TOWARDS A HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT CURRICULUM OF THE FUTURE: ADDRESSING ECUADOR’S STUDENT AND INDUSTRY NEEDS

Abstract

This article presents a new perspective on the design of a hospitality management curriculum in Ecuador that not only addresses the needs of incoming students but also meets the needs of the hospitality industry of the future. The article contends that, as Ecuadorian society undergoes massive and rapid changes and as the needs of the hospitality industry in the country are changing with it, future management talent needs to exhibit solid technical abilities, analytical and critical thinking skills and a global awareness, qualities that might not always be present in today’s graduates. The article contends that students need structure and clarity as they progress through their programs of study and as they move from the applied, hands-on experiences in the first two years of their studies to theory and critical thinking exercises in the latter part of their studies. Ecuador’s hospitality management programs should adjust their thinking about what an ideal graduate looks like and modify their programs of study accordingly. Professors should act as role models to future generations of students who will then in turn be motivated to take on leadership roles in the country’s rapidly changing hospitality and tourism industries.

Keywords: Ecuador, hospitality management, analytical skills, critical thinking, global awareness, curriculum development.

Palabras clave: Ecuador, gestión de la hospitalidad, la capacidad de análisis, pensamiento crítico, conciencia global, desarrollo curricular.

Resumen
En vista de que la sociedad ecuatoriana se encuentra atravesando por un proceso de cambios masivos y rápidos, el gobierno del país está presionando a las instituciones de educación superior para que asuman un papel de liderazgo en esos cambios mediante el aumento de sus esfuerzos de investigación y la revisión de las formas en las que educan a sus estudiantes, para que ellos contribuyan de forma eficaz al cambio de la matriz productiva del país y a su desarrollo. Las necesidades de la industria de la hospitalidad ecuatoriana están cambiando también y el futuro talento humano que administrará los negocios tiene que exhibir habilidades técnicas muy sólidas, habilidades de pensamiento analítico y crítico y una conciencia global. Estas cualidades no siempre están presentes en los graduados de hoy. Viejas formas de gestión de los negocios turísticos en Ecuador son obsoletas y  necesitan un cambio dramático, siendo tiempo de que los programas de enseñanza de hospitalidad en el Ecuador evalúen lo que y cómo enseñan.

 

La Educación en la Administración de la Hospitalidad y sus Estudiantes

 

En este artículo se presenta una nueva perspectiva sobre el diseño de un plan de estudios para administradores de la hospitalidad en el Ecuador, que toma en cuenta las necesidades de los estudiantes que ingresan a un programa y satisface también las necesidades de la industria de la hospitalidad del futuro. Es además una discusión acerca de algunas orientaciones generales y filosóficas que podrían ser utilizadas para ajustar los planes de estudios de las carreras de hospitalidad existentes, con el objeto de satisfacer las realidades modernas del sector hotelero. El objetivo de la aplicación de dichas orientaciones, será preparar mejor a los estudiantes y ayudar a avanzar en el país mediante la preparación de sus gerentes hoteleros del siglo XXI,  pues la industria de la hospitalidad de Ecuador necesita futuros directivos con los conocimientos técnicos para manejar un negocio exitoso, una sólida ética de trabajo, capacidades de gestión y desarrollo de habilidades para interrelacionarse de forma adecuada con las personas que trabajan con él, sus clientes y otras partes interesadas, tanto nacionales como internacionales.

 

Sin embargo, el sector requiere también de líderes, grandes pensadores y emprendedores pues sin pensadores que generen conceptos y sin líderes, el sector hotelero no va a crecer, de ahí la importancia de reforzar los contenidos de la educación superior, pues es precisamente la Universidad el espacio idóneo donde se preparan y educan líderes y gerentes. La educación en la administración de la hospitalidad debe construir un puente entre las necesidades de la industria, y los jóvenes talentosos y con liderazgo que se incorporan a los programas académicos. Los programas de estudios de la hospitalidad deben evolucionar en su enfoque con el tiempo, precisamente para brindar una buena formación, las tendencias de hoy consisten en enfatizar las materias de aplicación durante los dos primeros años y más adelante continuar con la teoría y el enfoque del pensamiento crítico.

