-operation if they wish to prepare well- educated graduates for successful management careers in the hospitality industry. Therefore, the investigation of the current needs of the hotel sector, the simultaneous assessment of the hospitality management programmes offered in the country together with the evaluation of education/industry collaboration (if any) are essential for the future of both the industry and education. In addition, the outcomes of the exploratory research described here could serve as stimuli for the implementation of more detailed research in the future. THE DIRECTION OF HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT EDUCATION The central mission of hospitality management education programmes is to prepare students for careers in the hospitality industry (Sneed and Heinman, 1995; Powers and Riegel, 1993; Ladki, 1993), while the hospitality industry, like every organisation, is concerned with the quality of its managers (Jones and Lockwood, 1989). Yet, hospitality Management education is a relatively new discipline found in various academic units at different universities with numerous issues surrounding its provision as well as its identity (LeBruto, 1996; Riegel, 1994; Ghei et al., 1995).
Hospitality management education is generally regarded as a type of professional education, although some resea rchers (e.g. Ladki, 1993) view it as a professional/academic discipline. As such, (professional), it has been and continues to be subject to widespread debate around the content and delivery of curricula. Indeed, much of the academic literature on hospitality education contains concerns regarding the direction of Hospitality Management Education and highlights the need to foster links with industry (Goodman and Sprague, 1991; Pavesic, 1993). Other studies address the question of whether hospitality education will survive in the future. For instance, Lewis (1993), Powers and Riegel (1993), sound a note of warning that hospitality management education has not changed with the times and many programmes will cease to exist unless they recognise the need for re-evaluation and deal effectively with change.
The authors argue that positioning the hospitality management programme is imperative as “trying to be all things to all customers is a strategy for mediocrity”, thesis, which is also supported by Chen and Groves (1999), who emphasise and explain the need for philosophical positioning of the programme. Nowlis (1996) argues against those institutions “still existing in the Dark Ages” that have failed to progress in upgrading and modernising their curricula and are ineffective in producing graduates with a dynamic, visionary, technically sound education. The author suggests that hospitality education must undertake a comprehensive curriculum reform to better serve the hotel and restaurant industries of the 21st century.
HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT CURRICULA Searching for hospitality training management needs through industry Hospitality management education goes through curriculum reviews largely based on academically perceived needs (Koh, 1994). Yet, Hospitality Management programmes are closed linked to industry because industry provides industrial placements for students and management career opportunities for graduates (Botterill, 1996). Therefore, in order to satisfy the management needs of the industry and to continue to prosper, all stakeholders have to engage with it in a positive and genuine way. Courses should aim to integrate the teaching of skills and knowledge in a way that is more relevant to the workplace (Johns and McKechnie,1995), and educational programmes should blend technical, professional and personal development if to supply the basic tools required for success in the workplace (Johns,1992). Hospitality academe owe graduates the kind of education that will best prepare them for entry to middle – and upper – level positions in hospitality (Ladki, 1993), and one of the most important elements to be considered in the planning of credible management courses is the issue of relevance to the needs of the industry and the collaboration between education and industry (Stutts,1995).
In addition, as a result of the growing concern among industry’ leaders around the world that education does not equip graduates with the necessary knowledge, skills and competencies increases the need for the educational institutions to bridge the gap between industry requirements and education provision. The incompatibility between the skilled labour supply from e ducational organisations and the demand from the industry, and the subsequent need for quality education is reported in the Asia Pacific Region (Smith and Fagence, 1995; Hidayat, 1999; Singh, 1997), Latin America (Pizam, 1999), Egypt (Wahab, 1998), USA (Walle, 1997), Russia (Petroune and Voskoboinikov, 1998), France (Elias, 1992), in the UK (Rimmington, 1999), in Greece (Prinianaki, 1994), and elsewhere.
The importance of education/industry partnership and the need to remain knowledgeable of the needs of the industry is becoming increasingly recognised. Hence, a number of international and national organisations, educational institutions, and researchers have implemented related studies and have launched different initiatives to stimulate contacts and co-operation between industry and education and to suggest measures for ascertaining success in quality manpower development efforts (e.g. Botterill, 1996; Fayos-Sola, 1995; Davidson, 1996; Danvers and Keeling, 1995, Umbreit, 1992; Lefever and Withiam, 1995). Particularly, several researchers have conducted studies to determine the congruency between industry needs and expectations and the knowledge, skills, and abilities of graduates of Hospitality Management programmes at graduate and post graduate level, aiming to underpin educational efforts in redesigning courses and curricula according to the needs of the industry. Sneed and Heinman (1995) investigated the student and programme characteristics that recruiters in the Hospitality industry consider most important.
