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Hospitality and Tourism Educators Gain Resources to Enhance Education Across China

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Hospitality educators from 162 vocational schools and universities in 28 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions gathered at the Chongqing Marriott Hotel for the 5th Annual China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI) Teaching Conference

Hospitality educators from 162 vocational schools and universities in 28 Chinese provinces, municipalities and autonomous regions gathered at the Chongqing Marriott Hotel for the 5th Annual China Hospitality Education Initiative (CHEI) Teaching Conference. The four-day conference, held July 10-13, was themed Looking Through a New Lens: Inspiring the Next Generation of Hospitality Innovators.

A visionary project of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation, CHEI offers a portfolio of programs to help educators prepare youth in China for hospitality and tourism careers. These programs include faculty internships in hotels, field trips to hospitality venues, guest lectures on campus, hospitality English curriculum, teaching resources, conferences, regional forums and more.

Many teachers across China have not had exposure to real-world hospitality operations or opportunities to network with industry professionals, academic experts, or even peers teaching in similar programs at other schools. The CHEI Teaching Conference brings industry and academia together offering workshops and opportunities to network, experience hotel operations first-hand, and gain knowledge and resources to incorporate into classrooms to better prepare students for career success.

“The foundation of CHEI’s success is its unique partnership between academia, industry and philanthropy,” said Anne Gunsteens, executive director of The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation. “This collaboration has enabled us to develop unique China-centric programs and resources that meet the specific needs of academia and industry, and that can be shared with the broad community of educators. CHEI launched 5 years ago with only 9 partner schools. Today, CHEI actively works with 98 vocational schools and universities in 23 provinces and is having an impact on 220,000 students.”

This is the first year the conference was held in southwest China. Chongqing is the largest of China’s four municipalities and is the world’s fastest growing tourism city, as reported by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). Conference attendees included school presidents and government officials. Craig S. Smith, Marriott International’s president and managing director of Asia Pacific, and Chairman Xiao, the host hotel’s owner, attended the closing gala celebration.

“We are honored to welcome attendees to this year’s CHEI Teaching Conference,” said Regan Taikitsadaporn, chief human resources officer at Marriott International, Asia Pacific. “As CHEI’s initial and leading industry advisor, Marriott is committed to continuing to help enhance the collaboration between industry and academia, and offer real-world experiences to Chinese educators to help them prepare students for rewarding hospitality and tourism careers.”

“This conference highlights the perfect convergence between growing industry needs and teaching methodologies, and aims to provide the best resources and training to front-line teachers,” said Joy Dong, CHEI project director. “Since its launch, CHEI has been committed to working with school administrators to help develop high-quality teachers and students.”

On the first day of the conference, global academic experts and hospitality industry leaders helped kick off the final round of the groundbreaking national student competition, The CHEI Challenge: Unlocking Career Success. “We are excited about our newest program, The CHEI Challenge student competition,” said Dong, “which has opened a new chapter for soft skills’ development (e.g., critical thinking, problem solving, communication, collaboration) and created a tremendous impact on the students’ career competency, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Quotes from conference attendees:

– “In January 2017, China launched the Foreign NGO Management Law that regulates how foreign non-government organizations conduct activities in China,” said Wang Yuan Hao, president, Anhui Zhong-Ao Institute of Technology. “Our institute has collaborated with the Marriott Foundation to file the temporary record of CHEI activities with the Anhui Public Security Bureau in Hefei. The activities are aligned with the government rules and regulations for academia in China. Our school was one of the first beneficiaries of CHEI programs. As a result, the quality of our hospitality and tourism graduates has improved, with increased teaching satisfaction and industry retention, according to recent MyCOS survey data.”

– “The collaboration between schools and industry is the only solution for vocational education in China,” said Zhang Yong Jun, vice president, Maanshan Teacher’s College. “CHEI has established the bridge for communication between schools and industry, which is so meaningful because they listen and stay current with what the schools need.”

– “The student competition held at the conference this year encourages more students in the hospitality and tourism major to grow and develop,” said Qu Li Xin, vice president, Wuxi City College of Vocational Technology. “The competition has well-designed steps at various levels. The CHEI team, mentors and industry professionals really care about the students and teachers. It touched everyone’s heart and soul. The competition connected industry and academia to produce better students who gained personal attributes, high loyalty to the industry, and an international mindset.”

– “CHEI provides hands-on work experiences and shares enhanced teaching methodologies for front-line teachers,” said Kate Liu, CHEI teaching consultant and teacher, Shandong College of Tourism & Hospitality. “The teaching-learning resources developed by CHEI have changed my way of classroom teaching. I now have great faith in my students’ ability to work in the industry. The CHEI vision has changed our work attitudes and keeps us moving forward every day.”

Moving forward, CHEI will further localize programs in China and grow its cadre of CHEI teaching consultants to expand its capacity to meet the demands for CHEI programs. New programs being launched this year will focus on increased technology in the classrooms and community learning experiences that bring classrooms in China and the US together virtually.