 

Antes de empezar, construir un puente entre la educación secundaria y la terciaria

 

En el Ecuador, los estudiantes que terminan la secundaria y que continúan sus estudios universitarios, en muchos casos pertenecen a la primera generación de sus familias en asistir a la universidad y saben muy poco acerca de lo que el sistema educativo espera de ellos. Llegan con habilidades de estudio poco desarrolladas, con hábitos personales y actitudes que no coinciden con las expectativas que la Universidad tiene de ellos, llegan además con expectativas muy grandes y ambiciosas de su carrera, lo que a veces no coincide con la realidad, pues gran parte del sector hotelero ecuatoriano pertenece a la pequeña y mediana empresa, muchas veces familiar, cuya tendencia es promover desde dentro a su personal directivo y no contratar administradores profesionales que se han graduado.

 

Las universidades del país ofrecen actividades que ayudan a los estudiantes en su transición de la secundaria a la universidad, tales como cursos y seminarios especiales, estas actividades son excelentes maneras de hacer que los estudiantes se sientan más cómodos en su nuevo ambiente, sin embargo, lo que muy rara vez se hace es proporcionar a los estudiantes entrantes información más profunda acerca de sus programas de estudios: ¿por qué los cursos están organizados en un orden determinado? ¿cuáles son las oportunidades que existen fuera de la sala de clase? ¿por qué los profesores actúan de determinada manera?, pues lo que los estudiantes necesitan de entrada son dos aspectos fundamentales: claridad y estructura. Necesitan claridad acerca de cómo y por qué un plan de estudios fue diseñado, claridad acerca de cuáles son las expectativas del programa con ellos y claridad acerca de todas las oportunidades que les esperan durante su carrera universitaria, sus pasantías y viajes de estudios al extranjero, el dominio de idiomas y más detalles. Orientar a los estudiantes con claridad y compartir con ellos los pormenores de cómo un programa de estudios está estructurado y que espera la Universidad de su transición de ser estudiantes de secundaria a profesionales del sector, hará que entiendan el panorama general y les hará tomar dirección hacia un futuro exitoso. La inversión de tiempo con los alumnos nuevos explicándoles el programa de estudios, presentándoles a sus profesores, es un primer paso en el trabajo de lograr una educación de excelencia y profesionales exitosos de cara al futuro.

 

Los dos primeros años: enfoque en las necesidades de los estudiantes

 

Los dos primeros años de un plan de estudios de gestión de la hospitalidad necesitan ser enseñados por los profesores más entusiastas y pedagógicamente más fuertes: los jóvenes estudiantes necesitan ser apoyados con entusiasmo en sus opciones de carrera, en adquirir destrezas de orientación “hacia la gente” que requieren las profesiones vinculadas a la industria de la hospitalidad, ello debe reflejarse en los cursos y en los profesores que les enseñan. Los estudiantes también tienen que ser conscientes de lo que significa trabajar con las normas profesionales: las clases tienen que empezar y terminar a tiempo, las tareas deben presentarse profesionalmente y las discusiones en clases y conferencias deben llevarse ordenadamente. Los profesores deben enseñar con expectativas de alto rendimiento y no aceptar excusas para el incumplimiento. Muchas de estas normas, por desgracia, no siempre están presentes en la educación superior en el Ecuador.

 

Estas clases también tienen que centrarse en la experiencia práctica. Necesitan hacer hincapié en “mostrar” en lugar de “decir”, privilegiar la práctica más que la teoría, combinando actividades en clases con viajes de familiarización, invitados especiales provenientes del sector. No debe descuidarse tampoco el hecho de que los jóvenes estudiantes no saben cómo estudiar, hacer la investigación, escribir documentos o rendir exámenes, por lo que estas habilidades deben ser enseñadas y desarrolladas. Los estudiantes deben estar conscientes de que únicamente el trabajo arduo y la dedicación les llevarán al éxito, no sólo en los estudios sino en la vida profesional también. El énfasis en estos primeros años debe también estar en la aplicación y en la generación de interés y entusiasmo por el sector que escogieron, por lo que los estudiantes deben estar cómodos en su universidad y orgullosos de ser parte de un programa de administración de la hospitalidad.