A study by Graves (1996) investigated the personality traits of successful hospitality managers aiming to contribute to the development of desired personality traits with the students as perceived by food and beverage recruiters, while Tas (1988), undertook an innovative study, aimed at the analysis of managerial competencies needed to the hotel and catering industry. The study undertaken by Tas was repeated in the UK by Baum and in Greece by Eaton and Christou. Interestingly, Tas (1988), Baum (1991), and Eaton & Christou (1997) reported similar findings among the hospitality managers they surveyed in the USA, UK, and Greece respectively. All three surveys identified what Baum identifies as the “soft” or human relations associated competencies as the most significant. Other studies examined the specific management skills that hotel and restaurant managers perceive as important for success in the hospitality industry (Breiter and Clement, 1996; Mills and Riehle, 1993).
Umbreit (1992), however, has argued that “curriculum revision does not necessarily mean the development of new courses, but rather a modification of existing content and a focus o needed skills to insure grad n uates’ success”. Specifically, the need for a redesigned curriculum responding to the changing industry requirement for both general and specific educational needs has been recognised by many educational institutes. Ford and Bach (1 996) detail an innovative approach used by the University of Central Florida’s Department of Hospitality Management to identify the industry requirements and to develop a new hospitality curriculum. Employing a “customer” based approach an advisory board of 25 leading executives in the hospitality and tourism industry and an innovative technological tool -a TEAM-Net process (Technological Efficiency Applied to Meetings Network), the work resulted in six-course core curriculum in hospitality management and three electives: Guest Services Management I and II, Hospitality Operations I and II and Enterprises I and II. The goals expected to achieve include communication skills, problem-solving skills, general and specific management skills, financial and accounting skills specific to hospitality.
These skills seem to be in line with those found in the work of others. Another study by Koh (1994), employed the Delphi technique to determine the types of management personnel that will be most needed and the type of a 4year tourism student ought to have, while the Hotel School of Lausanne adapted the practice of project management to upgrade its programme. The approach employed considered both the changes taking place in the industry and the current and future skills needed by the graduates for successful careers in the industry. For the development of food and beverage management course in hospitality management at East Carolina University, Okeiyi, Finley, & Postel (1994) undertook a research to determine importance ratings for food and beverage competence statements for hospitality industry practitioners, educators and students. The competency statements were based on the skills identified by Tas. The authors reported similar results, that is, human relations and managerial skills were most important while technical skills were less important.
The first part of the study was a broad comparison, mainly from secondary’ sources of the management level courses provided in Greece, of the programmes offered including course content, and of likely developments in the tertiary level education and associated issues. Documentary data about management education in Greece were collected from appropriate government agencies, private institutes’ association and by consulting the course providers. This was followed by two separate focus groups, of seven hotel management experts each, conducted in Athens and in Crete. Apart from providing information about their views on tourism and management education, information from these groups will be also used to develop insights for the later stages of this research study (which is still in progress). Each group followed a common format, and they included a range of questions and exercises, with prompts provided as required (Peterson, 1987; Christou, 1999).. Limitations of the study: Due to the nature of the study (focus group) and the judgmental method of sample selection, this study cannot be considered as truly representative of the entire hospitality industry in Greece.
