The pandemic has a dramatic impact on all our lives. It has affected livelihoods, mental health and our freedom to spend time with those people we love. ‘New normals’ have emerged with many of us now working from home, currently on furlough or diversifying businesses to survive. One of the worst disrupted sectors in the world is the tourism and hospitality industry without any doubt. With planes grounded, hotels closed, tourism has been on its knees since April 2020. Indubitably, final year students in Tourism and Hospitality Management and Tourism are now questioning themselves: “Change the professional field or not? If yes, how?”
A brief history on the growth in popularity of Tourism and hospitality management degree
A brief history about this degree is a must. Thanks to a massive modernization and major technological advancements in the country over the past decade, the tourism industry has bloomed more than ever. Thus, tourism became one of the most important pillars of the country’s economy, contributing to around 23.9 % of the national GDP. With the blooming of this industry, jobs have been created in masses, influencing students’ career choice for years now. Hospitality Management and Tourism university degree has thus gained a lot in popularity. The percentage of students signing up for this course has been on the rise every year with the growth of the industry itself.
Effects on COVID-19 on hospitality students
The COVID-19 outbreak has caused a chaos among hospitality students especially those in their final year. Many have had their industrial training cancelled or changed into another field, heavily affecting their professional experience before graduation. This has led to many students questioning their career path and finding ways to change industries. The tourism fresh-graduates have to endure tough competition for their first job, yet they also have to compete with experienced workers who got layoffs due to the pandemics. Sad but true, candidates also have to bear the risk of contracting Covid-19 due to direct contact with tourists. Besides, a pay cut and employment termination during the pandemic has alarmed the newly graduates about the tourism industry being unstable and often shock-averse. Not only studies are affected but it has also affected the industrial training of the students.
“ Many tourism companies have reduced the size of their management teams across the industry. So, the roles available may be more limited. My last placement was very challenging to find since all tourism and hospitality organizations were closed. I had to find different ways to find a placement in another field in order to graduate. Now after spending 3 years in this field, I find myself working in a completely different sector”
We have all been affected on different scales. However, for youngsters in the Tourism and Hospitality Industry, the situation represents a major setback and solutions are primordial to ensure that they fit in the work environment. These students have strong capabilities and exceptional communication skills that they have spent 2-3 years honing. Furthermore, in several Hospitality Management degrees, the analytical aptitudes and managerial skills of students are beyond reproach. No wonder they become managers at such a young age in this industry. Therefore, some feasible solutions in my humble opinions are:
- Government sponsored programmes and placement for orientation of such students in different fields like the HRDC
- Encourage companies to offer trainings which would facilitate adaption and conditioning of fresh graduates from the Tourism and Hospitality Industry.
- Hospitality programs should work closely with industry board members, internship partners, and campus recruiters to make sure that the skills, competencies, and ex-perennial learning opportunities for students are not lost even during disastrous consequences like we faced recently.