 

Los dos  años posteriores: enfoque en las necesidades de la industria

 

Considerando que los dos primeros años se centran en las necesidades de los estudiantes y los llevan de la secundaria a la educación de nivel universitario, los dos años posteriores son diferentes, pues el enfoque cambia y responde a una pregunta diferente: ¿qué necesita la industria?. En esta etapa se coloca la teoría sobre la práctica y el análisis sobre la aplicación. Este cambio de enfoque abastece a algunas de las necesidades de más alto nivel de la industria, y los estudiantes deben estar preparados para este cambio de enfoque. Considerando que en los dos primeros años destacan la ética de trabajo, las experiencias prácticas y el entusiasmo, en los años tres y cuatro se deben inculcar en los estudiantes el pensamiento analítico y las habilidades de gestión de nivel superior. Este es el momento de centrarse en las finanzas y la contabilidad, el marketing, los recursos humanos y la gestión estratégica, a la espera de tener resultados ideales en cuatro años de estudios con un formato educativo coherente y bien logrado.

En los últimos años, la hotelería se ha convertido en un sector verdaderamente global y los hoteleros ecuatorianos también tienen que ser cada vez más conscientes de las tendencias mundiales en tecnología, marketing, ventas y servicio al cliente. Sus futuros gerentes y ejecutivos tienen que ser capaces de reconocer y adaptarse a esas tendencias y aprovechar las oportunidades que se encuentran más allá de las fronteras de la ciudad, región o país en el que operan. Los programas universitarios de gestión de la hospitalidad de Ecuador deben ser los lugares en los que se gradúan los gerentes y los líderes del futuro. Los estudiantes necesitan tener la capacidad, el conocimiento, la experiencia y la actitud que los hará exitosos y los destacarán sobre otros candidatos para una posición laboral.

 

El graduado ideal

 

Los estudiantes sobresalientes se darán cuenta de que tienen que empezar su trabajo en posiciones básicas de servicio para ganar experiencia, pero al mismo tiempo deben saber que pueden ascender a puestos directivos, no porque se lo merecen por sus estudios, sino debido a su actitud y experiencia, así como a su educación, habilidades intelectuales, dominio de lenguas extranjeras, conocimiento del mundo y profesionalismo. La industria de la hotelería debe esperar más de los graduados de Ecuador, y las universidades del país deben graduar estudiantes que no sólo satisfagan las necesidades de la industria, sino que las excedan. Los profesores deben predicar con el ejemplo y ejecutar un plan de estudios que enfatice el análisis y el pensamiento crítico, desarrollando profesionales con amplio horizonte, con expectativas realistas de carrera y una buena ética de trabajo. Los académicos tienen que dimitir de sus torres de marfil y aceptar que los profesionales que trabajan en el sector privado pueden proporcionar información valiosa sobre el plan de estudios del futuro, creando una sinergia de los actores principales.

En conclusión

 

Un plan de estudios de la hospitalidad es un proceso de desarrollo, un proceso de transiciones en el que los estudiantes de secundaria pasan a la universidad y están dispuestos a asumir puestos de dirección enfrentándose a los desafíos globales de la industria de la hospitalidad. Un plan de estudios refleja este proceso de transición iniciando con la práctica e infundiendo entusiasmo, pasando luego a la teoría, el pensamiento analítico y la formación de profesionales. El plan debe considerar a las necesidades cambiantes de la industria y mantener la vanguardia en todas sus etapas. Los profesores no sólo deben enseñar, sino también liderar, su objetivo es elevar constantemente el nivel de sus estudiantes de manera que el sector privado espere grandes logros de los graduados de los programas educativos en Ecuador, sobre todo si se ha contado con su contribución y la de sus ejecutivos en proporcionar información para el diseño y el contenido de dichos programas.