It is at best a pilot study that gives insights and points out tendencies. Survey findings: Qualitative results Future trends driving the hospitality industry (open discussion) Participants were asked to identify trends and developments driving the hospitality industry in the next ten years. The purpose of this question was to look ahead to the 21st century as it is well documented that (a) the development of the hospitality industry is dependent on the trends in the market place, and (b) both the management of the hotel enterprises and the Hospitality Management Programme provision need to reflect changes in the tourism industry (e.g. Lockwood, 1989; Jones and Teare, 1995). Industry leaders touched on numerous issues impacting tourism in general and hospitality in particular. The main issues are presented in Table 1. Table 1: Future Trends in Tourism and Hospitality
Information Technology Increased competition/globalisation Customers are more demanding Sensitivity for value for money Increasing demands for quality Lack of professional manpower Pressure from Tour Operators Increasing responsibilities for managers Cost pressures in hotel operation Increasing demands for safety and security Increasing sensitivity for environment protection _______ ____
In detail, from an analysis of the findings, industry leaders stated their views on the following related themes:
The trends driving the industry in the year 2000 and beyond will stem from the changes and developments that have been experienced over the last 10-15 years. 2 The golden age of tourism is over. The age of unlimited growth (in the 70s and 80s) and the lack of concern for the changing needs of the customer and other significant omissions are drawing to a close – or must come to a close for those who have not realised the changing circumstances yet. 3 Growth rate is increasingly slowing down and the battle in the future will be for market share. Globalisation as well as local, regional and international competition become major issues. 4 There are changes in consumers behaviour, values, and expec ’ tations. Consumers are becoming more demanding, more quality conscious, and more sensitive on value for money. 5 Information and Communication technology creates new opportunities in nearly all areas of hotel management. 6 Service quality and qualified labour shortages are and will continue to be pressing issues. 7 Hotel enterprises face a continuing economic pressure as spending decreases, and pressures from the tour operators increases.
8 Quality management, marketing, and human resources take on a new importance and require new management techniques and attitudes. 9 There is a shortage of well-trained personnel in the Greek hospitality industry, particularly at the entry-level and middle managerial level. 10 Currently, hotels are looking for better educated and qualified personnel due to the changes occurring within the industry. At the same time in-house training and the importance of continuous (life-long) learning have been recognised as the key to survive. When asked how they will respond to the opportunities and problems resulting from these trends industry leaders supported that the external and internal pressures and changes require both individual and joint efforts. In their view, the first step to success is government responsibility to recognise the changing and demanding nature of tourism. A firm and far-sighted policy in tourism must be employed by the Greek National Tourism Organisation in order to face the wider inadequacies and problems of Greek tourism which affect the management of the individual firms.
Tourism seasonality, infrastructure, marketing and promotion, new forms of tourism, environment protection, and human resource developments were particularly emphasised as areas of concern. The establishment of new organisations such as the Tourism Company of Crete and the activities of the regional tourism offices towards up-grading tourism were mentioned as positive initiatives. Conversely, the main criticisms about government’s policy were focused on the lack of a Ministry directly responsible for Tourism and the frequent replacements of the General Tourism Secretors. The second step to success is business entrepreneurs’ and management responsibility to recognise the need to change and to act ac cordingly. As one participant pointed out, “if we manage today the same way as we did five or ten years ago, we are in vain”, to further explain that the traditional practices and responsibilities are not enough to cope with today’s requirements. Also, participants expressed the view the entrepreneurs and managers need to look for strategic moves in order to stay ahead. In this context, industry leaders reported several synergies, mergers, and alliances within the Greek tourism market as successful recent initiatives.
They reported, that particular action taken within the hotel units includes: Reorganisation, in-house education and training for both management staff and personnel, development of new services/products (e.g. all-inclusive, spa – thalassotherapy- facilities), emphasis on customer care and satisfaction, effective use of technology (e.g. promotion and sales through internet), development of strategies to ensure productivity-personnel commitment and quality, participation in exhibitions and trade shows in Greece and abroad, exploitation of new markets and collaborations, and facility renovation. In addition, there was widespread agreement that, in general, well organised, scientific-managed hotel companies are more likely to cope with difficulties in facing the challenges. Being aware of the environmental forces and their effects upon the hotel business, and having recognised the need to change, they are in a position to adapt to changing demands. Industry leaders, also, emphasised that in-house training is well developed and common practice for these enterprises. Adversely, the situation for the medium and small enterprises is rather disheartening as argued by several participants.
