The industry is in a transformation period and we remain optimistic: Ashley Puckett

In an exclusive interview with BW HOTELIER, Ashley Puckett, Corporate Communications Director, Swiss Education Group shares her opinion on the changing face of education amid COVID-19 pandemic.

For a hospitality business whose operations are paralyzed, and the workforce is laid off or 100 per cent on part-time, Swiss Education Group are dealing with the anxiety that has surrounded the industry with the help of the learnings from the past. Discussing the group's plan instill confidence amongst students despite the current conditions, Ashley Puckett, Corporate Communications Director, Swiss Education Group expressed her opinion. 

Utilising past lessons for progress

"COVID has had a severe impact on the global economy, with the hospitality sector receiving the hardest hit, but people will never stop traveling. The industry is in a transformation period and we remain optimistic." 

The Group has adapted by partnering with industry leaders who have seen the crisis as a ground of opportunity. Not only do their students get an all-round understanding of the pandemic’s negative impact, it also prepares them with the necessary insights, skills and knowledge following the innovative adjustments that have been made for the current and post-pandemic period. 

"Over a decade ago, the world was facing a not so different crisis and with it, we saw the creation and adaption of several companies that currently dominate in their respective industries. Businesses such as Accor and Airbnb are successful examples of entities that made the best out of an unfortunate situation. We implement these examples in our school’s curriculum to maintain a level of optimism in our students and instill a prosperous mentality for their futures," she added. 

Trends in 2021

The hospitality, travel and tourism industries are currently in revival mode. When asked about the trends to be witnessed in the domains of hospitality, travel, and tourism in 2021, Puckett said, "We are seeing an increase in the luxury travel sector favouring the private and customized ways of travelling, such as private charters in yacht and air travel. We are excited to see this trend because luxury travel and its personalized services is one of SEG’s niche deliveries."

According to her, another alternative trend that’s popping up is that travelers are booking for more extended periods, searching for more eco-conscious companies, smaller group travel, and booking immersive and cultural experiences. "I like to call this slow travel and connecting to the roots of the region," she expressed. 

Irreplaceable face to face conversations

Many customers, especially in the corporate sector have switched to video calls, Skype, ZOOM, etc., to conduct their meetings. If the future of MICE business is concerned, a key question rises here, will this change in the set-up have serious business consequences for the hospitality industry? Answering the question, Puckett stated "The last decade saw the rise of the avant garde office sharing industry. This model was exemplary for the future of office working, pioneering virtual working, and optimized in-office tech solutions. With business travelling being a primary market to the hospitality industry the sector quickly reacted and adapted this service into their offerings. Accor is a successful example by integrating new office solution spaces for start-ups. "

She believes that for MICE events, the industry has faced one of the biggest challenges due to COVID’s impact. The industry has had to rely on digitalized alternatives, creating a whole new niche, such as product showcasing through holograms and large-scaled webinars. MICE will adapt to current digitalized usages into the post-pandemic world however nothing will replace face to face engagements. 

Continuously improving courses and experiences

COVID-19 pandemic set in motion various new ways of coping with the changing circumstances. One of the new ways that the entire world witnessed was in the domain of education. Offline, traditional classes donned a new look, called online classes. Lectures, examinations, interactions all started happening online. While some students found the experience inadequate when compared to traditional methods of imparting practical knowledge, other found the transition a lucid process.

Speaking about SHMS Swiss Hotel Management School (Leysin), Puckett said, "One of our lecturers did a recent study of our SHMS Leysin students from 2020-2021 about how their level of satisfaction was affected during the pandemic. We discovered that the overall levels of happiness and course preparation hadn’t slipped. Students were thriving with the quickly adapted environment and confirmed we are succeeding in continuously improving our courses and experiences for learning to maintain the expectations of excellence for our students." 

She also mentioned that they apply and practice safe measures in all our campuses and practical courses. One advantage they already had was intimate class sizes. This makes making it easy to facilitate. 

Commenting on the evolving face of teaching in her school, she said, "Where there is people, there is a need for hospitality. I think the pandemic has helped us to expand our curriculum to new sectors where hospitality was overlooked in the past such as Senior Living, Banking, Luxury Retail to name a few."

Offering ample opportunities

The Swiss Education Group is planning to ensure students' placement in this difficult situation where the hospitality sector has witnessed many layoffs in the past year by constantly expanding their curriculum’s offerings with the collaboration of industry leaders in order to prepare our students for a world of possibilities that goes beyond hospitality. "We nurture these partnerships and host one of Europe’s largest recruitment forums, offering our job seeking students’ solutions for both internship and post graduate opportunities," she asserted.

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