 

Los estudiantes de administración de Hospitalidad deben estar preparados para gestionar y liderar un negocio exitoso que sea rentable y que pueda afrontar los retos del futuro: las tendencias internacionales en el servicios de alimentos y bebidas que influyen las dietas locales, o las necesidades de comunicación de un turista moderno que ya no hace reservaciones por internet sino a través de su teléfono móvil, nada más para mencionar dos ejemplos donde probablemente los detalles son diferentes pero los principios son los mismos. Es en definitiva tiempos para de cambio para la educación superior en el Ecuador.

 

  1. 1.   INTRODUCTION

 

Ecuador’s society is undergoing rapid and dramatic changes and the country’s government is pushing institutions of higher education to take on a leadership role in those changes by increasing their research efforts and revising the ways in which they educate their students (Van Hoof, Estrella, Eljuri & Torres, 2013). Asking universities to help address society’s burning issues and to lead its globalization, socio-economic and environmental development efforts has been common practice around the world for many years (Scott, 1998; Bartlett & Chase, 2004; Marginson, 2010; Waal, Verbruggen & Wright, 2010), yet it is a fairly new concept in Ecuador. By forcing universities to change the way they have been educating students for centuries and by demanding greater research productivity, the government has dramatically altered the lives of professors and administrators and has changed the future of many of university graduates.

 

Universities have two principal responsibilities, teaching and research, and as the world’s problems grow so should the interconnectivity between the two. Research adds value to the outcomes of the teaching process and teaching adds value to the research endeavor. Teaching needs to be connected to research now more than ever: if it is not, higher education would rapidly become dated and possibly irrelevant, and it would almost certainly be incapable of solving the world’s problems and addressing the needs of society, its population and its industries (Feyen and van Hoof, 2013). Universities should continually update their teaching curricula and the skills of their professors and they should incorporate socially relevant research in their classrooms. By doing so, they enhance their credibility in society and will be able to attract the financial resources they need to expand their activities.

In a global environment that has become increasingly challenging, Ecuador’ societal problems are no different than those of many other developing countries: the country is attempting to grow and diversify its economic output as its singular reliance on oil revenues had come under pressure lately. It is dealing with environmental challenges in the Amazon basin, income inequalities between population groups,  infrastructure problems, universal and free education for all its citizens and pollution, crime and traffic issues in its largest cities, to name a few. It has seen some initial successes in solving some of its problems and has, in many ways, become a more modern society.

 

One positive outcome of these recent changes has been an influx of international visitors and expatriates who have visited the country and/or made it a second home as safety concerns were addressed and as they became more aware of what the country has to offer because of new means of communication and enhanced marketing efforts. With those international visitors have come new hotel and restaurant chains[1], different management techniques, different service quality demands and different standards. Ecuador’s old ways of managing hotels and restaurants, of marketing and selling their products, of communicating with their customers, and of educating their work force have become dated and are in need of dramatic change. It is time for Ecuador’s hospitality programs to evaluate what they teach and how they teach it. Professors need to adjust the way they deliver course content and listen more closely to what the hospitality industry of tomorrow needs, rather than operate in an ivory tower, assuming that they know what is best for their students. They need to address their own educational qualifications, conduct research that is applicable to the industry and need to become more aware of what the hospitality and tourism graduate of tomorrow looks like.

 

In this article we address a new approach to creating and building Ecuador’s hospitality management curriculum of the future. It is neither a prescription nor a listing of courses, but rather a discussion of some broad, philosophical guidelines that could be used to adjust existing hospitality curricula in order for them to meet modern hospitality industry realities. In doing so, the authors hope to stimulate critical thought about how hospitality management programs around the country might educate their students in the years to come, given the limitations they are faced with. If programs successfully address both the needs of the hospitality industry and the needs of their students, they greatly enhance their relevance to that industry and their credibility and help advance the country by preparing its hospitality managers of the twenty-first century.

 

These observations are based on the authors’ personal and professional experiences with hospitality management students, with professors and with curricula during many years in higher hospitality management education in various countries, including Ecuador. They are based on the needs of the Ecuadorian hospitality industry, on curricular developments that are happening at other universities and on the different teaching styles and pedagogical methods that are used by professors in programs around the world. They are not truths, mandates or blueprints, but merely suggestions on how to shape Ecuador’s hospitality management education in the future and how to guide hospitality management students to successful future careers.  Extensive references to the available literature, primarily related to hospitality management education, have been included for further reading.

