Diversity in a Hospitality Study. As one of the very few international career tracks, the hospitality industry is now seeking professionals who have a broader exposure to international cultures and languages. The motivation for this change in strategy is based in the theory that professionals who are more “culturally aware” will provide a better service experience to international travelers. The end result being that if a customer has a better service experience, they will be more inclined to be repeat customers of the hospitality provider.
For many years, hospitality education focused on operational knowledge. In other words, the priorities were to educate students on the operational functions of a hotel: front desk, housekeeping, food and beverage, etc. While those skills are still part of what hospitality schools educate on today, that education is clearly evolving to also include coursework in cultural awareness, sociology and psychology in an attempt to “teach” cultural awareness.
While it’s certainly an admirable task to provide a theoretical framework to assist students in understanding how to become more culturally aware, what is missing is the social aspect of cultural awareness that is more often provided outside of the classroom. By meaning, there is another set of “learning” that students have by living in a culturally diverse environment both inside and outside of the classroom. This provides students with a greater understanding of the social behaviors of different cultures – the learning that can’t be taught in a classroom or from a book.
While there are many institutions throughout the world that provide recognized programs in hospitality education, there are very few that also focus on developing a more diverse student body. This could even be said of many schools in the United States. While foreign student enrollment is increasing, the population of US students still overwhelms an individual school’s international student population. Thus, instead of having a student population that represents a world of cultures, we have one dominant culture (American) that dominates the student body. Thus, limiting a student’s ability to gain the cultural knowledge and experience that can be of a significant cultural benefit.
However, there are some schools that are the “exceptions to the rule”. If we consider Les Roches International School of Hotel Management in Switzerland, we can see diversity at work in the student body. In Les Roches’ most recent intake, the student body came from a very broad population:
Continent of Origin – Percentage of Student Population
Middle east and Subcontinent 15%
As you can see, Les Roches has focused not only on recruiting strong students with the motivation to be successful future professionals, but they have also prioritized cultural diversity to support a key component of their mission to provide an environment that facilitates not only respect for cultural differences but to also give students a deep international prospective to support the students’ academic and future career objectives.
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