They supported that many firms are in a disadvantaged position as most of them are still managed in an amateur way, failing to recognise the need to change. Industry leaders also argued that the future competitiveness of Greek tourism will, to a certain degree, depend on the success of these enterprises, as they influence the overall quality and image of Greek tourism. Skills and abilities necessary in graduates for the industry General managers were asked to record on paper the skills and abilities of hospitality management graduates considered to be necessary for employment in the industry. In this context par ticipants touched upon a plethora of skills and competencies needed to be an effective hospitality management graduate. The 14 members made 34 statements that the researcher put into categories. Table 2 delineates skills and competencies, ranked in descending order. Table 2: Skills and Abilities for Graduates
Ability to maintain the standards and to improve job (service quality concerns). Positive attitude toward customers (ability to understand the customer). Ability to understand the total hotel operation (all round knowledge of hotel industry). Ability to supervise and co-ordinate activities of subordinates. Ability to perform technical operations at supervisory level. Ability to handle complaints. Ability to identify and resolve problems, decision making and creativity. Job experience. Effective communication (foreign language skills). Job commitment, professionalism, personality characteristics. Strategic planning, budgeting, forecasting, and marketing. Technological competence (ability to use technology). Competition awareness/Ability to adapt to change. Application of knowledge.
Then, during the lengthy discussion, the participants further clarified the meaning of their statements. From an analysis of the findings the following issues emerged: Although there was continued support for the significance of operational and technical skills, the participants acknowledged the growing importance of managerial skills. The focus groups discussions highlighted the importance of operational and technical skills in the early stages of a graduate’s career. They argued that these skills though important even to general managers, they are far more important to middle and supervisory managers, while they take precedence over all others for newly entrant graduates, as well as for the management of medium and small sized enterprises. They claimed that this is not to under-evaluate the importance of management, leadership and other skills.
These are necessary too, but not sufficient to understand and control the operational aspects of the hotel. They also emphasised that knowing the body of information that is required for successful performance in any level of supervisory and management posts, possessing the basic skills in dealing with clients and the necessary functional skills to handle operation problems and to co-ordinate departmental or inter-departmental activities are the keys for successful entry in the industry. Another issue was that job experience in the hospitality industry is of crucial significance. Participants suggested that Educational Institutes need to incorporate a well organised element of industry experience in hospitality management programmes. Some mentioned that students need to be encouraged to obtain work experience prior to graduation in order to be competitive in the job market. Industry leaders touched upon the problem of competition and pointed out the need for graduates to be aware of related issues and to possess skills to effectively confront intense competition. Industry leaders pointed out the need to adapt the hotel product to the constant changing needs of the customer, indirectly implying the need for effective marketing skills.
Service quality awareness and sensitivity was also highlighted by several participants as key issue for concern. There was a widespread agreement that hospitality management graduates need to be service qualit conscious to y understand the needs of the customer and to care about customer satisfaction. They repeatedly emphasised that this requires graduates to possess a positive attitude toward the industry as well as a professional attitude and personality. In further explaining what is meant by professional attitude, participants stressed the need for students to demonstrate an understanding of the fundamentals and to respect the industry.
Distinctively, one participant stated he would not recruit a hotel management graduate that has not a positive attitude toward customer care or undervalues service operations. Last, but not least, industry leaders reported significant difficulties in recruiting qualified graduates partly because employment standards have risen. They concluded that educational institutes should understand that the current and future needs of the tourism industry require in depth knowledge and understanding of the total hotel business, ability to integrate theory into practice, good practical and interpersonal skills and relevant industrial experience if their graduates are to be competitive in the hospitality job market.
Assessment of Hospitality Management programmes offered in Greece When asked to assess the hospitality management programmes offered in the country the members of the focus group expressed the view that these programmes were not very effective in preparing managers for work in the hospitality industry. In this instance, the public sector’s hospitality management programmes were sharply criticised by several participants for their general and unrealistic nature. Distinctively, the chairman of the Athens hotel m anagers’ association argued that in general, Hospitality Management programmes in Greece offer a formal qualification, without essential value with the exception of a few programmes and a small number of motivated graduates. Several industry leaders repeated that the hotel sector experiences the difficulty and shortage of trained personnel to fill supervisory and middle management jobs.
Similarly, when asked to express view on whether the programmes offered are structured so as to anticipate and respond to trends within the industry, each participant alluded that the public sector programmes are far behind from anticipating and responding to trends within the industry, while the private sector is more likely to match the developments in the professional world. Most participants agreed that the majority of hospitality management graduates (on work placements and new hires) seem not to understand the quality principles, the nature of tourism services, and seem to lack in both tradition and current requirements of the industry. al Professional commitment is rarely to be found among graduates, while the majority have unrealistic expectations and view of the industry. However, the best point came from one of the participants who supported that young graduates who have spent four years studying to make ho tel management their career must know the fundamentals of the industry to facilitate their career development.