 

  1. 2.   HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT EDUCATION AND HOSPITALITY MANAGEMENT STUDENTS

 

Hospitality management is an applied, professional field of study that caters to the needs and interests of its students and to the needs of the hospitality industry for management talent. It also has responsibilities in such areas as research, outreach to the community and executive education, yet first and foremost its responsibility is to educate future hospitality employees, managers, owners and executives and to provide them with the technical skills to become successful.

 

Hospitality management students tend to be outgoing personalities. They are application-oriented and generally have a good work ethic. Many of them realize that they have to work long hours and spend numerous years in lower level positions before they succeed in the industry. It is not uncommon for many of them work in the industry while going to school and most programs expect them to complete one or more national and international internships. Hospitality management students may perhaps not be the most academically-oriented of students, yet they are dedicated and enthusiastic about the hospitality industry and they are generally eager to succeed. Whereas engineering students might succeed based on their math skills and arts students because they have creative talents, hospitality students will succeed because of work ethic, a “people” orientation, a positive outlook on life and because they understand the demands of the industry (Powers & Riegel, 1993; Littlejohn & Watson, 2004; Raybould 2005; Kim et al., 2007).

 

What distinguishes good hospitality management students from the very best ones, the ones who go on to become the executives who build and lead companies, who develop new initiatives, forge international relationships and bring new hospitality concepts to the Ecuadorian market is that the latter also have critical thinking skills. They have the analytical ability to see the “big picture,” they speak foreign languages, they have new and different ideas and they possess a “worldliness” that education alone often cannot provide (Worsfold, 1989; Tracey & Hinkin, 1996; Kay & Russette, 2000; Testa & Sipe, 2012).

 

Ecuador’s hospitality industry needs such future managers, with the technical skills to run a successful business, a solid work ethic, and with the management awareness and people skills to work with customers, employees and other stakeholders, both national and international. Yet, it also needs leaders, big thinkers and entrepreneurs. Without a work ethic, hotels and restaurants will not succeed:  it is a 24/7 industry!  Yet, without conceptual thinkers and leaders, the industry will not grow. Higher education is where both leaders and managers are prepared and educated and its professors should take this responsibility very seriously.

 

Hospitality management education should build a bridge between the needs of the industry for management and leadership talent and the needs of the young, application-oriented people who join its programs. It should do so with curricula evolving in focus over time, program that shift from an application emphasis during the first two years to a theory and critical thinking focus in the latter part (Rowe, 1993; Ashley, et. al., 1995). It should do so with professors who teach at levels and in courses that fit them best and who are not only teachers but also role models in their behavior, their professionalism and their enthusiasm for the hospitality industry. The following paragraphs will discuss a three-step approach that could help hospitality management programs accomplish those goals and better prepare students for the demands of the modern hospitality industry market place.

 

  1. 3.  BEFORE THEY START: BUILDING A BRIDGE BETWEEN SECONDARY AND TERTIARY EDUCATION

 

When students leave high school and continue their studies at the tertiary level, they are proud to be called “university students.” In Ecuador, many of them are the first in their families to attend university (Pascarella, et. al., 2004) and when they arrive at the university’s doorstep, they know very little about what is expected of them.  Sometimes they have selected a field of study based on information obtained from family, friends, high school councilors or other students, and sometimes it is the only area of study available to them. More often than not, they have little or no idea what a field of study really entails. They come in with poorly developed study skills, with personal habits and attitudes that do not match the university’s expectations of them, and with inflated expectations of careers in an industry that is notorious dor “promoting from within” and for not hiring hospitality management graduates out of the universities, especially in Ecuador.

