Industry Update
Opinion Article 7 June 2021

Hospitality Management: What COVID-19 is teaching us about what needs to be taught

By Demian Hodari, Associate Professor of Strategic Management at the Ecole Hôtelière Lausanne (EHL)

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Introduction - Demian Hodari

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Hospitality management education is an applied discipline; it not only applies general business theories and concepts to the hospitality industry (Morrison & O’Gorman, 2008), but it also builds theory from industry examples (Hsu, Xiao & Chen, 2017; Khan, 2019) and as a result provides pragmatic and practical learnings for university students and executive education participants. As such, COVID-19’s impact on the hospitality industry since the pandemic began in early 2020 has not only necessitated changes to the way firms operate and compete, but will also require that academics reconsider the theoretical concepts (not just industry examples or pedagogical approaches) on which their courses are built.

COVID-19’s impact on the hospitality industry has been well documented, with each statistic more shocking than the last, and with figures regularly updated as the situation has progressively worsened. The hospitality industry and its firms have, however, found some ways to minimize the impacts and to prepare for the short-term reopening of their sectors (i.e., new hygiene standards in hotels, new physical distancing policies in restaurants, new seating policies on airlines). While these measures are understandable and most likely necessary for the immediate situation, and though some may persist well into the future, the longer-term implications on the industry, its firms and their people, including its future leaders and managers, are less clearly understood.

This is an important point for several reasons. First, current managers must begin to adapt their strategies, operations and finances to the “next normal” as proactive decision-making can often determine the next cycle’s leaders, survivors and casualties. Second, substantial investments in short-term solutions can be costly and unwarranted if they do not address systemic challenges that may persist over the long term. Third, the industry’s next generation of managers and leaders need to be educated and trained for the world and industry they will enter, which will likely be far different from the landscape on which their current academic courses have traditionally been based.

In order to address these issues, a team of EHL research professors have collaborated on a series of short articles which examine how COVID 19’s impact on the industry’s firms can and should be addressed in the following set of hospitality management education disciplines: Organizational Behavior, Foodservice and Revenue Management at the operational level; Strategic Management (of large and small firms), Innovation and Marketing at the strategic level; and Sustainability and Economics at the macro level. Given the unique nature of each of these disciplines, each is addressed by a single expert member (or former member) of the EHL research faculty. Each author was asked to answer the following question:

Due to the impact of COVID-19 on the hospitality industry, what specific topic in your field (i.e., courses) should be

  1. deemphasized
  2. further emphasized
  3. newly incorporated

Please join us on this journey through nine articles which explore this question, and its answers, according to the respective faculty member. At the end I then draw synthesize the independent findings into an overall conclusion which draws three overall findings about the implications not only for hospitality management education in the 2020s, but also for more immediate practical recommendations for managers and their firms.

In this series:

References

  • Hsu, C., Xiao, H., & Chen, N. (2017). Hospitality and tourism education research from 2005-2014. International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, 29(1), 141-160.
  • Khan, M.A. (2019). A systematic assessment of gaps between academic research and industry participation in hospitality management discipline. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 82, 82-90.
  • Morrison, A. & O’Gorman, K. (2008). Hospitality studies and hospitality management: A symbiotic relationship. International Journal of Hospitality Management, 27(2), 214-221.
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