Comment: Decisions taken now will shape the hospitality of tomorrow

Sommet Education CEO Benoit-Etienne Domenget weighs in on the COVID-19 pandemic, explaining hospitality can recover

Benoit-Etienne Domenget
Benoit-Etienne Domenget

Over the past four months, more than 2.8 million people have been infected in all regions of the world. World Trade is expected to fall by between 13% and 32% and a massive 75 million jobs are at risk as per the UN World Tourism Organisation. There has been a 20 to 30% expected drop in international tourist arrivals, US$2.1 trillion of GDP loss, with 80% of small and medium-sized companies endangered.

Within this context, the Sommet Education community is no exception. Our campus operations are either closed or reduced to the minimum, offering shelter to our students who could not reach out to their families, while many of us are working at home. 

Our teams have been striving tirelessly over the past weeks to ensure the maximum safety for all, and to enable our students to continue their studies with the same level of excellence.

In a matter of weeks, thanks to a dedicated on-line task force, we all switched to distant and online learning, producing thousands of videos on nearly all topics covering everything from mixology to finance or revenue management. Our faculty members have once again proven their incredible commitment to our students who are now connected to us from everywhere in the world.

Every day around the world, corporate, personal and collective initiatives are multiplying to support medical and hospital staff, who are more mobilised now than ever. The chefs of our schools have joined forces to support and bring a bit of comfort to these health warriors. I feel honoured and proud to be part of this agile team.

Everywhere, our sense of responsibility, collective solidarity and creativity has never been so vibrant. The word “Hospitality” has never been so meaningful: empathy, generosity, sense of service. These words must and will endure” The Day After”.

History tells us that this steep downturn will be followed by a strong rebound of the industry. Hospitality is one of the most resilient industries and has already demonstrated its ability to recover quickly, as it did after 9.11 and the 2008 crisis.

As a first sign of recovery, close to 90% of the hotels in China are now reopened, and China air traffic is running at above 40% of its capacity. Moreover, governments around the globe are preparing and starting to implement post-confinement strategies.

A rapid and strong rebound is possible. Decisions taken now will shape the recovery and global growth of tomorrow. We need to lay the foundations for a strong, sustained and socially inclusive recovery now.

I am convinced that this crisis is the undesired spark that will help us reconcile visions of the world that have been opposed for far too long. Uncontrolled globalisation without limits is not sustainable and nor is the temptation to withdraw or the pursuit of idealised economic deceleration.

We have the unique opportunity to create a “Day After” that is more balanced and more sustainable, and hospitality will be one of its driving forces.

Hospitality is so much more than an industry. Hospitality at its core is the art of service, dedication to others, the quest for generosity, as well as openness to the world. Hospitality, amounting to 10% of global GDP and accounting for one out of nine jobs worldwide, will be one of the main contributors to the rebound of the world economy and to job market recovery.

It is possible to combine the development of world exchanges, travel, access to leisure for the many, while being more respectful of resources, more engaged in nurturing local communities and businesses.

Managing this complexity is the challenge of our generation. Is it also our commitment towards the next generation.

Education institutions are already at the forefront of this transformation. Relying on emotional intelligence to manage complex environments, reinventing models, mastering the codes to better create new ones, and being committed to a sustainable future, are just a glimpse of what we teach and seek to instil in our students.

These are the many qualities the coming generation of leaders will need to succeed the post COVID-19 Day landsape. 

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