 

Many universities around the world offer courses and workshops that help students in their transition from high school to university, and numerous studies have been done on the enhancement of the “first-year” experiences of students (McInnis, 2001; Hurtado, et. al., 2002; Pikethly & Prosser, 2005; Jamelske, 2009). Universities offer team building courses, leadership training and group building activities to make students feel welcome and help them adjust to university life. Those activities, which are also common in Ecuador’s universities, are excellent ways to build friendships and make students feel more comfortable in their new environments. They take the initial fear out of being in university and, if anything, these activities should certainly be continued or considered for adoption in Ecuador’s higher education if they are not already part of a university’s introductory activities. Yet, what is very seldom done is provide incoming students with information about their programs of studies: Why are courses organized in a particular order? What are the opportunities that exist outside of the classroom? What are the reasons why professors do what they do? and What is our teaching philosophy?

 

What often happens with incoming students is that they are handed a list of classes, times, locations and professors and they are told to be in class at eight o’clock on the first day of the semester and to go with the flow. They wander from classroom to classroom (if they can find them!) and listen to professors talking about their own subjects as isolated topics. Rarely do we spend time explaining to them why the curriculum is designed the way it is, what the various courses will teach them and how they are related, why they are expected to do an internship and what opportunities exist to become part of a student organization or to study abroad.  They may know after a while from other students that they can study in Germany or in Mexico for a semester, yet we never tell them why that could be beneficial to their personal and professional development (Krizmanic & Kolesaric, 1991). We tell them they have to study a foreign language, yet we do not explain to them why we feel it is important for them to speak English (Fournier & Ineson, 2013). And we certainly do not spend much time on explaining to them what our expectations are of them as students and as future hospitality professionals and what constitutes success at the end of their four to five years with us.

 

What incoming Ecuadorian hospitality management students need more than anything are clarity and structure. They need clarity about how and why a curriculum was designed, clarity about what the expectations of the program are of them and clarity about all the opportunities that await them during their university careers, from internships and field trips, to study abroad programs and foreign language classes. By providing them with clarity and sharing with them how a program of studies is structured and how it takes them from being high school students to industry professionals, we make them understand the big picture and give them direction toward future success. Yet, by doing so, we also send a message to those that cannot or will not live up to our expectations: this might not be the right choice for them if they do not perform to our standards.

 

We can trust these young adults to understand that the focus in the first two years in our programs is different from the focus during the second two years. In fact, by sharing with them how and why we do things, we also tell them that we consider them to be responsible young adults and that we trust them to do well and live up to our expectations. So, spending some time with incoming students explaining the program of studies and introducing our professors is a first step in working towards a curriculum for the future and in educating a better prepared hospitality management graduate. So, what could a hospitality management curriculum of the future look like in Ecuador?

 

4. THE FIRST TWO YEARS: A FOCUS ON STUDENT NEEDS

 

The first two years of a hospitality management curriculum need to be taught by the most enthusiastic and pedagogically strongest professors a faculty has to offer. Students who enter the university are searching for their place and for direction and professors need to guide them in that process. Young students need to be enthusiastically supported in their career choices and the “people” orientation of the hospitality industry needs to be reflected in the courses and in the professors who teach them (Alberti, 1995).

 

Yet, students also need to be made aware of what it means to work according to professional standards: classes have to start and end on time, assignments are submitted professionally and classroom discussion and lectures are conducted orderly. Professors teach with high performance expectations and do not accept excuses for non-performance. Students are expected to attend class and to participate, just like they will be expected to show up for work on time and to contribute in their first jobs. Many of these standards are, unfortunately, not always present in higher education in Ecuador.

 

During the first two years, classes need to focus on hands-on experience. They need to emphasize “showing” rather than “telling,” practice rather than theory, with the occasional field trip and speakers from industry talking about what it is really like to work in the industry. This is when programs offer food production courses, technology, front office management, housekeeping and food safety and sanitation, with as many concrete examples and instructional aids as possible. Young students often do not know exactly how to study, how to do research, how to write papers or how to take exams, so these skills need to be taught and developed. They need to be made aware that hard work and dedication will make them successful, not only in school but in industry as well. The emphasis in these first years should be on application and on generating interest in and enthusiasm for the industry, making students comfortable about being in university and proud of being part of a hospitality management program. They should truly feel they have made the right choice. (Ford & LeBruto, 1995)

 

These first two years of a curriculum take students from high school to college, from being novices who do not know how to study to being future industry employees. These are the years that are dedicated to growing their interests, to teaching them how to study and how to work under professional standards. These are the years when the essential question is: What does the student need? 