Obviously, a key theme that emerged from the study is that there is a clear gap between education and the reality of the industry. Aiming to investigate this highly controversial issue further, industry leaders were asked to evaluate the particular programmes of the T.E.Is2 and A.S.T.E.R3 offered by the public sector as well as the programmes of the private sector. Once more, both groups, in main, expressed converging views. Participants generally showed a negative attitude towards the public sector’s programmes; ignorance of the majority of the private sector’s programmes; the Athens group referred to three private institutions which, in their view, are doing an excellent job. Two of these private institutions were named as schools of excellence by the Cretan group. The participants, however, showed less insight into course factors of these institutions comparing to the insight shown into the two courses provided by the public sector. Their view was mainly based on the reputation and image of these private institutes.
The most common comments about weaknesses of the T.E.Is’ programme involves lack of integration between theory and practice; ge neral nature of programmes; programme is too theoretical and too broad; production of educated workers instead of properly educated and skilled professionals; these institutions should not claim that they prepare graduates for the hospitality industry; graduates have unrealistic expectations of the industry; most graduates do not understand the fundamentals; ineffective planning of industrial placements; ineffective use of public funds. Graduates are familiar with technology and good in foreign languages were the comments about the strengths of the programme. The most common comments about weaknesses of the A.S.T.E. programme: specific hotel management but it does not keep in pace with current developments; poor professional attitude of the graduates comparing to the past.
The comments about the strengths of the programme included: well-planned students’ industrial placements; programme delivery in hotel premises; graduates are familiar with technology; graduates are good in foreign languages; graduates have more realistic expectations of the industry comparing to T.E.Is’ graduates. According to the focus group’s opinion, three private institutions are making serious attempts to provide effective hospitality management education. “They are doing an excellent job”, was a comment made by several managers. One third of the industry leaders reported that they have provided work placements and/or employed private institutes graduates and were in a position to comment on well developed student’s attitudes; knowledge of the current issues; good level of service quality, communications and computer skills; competency to understand the total hotel business activity. Type of course work a 4-year hospitality student ought to have Both groups were asked their opinion as for the type of course work a 4-year hospitality student ought to have most participants agreed that such a programme needs, above all, to be relevant to the needs of the students and industry.
They supported that a greater responsibility in programme planning is required by the government for the healthy progress of both the important hotel industry and students. The participants made clear that contemporary, in dustry specific programmes in hospitality management are needed. During the lengthy discussion the following subject areas were identified as being of crucial importance to a graduate: Operations, Information Technology, Marketing, Finance and Management. Table 3 shows the subjects mentioned. When informed that many of their suggestions are already in practice in many programmes, most participants, argued that what is important is not the subject itself but WHO teaches it, WHAT is taught, and HOW is taught.
Further to this, in the researcher’s effort to probe deep into the problem, industry leaders were asked to further analyse the points of concern in relation to programmes’ design and delivery. The discussion revolved around several criticisms: most programmes provide education about tourism, not in tou rism and hotel management; many educators are out of touch with the real world, are unaware of its evolving needs, teach the same material they did ten or twenty years ago; most of the material taught in hospitality management institutions are irrelevant and parochial; the practical training provided is inadequate; education is far behind the industry. These criticisms, however, seem to contradict the comments made on the strengths of certain hospitality management programmes.
Table 3: Subjects mentioned
Hospitality management Service management Food and beverage operations Food and beverage management Rooms division operations Reservations Sales and promotion Accounting – financial analysis Cost control/costing methods Budget planning Total quality management Human resources management Computers/information Technologies Tourism systems Marketing Foreign languages Conference and event management Facility planning Purchasing
Of particular interest were the criticisms and the issues raised by both groups on how these programmes could match the developments of the real world. In both focus groups the following general themes emerged: The majority stated that the government has not paid the attention tourism education deserves, which in turn reflects government’s attitude towards tourism. Every single participant highlighted the major importance of tourism for the economic survival of the country and agreed that the only way to progress is through effective education. The government must create mechanisms to ensure quality in education. The majority of the industry leaders underlined the need for effective planning and development of the educational system according to the “ uropean E standards and practices”. It was persistently argued that without major changes, hospitality management programmes are not serving either their graduates or the industry.
