The hospitality industry started with the need for travelling as ancient civilizations travelled great lengths in search of food and shelter. Over a period of time, the purpose of traveling changed.
The mere act of traveling has now become a giant industry. The tourism industry that we see today is the product of evolution in the hospitality sector, innovations in transportations, advancements in communication technology etc.
The hospitality industry is a broad category of fields within the service industry that includes lodging, food and drink service, event planning, theme parks, travel, and tourism.
It includes hotels, tourism agencies, restaurants and bars. Hospitality, which was rather a part of the culture, emerged as a huge business opportunity. The industry has transformed and evolved over the centuries to adapt to the needs of the various cultures, societies and people; and it will continue to do so.
The tourism industry refers to people travelling from one location to another for business, social or leisure purposes. This can be both international or domestic and often focuses on keeping tourists happy.
Thus, the tourism industry is part of the hospitality industry, and the term ‘hospitality and tourism industry’ is often used. The tourism industry is sometimes referred to as the travel industry.
The current pandemic has left a big dent in the hospitality and tourism industry as there are limitations in how it has to operate. With social distancing and travel restrictions, the hospitality industry is financially affected.
There is a multiplier effect that has led to retrenchment in order for the industry to be sustainable and to keep businesses afloat. The sputtering of travel caused over a thousand manpower cuts to the hospitality industry and the economy at large.
But there is always a light at the end of the tunnel as announcements of gradual recovery initiatives and relaxation of travel restrictions have caused a spike in beleaguered citizens travel plans.
The affected economy of Malaysia should gradually be picking up. We are seeing domestic trade recuperating and domestic travel progressively gaining pace – thanks to the different states’ effort of developing Covid-safe destinations such as Cameron Highlands, Frasers Hills, Langkawi, etc.
Hospitality think-tanks across the globe came up with innovative corporate, operational and technological solutions for minimising operating expenses or expenditure and keeping the industry alive.
Many entities are looking at technology to replace labour resources to promote contactless service and other service concepts that presumably will require lesser people to operate and manage. Robots are already being put to work in hotels and restaurants for serving, cleaning and other functions and androids are next to follow.
Virtual assistants and software applications such as BOTs have certainly raised the bar of customised service landscape. The fact that cannot be ignored is that the pandemic has highlighted the vulnerabilities of the hotel industry and there is growing evidence that a certain percentage of jobs functions will never return.
However, the most troubling question which perhaps is still unanswered by the industry remains – “Can we afford to belittle people in a people first business?”
The definition of how human touch and contact has been contributing towards the profitability of hospitality businesses has evidently been felt missing throughout the lockdown period. As they say, the only constant thing in this universe is change.
So, if the last two decades of hotel business needs to be attributed to data analytics, revenue management and geographical targeting, the future will depend upon the diversity, inclusion, and happiness of the workforce.
As we understand the need for change, it is crucial to include changes and adaptation of the 21st century skill that breaks down into three competency areas: business savvy, people savvy and self-savvy. With these skills in practice, future graduates of this stream can react and think on their feet. Most importantly, they can communicate across cultures and backgrounds which is hard to achieve by robots.
There are no second thoughts to the fact that technology is here to stay and has got an increasingly crucial role to play in escalating the hotel services to the next level, but more logical would be to adopt the blue ocean theory of creating an ecosystem where technology and human force synchronize to synthesize a better world to live and grow with happiness by easing human effort and by upgradation of service standards and delivery.
As we learn to adapt and roll with the changes brought about by the pandemic, it’s also important to take note of some upcoming trends:
With all the travel restrictions and layoffs in this industry, it may seem like now is not the time to jump into anything related to the industry. However, the hospitality and tourism industry is only here to stay, even if it may take some time to recover.
As such, there is no ‘right time’ to start a career in hospitality and tourism. Rather, the question to ask is whether a career in this industry is suitable for you.
If you want to find out more about hospitality and tourism careers and how to get started read ‘Who should take up a course in hospitality and tourism?’ or check out hospitality and tourism courses offered near you.
There will be ups and downs in every industry and in every career. The key is to know when to adapt and pivot according to the times. The hospitality and tourism industry will soon be booming once again and will continue to grow as demand for it increases.
Ms Pik Shin, Wong
Programme Leader (Diploma Programme)
School of Hospitality, Tourism & Culinary Arts
UOW Malaysia KDU University College
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