 

  1. 5.  THE SECOND TWO YEARS: A FOCUS ON INDUSTRY NEEDS

 

Whereas the first two years focus on the needs of the students and take them from high school to university-level education, the second two years are different in nature. After two years, we have to assume that the students understand how to study. They are more mature, they have observed the industry first-hand in classes, field trips, internships and from guest speakers and they are starting to think about their careers after college. It is time for a change of focus and to ask ourselves a different question: What does the industry need?

 

During the second two years we can shift and place theory over practice and analysis over application.  This shift in focus caters to some of the higher-level needs of the industry, and our students are ready for this shift in focus. Whereas the first two years emphasize work ethic, hands-on experiences and enthusiasm, years three and four build on that and should instill analytical thinking and higher level management skills in students. This is the time to focus on finance and accounting, marketing, human resources and strategic management and to help our students put four years of education together in a coherent and well-rounded format.

 

Important in this regard is to have good internship experiences available that stimulate them to work and study harder (Downey & Deveau, 1987; Busby & Gibson, 2010; Van Hoof, 2000; Zopiatis & Theocharous, 2013). A negative internship experience will not ruin them for the future, but may leave students with a bad impression of the workplace. Students understand that there are good and bad managers and good and bad places to work, yet a bad internship may stifle their enthusiasm and make them doubt. A good internship, however, is more than just a work experience: ideally it rotates students through various departments in hotels and restaurants, giving them increasing levels of responsibility. Most importantly, it grows their enthusiasm for the industry and corroborates the choice they made when they entered the university as freshmen (Tas, 1988; Petrillose & Montgomery, 1998; Barron, 1999; Waryszak, 1999; Kay & Deveau, 2003; Cho, 2006; Tse, 2010; Yiu & Law, 2012). As a result, they become more marketable upon graduation, as industry recruiters like to see a mix of classroom theory and industry practice on a resume (Van Hoof, 1999a; Van Hoof, 1999b).

 

As part of the second two years, students should also have the opportunity to study abroad if there are able and interested in doing so. Many of them cannot because of personal or financial reasons, yet those who can and who would like to should have the ability to study at an international university and live in another culture. A study-abroad experience is a life changing experience for many students. It helps them mature and deal with adversity and it makes them realize that Quito, Cuenca or Guayaquil are only small components of a much bigger whole. If students can successfully deal with the challenges of living and studying in a completely different culture, there is nothing they cannot handle in a career in the Ecuadorian hospitality industry (Krizmanic & Kolesaric, 1991; Stangor et.al., 1994; Calleja, 1995; Saliba, 1995; Roberts, 1998; Van Hoof, 2001; Gomstyn, 2003; Van Hoof & Verbeeten, 2005; Dessof, 2006; McClure, 2009; He & Chen, 2010; Holoviak, et al., 2011).  A secondary benefit of a study abroad program is that foreign students will come to Ecuador to study, sharing their customs, work ethic, interests and language skills, thereby further enhancing the “worldliness” that we would like to see instilled in our own students.

 

  1. 6.     THE IDEAL GRADUATE

 

The hospitality industry has become truly global in recent years and Ecuadorian hoteliers and restaurateurs too have to be increasingly aware of global trends in technology, marketing, sales and customer service. Its future managers and executives need to be able to recognize and adjust to those trends and take advantage of opportunities that lie beyond the borders of the city, county or country they operate in. Ecuador’s hospitality management programs should be the places that graduate the managers and leaders of the future.

 

For students in a particular program to stand out among the many candidates for future management positions and for industry to hire them, they need to be given the skills, knowledge, experience, and the attitude that will make them successful and stand out from all other candidates. These outstanding students should realize that they have to start in line-level positions, but they should also know that they can move up into management positions, not because they deserve it, but because of their attitude and experience as well as their education, intellectual abilities, language skills, worldliness and professionalism.