A comment made by several partcipants was that co-operation between i hospitality industry and education could resolve many of the problems and that the contemporary nature of the course could be achieved by strong links with leading tourism companies and organisations. Specific suggestions highlighted the need for reassessment and improvement of the existing hospitality management courses; programmes need a new philosophy and faculty that are capable in teaching what industry needs today and will need in the future; these faculty members need to have a positive attitude toward the hospitality industry; institutions should not hire instructors with merely academic credentials; existing faculty should be encouraged to gain relevant knowledge and experience; programmes should emphasise graduates’ operational skills, level of commitment and ability to deliver quality services; faculty should inform students about the realities of the industry and work towards developing a positive career orientation. Both groups perceive a need for a greater depth of knowledge in all subject areas; greater emphasis on management and operations; emphasis on the basic principles of all technical subjects.
One of the primary aims of thi study was to empirically examine the s challenges generated from a review of tourism and hospitality education literature and a survey of the hospitality management courses provided in Greece. The tentative results of the research study of a small sample, using focus group, as described in this preliminary study, indicate some areas for concern and allow for the following conclusions to be drawn: Industry leaders in Greece seem to be cognisant of and concerned about the trends and developments taking place within the hospitality industry. Hotel managers and entrepreneurs need to operate differently today. Instead of a relatively narrow operational focus they need to be more responsive to changing needs and more proactive and responsible with situations occurring in their changing environments. However, only flexible and innovative enterprises implement the best practice in hotel management. Industry leaders look for a wide range of skills and competencies in hospitality management graduates.
They are looking for technical skills, operational, human relations, communication, management skills, commitment, professionalism, and work experience and reported significant difficulties in recruiting qualified graduates. Industry leaders in Greece considered that hospitality management programmes, particularly in the public sector, failed to address the skills requirements of the industry. Graduates are not only judged by their skills, but also by other factors, such as knowledge and attitude. A significant point that emerged from the focus group findings is that there is a gap between education and industry needs. Five subject areas – Operations, Information Technology, Marketing, Finance and Management- should be included in a 4-year hospitality management curriculum, according to industry leaders opinion. Education/industry co-operation was considered very significant and very feasible from industry leaders point of view. Educational institutes were found to have a low-level of collaboration with the tourism industry.
The perceptions of the industry relating to the trends and developments driving the hospitality industry, and particularly the comments made suggest a course of action that government, tourism enterprises and educational institutes should consider if this industry is to prosper in the future. These findings are consistent with numerous academics’ and researchers’ recommendations regarding the changes taking place within the tourism industry and the changing roles and responsibilities of the industry’s managers and workforce. For instance, Poon (1993) argues that tourism industry is in metamorphosis; Fayos-Sola (1995) suggests that a new age of tourism is emerging; Cooper and colleagues (1998) point out that a well trained and professional workforce is required to successfully respond to the challenges facing the tourism industry, and Jones and Lockwood document, as early as in 1989, that a new approach to hotel management is required for the future. The results relating to the skills needed in hotel management graduates indicate that industry leaders look for technical skills, operational, human relations, communications, management skills, commitment, and professionalism.
It is however important to conclude that industry leaders seem not to regard knowledge, skills and competencies in hotel management as a minimum operating level, but as a complex interplay of creative thinking and effective action at both functional and behavioural levels. This means that to be effective, graduates need in-depth knowledge of the operational aspects of the business, a professional attitude, as well as good conceptual, managerial and creative skills. This finding is consistent with the four major areas of competence (relevant to all levels of management) described by Jones (1990). These are: compe tencies pertaining to dealing with people, competencies concerned with managing activities, competencies reflecting a sensitivity to environment or external factors, and competencies reflecting personal effectiveness. It is also consistent with the required competencies at various levels of hospitality management analysed by Dittmer and Griffin (1993), that recommend: “to be successful in the hospitality industry, managers must be adept at planning, organising, directing, and controlling the operation for which they responsible.
To be successful managers, they must also have certain additional skills: technical, human relations, and conceptual. All three are necessary”. Additionally it is consistent with the hospitality model proposed by King (1995) that recommends social skills, indepth knowledge and understanding of guests’ needs and expectations, knowledge of the service delivery process, and employees’ empowerment. Furthermore, it is consistent with the key job demands on hotel general managers identified by Nebell III & Ghei (1993) as well as w the skills and competencies needed by the ith hospitality industry as identified by a number of related studies (e.g. Baum, 1990; Eaton and Christou, 1997; Nikolaides, 1998). The perceptions of the industry leaders relative to the effectiveness of the hospitality management programmes’ provision coupled with the proposals made regarding the type of course work a 4-year hospitality student ought to have highlight two major themes: First, the industry seems to be aware of the factors that may affect the quality of education provision and graduates’ success in the workplace – namely quality and relevance of course content, quality of teaching staff, the industrial experience component, etc.
