“It is not the survival of the fittest but the survival of the quickest that matters most in the times of COVID-19”, says Mr. Rajan Bahadur, CEO, Tourism and Hospitality Sector Skill Council (THSC), while reflecting on the current state of the industry. The Tourism and hospitality sector is one of the most affected industries during the COVID-19 pandemic. With domestic tourism slowly opening up, hotels and restaurants being reopened, Mr. Rajan in this Skill Talk, tells us how the Tourism and Hospitality sector is coping up and reviving after being one of the worst-hit industries.
Q: How is the Tourism and Hospitality sector coping up with the impact of COVID-19?
A: Tourism and Hospitality, or any sector for that matter, can be better understood by comparing the pre-COVID and current COVID-19 situation.
The Tourism and Hospitality industry employs the largest number of people around the world. In India, the industry amounts to 10% of the GDP. It is seen as a catalyst for economic development. That is the magnitude of the industry.
Today, it one of the worst-hit industries during the pandemic. It was the first to be affected and perhaps the last one to fully recover as millions have lost jobs and today most of us live in a country with travel restrictions. But I strongly feel, the industry will recover and it will recover with vengeance!
Sanitation, safety, hygiene that we are skeptical about earlier, will become new normal soon.
Q: With changing times, is there a need for new skills and education in the Tourism and Hospitality industry?
A: New normal is changing every day. It is important for the industry to keep changing and adapting to the new normal. It is not the survival of the fittest but the survival of the quickest that matters most during COVID-19. The question is how quickly we adapt to these changes. Technology is being leveraged in many aspects, multi-tasking has become a necessity, contact-less experiences in restaurants and hotels are taking over as normal business. You can even access the restaurant’s menu on mobile phones! That’s how the face of the industry is changing, keeping pace with technology and social precautions.
Youth who are in this field are adapting to the changes and are apt with the technology. Now when we skill people it is not just in the culinary domain or in food and beverages but also in the technology.
Often, we forget the trainers when we talk about new skilling. The trainers are attitudinally and aptitudinally adapting themselves to the changes. It is not only important to train and skill the youth but also the trainers’ readiness to adapt to the changing scenario. It is happening. Trainers are adapting and changing.
Q: What about apps and portals like SAATHI, are the industry members complying with the norms laid by the government?
A: We have many apps for reskilling and upskilling. THSC has also launched several free certificate courses through apps for students and trainers. Through these apps, we are also providing training through free and paid courses in soft skills. While most of the training in cooking and patisserie is to be done practically, soft skills also play a major role. Because in skilling we are mostly focussing on the bottom of the pyramid. We are looking at the people who have gone back home. For training the youth from across the country, we have also collaborated with CII, Bangalore Chamber of Commerce among others.
Through the SAATHI portal, we are also trying to bring back customer confidence and credibility. Through it is not only the employee but also the customer who gets trained.
Q: Could you tell us about the potential of rural tourism and hospitality in the country right now?
A: Rural tourism and hospitality have a huge potential to grow. With the opening up of domestic travel, it will be the rural tourism which will gain. India has so much to offer as it is such a diverse country. We are offering a lot of courses on how to open and maintain guest houses, homestays, etc. Because these are the times when people will avoid taking flights and pick up their cars to drive and stay at places that are hygienic. There is huge scope for entrepreneurship and skilling.
However, in rural areas, people are able to use technology but do not have enough soft skills. This is where they would need the training. There is also a tremendous potential to develop medical tourism too.
Also read: Homestays as a source of rural entrepreneurship and livelihoods – Read more: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/homestays-as-a-source-of-rural-entrepreneurship-and-livelihoods/
Q: How are you creating awareness among the Training Partners on the new normal?
A: Many of our courses can be implemented both online and offline by the Training Partners. Soon we will have opportunities to complete the practical training too. Now we are also able to do assessments online. With regard to employment and future of placements, by the time the current students complete their course, the tourism and hospitality sector will be opening up and looking for trained people.
Related Article: Ministry of Tourism with QCI launches SAATHI certification for the hospitality industry – Read More: https://www.nationalskillsnetwork.in/ministry-of-tourism-with-qci-launches-saathi-certification-for-hospitality-industry/
Q: How important is the revival of apprenticeship?
A: Apprenticeships are extremely important. They are important for both the students and the employer. For students, they get to get real-life experience, learning while working, etc. It is important for employers, as they will make ready a pipeline of trained people. To revive the apprenticeships, the challenge is that the students have to wait for some time, but it will not be indefinite. But they should use this time to build other skills around their core competency.
Q: What is your message to young people who want to get into this field?
A: There is a huge opportunity here. There are many people across the country waiting to travel. When compared to the world, in India we are in a much better position. Multi-skilled youth will stand a better chance to survive in the industry after the industry gets back to normal/ new normal. I would tell youngsters to believe in yourself. To be proud of what you have chosen and opportunities will come to you.