 

The hospitality industry needs to expect more of Ecuador’s graduates than from graduates of programs in other countries and Ecuador’s universities should graduate students who not only meet the needs of the industry but who exceed them! A degree from a leading university in Ecuador should be a calling card and an automatic invitation for a job interview.  For that we need professors who lead by example, who teach a curriculum that emphasizes analysis and critical thinking and that develops all-round professionals with realistic career expectations and good work ethics and who speak English fluently.

 

Yet, in that process, the hospitality industry also needs to be involved in designing the curriculum of the future. Academics in Ecuador have to step down from their ivory towers and accept that industry professionals may and can provide valuable input on the curriculum of the future, as has been shown extensively in the literature on the topic (Faiola, 1994; Lefever & Withiam, 1998; Lin, 2002; Dopson & Nelson, 2003; Gomez, 2009; Harris et.al., 2006; Obando & Oyarzun, 2006; Vega-Jurado et.al, 2007; Chi & Gursoy, 2009; Ricci, 2010; Tesone & Ricci, 2012). Faculty members might even consider working in the industry for a while to become aware of the latest trends and practices (Phelan et.al., 2013). If, in return, industry executives can accept that academics are the experts on how to educate future managers based on their input, this will create a synergy of the primary stakeholders that is a recipe for success (Van Hoof, Cueva, Estrella, Torres & Eljuri (2014).

 

  1. 7.     A CLOSING THOUGHT

 

A hospitality curriculum is a developmental process, a process that transitions students from high school to college to future managers who are ready to take on management positions and face the global challenges of the hospitality industry. A curriculum reflects this transitional process and moves from hands-on and building enthusiasm to theory, analytical thinking and creating professionals while keeping the changing needs of the industry in the forefront in all of its coursework. Professors not only teach but lead as well. They aim to raise the bar continuously so that the industry comes to expect great things from the graduates of Ecuador’s programs, nothing less, especially if industry executives have been asked to provide input in the design and contents of those programs.

 

For those who think “what about our tourism program and what about our gastronomy curriculum?”  The advice is simple: replace the word “hospitality” by “tourism” or “gastronomy” and apply the same principles. And for that matter, one could replace “Ecuador” with any other country name. Yes, degree programs differ, as do the needs of their students and of the industry they cater to. Perhaps gastronomy students are even more applied and hands-on in their mindset than hospitality management students. And yes, students in Europe have different backgrounds and expectations than students in South America. Yet, all hospitality management students need to be ready to manage and to lead, to run a successful business with a healthy bottom line, and they need to be able to address the future needs of the foodservice industry as diets change and international trends are infused into the Ecuadorian food scene or to address the communication needs of the modern tourist who no longer makes reservations on line but through his/her mobile phone. The details may be different, yet the principles are the same.  

 

So let us end where we began: these statements are not truths, mandates or blueprints. They are merely suggestions on how hospitality management programs in Ecuador could start thinking about the hospitality curriculum of the future. Yet, they are the suggestions of people who have taught in both Ecuador’s hospitality programs and in programs around the world, who care about higher education and understand its challenges, who see its potential as it works to meet the demands of a changing lodging industry in the country and who wish nothing but the best for all parties involved: students, professors, universities, and the hospitality industry.

 

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[1]Over the past two years, Ecuador saw openings of Sonesta, Wyndham, Holiday Inn and Courtyard-branded properties in Quito and Guayaquil. These are uncommon in a country where most hotels are small to médium-sized and often family-owned.

Para citar este artículo puede utilizar el siguiente formato:
Van Hoof, Hubert B.,Verbeeten, Marja J. y Estrella Duran, Mateo: "Towards a hospitality management curriculum of the future: addressing ecuador’s student and industry needs" en Atlante. Cuadernos de Educación y Desarrollo, enero 2015, en http://atlante.eumed.net/curriculum-future/

Atlante. Cuadernos de Educación y Desarrollo es una revista académica, editada y mantenida por el Grupo eumednet de la Universidad de Málaga.