Second, hospitality management programmes need to consider a course of action so that students graduating form their respective programmes are qualified to succeed in the workplace. As a matter of fact, the results indicate that an in-depth education is required, an education that reflects an understanding of the total hot l activity and the highly com e plicated external environment. Above all, they indicate that any initiative aiming at upgrading the courses provided needs to be based on an scientific approach to course design and development, in collaboration with industry. In addition, the findings seem to be positively related to the issues and the status quo as per literature search. Hence, all stakeholders need better to understand Tourism and Hospitality Education’s role, dilemmas, constraints and opportunities while the void of theoretical underpinnings to support the field of Tourism and Hospitality Education in the country should be minimised.
In particular, the findings suggested that as a result of the general nature of the T.E.Is’ programme and inadequacies related to the quality of resources most students could be lost to the hospitality industry. This should be a source for concern for both the educational institutes and the Ministry of Education. It is essential to update and reshape the curricula ensuring that it reflects the industry needs and job prospects for students. It seems that a separation between hospitality management and related tourism studies is required. In addition, a scientific approach is necessary for curriculum planning and development. As derived from the tourism and hospitality education literature research, to achieve quality tourism and hospitality programmes the following five components need to be ensured: quality students, curriculum that reflects the needs of the workplace, qualified teaching staff adequate facilities and education/industry partnership. There is nothing particularly surprising in these findings for two reasons: First, they are compatible with the content analysis of the course and its comparis on with other courses both natonally and i internationally. In the first part of this study, related evidence documents that, despite its re-design in 1995, the course remains too broad and general.
Second, they are consistent with the author’s -6-years ago- study on industry leaders’ attitudes to the T.E.Is’ course, thus reconfirming programme’s failure to adapt to the needs of the industry. The results relating to the st engths and weaknesses of the A.S.T.E r programme should also be a source for concern for both the institute and its Central Administration. This Hotel Management programme, inter alia, should redesign and upgrade its curricula and strengthen education/industry partnership. These findings are positively related to the issues raised by Goldsmith and Smirli (1995) who suggested that the structure of the A.S.T.E. course is in urgent need of revision and upgrading. “The lack of coverage and/or depth in teaching in housekeeping, food and beverage administration, facilities planning and buildings maintenance results in a lack of skilled specialists available for employment as well as an absence of fundamental knowledge in all but the most rudimentary of conceptions in some cases”.
The authors went on to argue that “the more esoteric concept of customer awareness is absent as a doctrine in the educational system and its importance as a key to success is not recognised by educators or managers. The value of quality service as a means to customer satisfaction and profit enhancement is underexploited”. The perceptions of the industry lenders relative to the effectiveness of the private sectors’ programmes suggest that the majority of these programmes are not well known among industry leaders. Obviously, the private institutions need to familiarise the hotel industry with their programmes. However, a few of these programmes enjoy a good reputation. The outcomes from the open discussion concerning educational institutes’ links with industry suggest that education/ industry co- operation is kept to a minimum despite the hotel industry’s needs and requirements, and mainly, despite the industry leaders’ expressed willingness for such a co-operation. Obviously, both the Public and the private education should cooperate more closely with industry.
In summary, this piece of research lent insights into the dynamics of the industry and its expectations and claims on education. It confirmed that Greek tourism is in a new era which is characterised by the pursuit of a more scientific and professional approach to the hotel management comparing to the past. This trend has not been recognised by the majority of hospitality management course providers as most programmes seem to be irrelevant to the changing needs of the industry. Hence, students and graduates seem to be poorly prepared for managerial roles and their future progression. A prominent reason for this problem, out of many, seems to be the lack of adequate co-operation between education and industry. Above all, this exploratory study raised further questions and inspired further research. For instance, an analysis of the career paths of graduates of these programmes in the hospitality industry, with particular emphasis on the value of the education of education they have received seems to be a prominent issue for the future of both industry and education.
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