16th April 2021, New Delhi: Sommet Education in collaboration with the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) hosted a virtual webinar on “Hospitality Education in the Post COVID World” in the presence of eminent industry leaders from across the globe.
Ipshita Kumar, Nikhil Roy, and Nivesh Bhagtani emerged as the finalists of the hospitality challenge, organized last year by Sommet Education and UNWTO. Their projects Lemonade Social, Hosbot, and Young Hotelier Network, respectively were presented at the webinar and attracted feedback to make their proposals better. They will further compete for the seed money being offered by Sommet Education and UNWTO.
Ipshita Kumar’s Lemonade Social generates self-empowered employment for hospitality and tourism professionals on a global scale through connecting brands and creators with consumers through experience-driven e-commerce. It is a global platform that seamlessly integrates virtual hospitality experiences with e-commerce and is focused on empowering chefs, sommeliers and mixologists.
Nikhil Roy’s Hosbot is a digital hospitality assistant app designed to be a virtual assistant, a targeted marketing tool, and a simplified online directory listing all the services and outlets from a specific hotel.
Lastly, Nivesh Bhagtani’s Young Hotelier Network is a visionary social impact community integration model that unites the hospitality and hotel operations professionals across the globe. Integrating talent with opportunities, equipping it with the skills required in running successful and sustainable hotel operations. It links people with skills, exposure, learning, networking, coaching, mentorship, and job opportunities. It is a single window for both professionals and employers to consolidate the opportunities and talent present in the market.
The panel discussion held during the webinar comprised of Mr. Adrian Artimov, Regional Director South Asia, Sommet Education, Mr. Suman Billa, Director of the UNWTO Department for Technical Cooperation and its Silk Road Development project, and Mr. Mandeep Lamba, HVS President of South Asia. The discussion was moderated by the Editor of Travel Ur Style and former host of CNBC TV-18, Mr. Naveen Soni.
Speaking on the trends that are shaping the current hospitality sector in the post-Covid world, Mr. Mandeep Lamba said “The sector is very severely impacted. We anticipate that by next year occupancy level should return to normal but the rates shall recover by 2023. In terms of trends, the world is talking of revenge travel, and therefore travel shall definitely take an upward trend post-vaccination. Leisure travel is another trend to have come to the forefront, with people choosing locations much closer to home and that are possible by car. Furthermore, isolated locations are also being chosen by the travelers, which tend to be off the beaten track. And finally, sustainable travel is a trend that is here to stay.”
Talking of how Sommet education responded to the changes in the hospitality sector due to Covid-19, Mr. Adrian Artimov said “It wasn’t easy and it took everyone by surprise. We were quite fortunate, since we are a hospitality management institute, we were already equipped with the skills to deal with such a crisis- agility, the adaptability. We quickly switched to an online model, keeping our students engaged and keeping that strong community vibe alive. We developed totally new on-line programs in record time. We invested in technology so that the product delivery was there and we also revamped our facilities to make Covid free areas. We are happy with the outcome although the journey hasn’t stopped and we need to continue together”
During the panel discussion, Mr. Suman Billa outlined some of the initiatives undertaken by UNWTO to help the hospitality education sector in order to bounce back. He said “During the pandemic, we were aware that there would be widespread job losses and people would be furloughed or we would have a situation where people would be partially employed. So we looked at providing them with online courses in order for people to use their time and enhance their skills. The second initiative we undertook was the Hospitality Challenge in collaboration with Sommet Education. And the third element that is still underway is the Job Factory program, which is essentially a fair and free online marketplace for jobseekers and for their employers to short list the skills they possess.”
The webinar provided students, entrepreneurs, industry insiders, and hospitality enthusiasts the necessary insights into the industry and the effect on it due to COVID-19. The pitches by the three Indian winners inspired other students in understanding the ever-evolving industry of hospitality.