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Time to rethink tourism, an economic lifeline for millions

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Hopes that the tourism industry would rebound from the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic have been dented by the wildfire spread of the Omicron variant. In an exclusive interview with UN News, Zoritsa Urosevic, Executive Director of the UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), called for new ideas to restart the sector.

The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) is one of the 15 specialized agencies of the United Nations, which aims to promote tourism around the world, and make it the driving force of economic growth and sustainable development.

UNWTO Executive Director Zoritsa Urosevic. photo:UNWTO

Speaking to Bessie Du of UN News at the end of 2021, shortly after the agency’s general assembly, Ms. Urosevic began by outlining the devastating impact the COVID-19 epidemic continues to have on tourism, and the prospects for recovery. 

The interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Zoritsa Urosevic: Tourism has been the sector hit hardest by the crisis, as well as all the people and the livelihoods that depends on it. Basically, this has been a very tough two years, but we see that, in the future, we will have to fully rethink the sector, and that’s maybe an opportunity. 

Developed countries were much better prepared to support the hit, mostly with financial packages to support the industry and small businesses, and to try to preserve people’s jobs. Developing countries have been really struggling to do that.

We created the tourism recovery package, a tool to rapidly assess what needs to be done in a particular country, and we have created the first ever code for the protection of tourists, because building confidence is really a very important element for people who decide to travel.

We are totally aligned with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the importance of engaging in safer travel protocols rather than stopping travel altogether, because we know how many livelihoods depend on tourism, not only directly, but also those working in the industries that depend on the sector, such as food production, services, and manufacturing.

At a time when populations are increasingly moving to urban areas, rural development through tourism is certainly going to be one of the major trends in the sector. We have launched an initiative called Best Tourism Villages, and we are going to have a global centre for rural development of tourism.

UN News: Would you say the hit on tourism is unprecedented?

Zoritsa Urosevic: This has been certainly the biggest crisis ever for the sector. Basically, it’s like we went back 30 years in 2020. Over the last three decades, tourism has been steadily growing by around four per cent every year, so now we have a situation where we have a lot of supply, a lot of businesses, and no tourists.

Countries which had the size and purchasing power for it, such as China, were able to switch to domestic tourism, but for small, developing countries like Fiji, which have been the hardest hit by the crisis, and where tourism represents between 40 and 70 per cent of GDP, this isn’t possible.

We are calling for the harmonization of travel protocols, which have been very volatile because, even if countries reach an agreement, a change in the pandemic situation means that it can’t be applied.

The most successful countries have been the ones that were able to communicate very clearly, and spell out the protocols. Greece is a great example: they opened up in July 2020, but communicated well in advance, and many tourists who had been planning to go elsewhere went to Greece instead, because they were well informed.

UN News: How do you inform the everyday tourists on the progress made in internationally coordinating travel protocols?

Zoritsa Urosevic: We have really scaled up our presence on social media, and have a hundred times more followers than we used to have. We are trying our best, but it’s never enough, so we are very welcoming to new ideas and new opportunities.

UN News: What do you say to the people whose livelihoods depend on tourism?

Zoritsa Urosevic: First, I would say that this sector is very resilient: we all dream,and we all want to travel. For now, we need to improve education and training, but I think the future is bright. Tourists will come back, and they will be more respectful than before: there will be a new path for happiness in tourism and cultural exchange.

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New ADB Facility to Help Southeast Asia Revive Tourism

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The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has set up a $1.7 million technical assistance facility to accelerate Southeast Asia’s tourism recovery from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, boost inclusive, sustainable development in the sector, and help local tourism entrepreneurs, especially women and youth, adopt digital platforms to grow their businesses.

The Southeast Asia Sustainable Tourism Facility will help countries identify and prepare environmentally sustainable tourism projects and catalyze private financing to support them. It will help businesses better operate tourism facilities and deliver digital tourism services. The facility will also help policy makers design visa, online short-term rental, and other policies to attract longer-staying, higher-spending visitors and remote workers, allow more small entrepreneurs to legitimately operate accommodation services, and boost tourism tax revenues.

“This new facility aims to help ADB’s developing member countries in Southeast Asia revive tourism, which has been hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said ADB Principal Tourism Industry Specialist for Southeast Asia Steven Schipani. “Projects supported by the facility will develop green and resilient urban and transport infrastructure in secondary cities to improve the tourism sector’s competitiveness, help create jobs, protect the environment, and accelerate inclusive digital transformations.”

In 2019, travel and tourism accounted for 12.1% of Southeast Asia’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employed 42 million workers, mostly women working for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). But international visitor arrivals dropped 82% in 2020 from 2019, while domestic tourism remains constrained by travel restrictions and reduced economic activity. The sector’s contribution to regional GDP fell by 53% in 2020, pushing more people into pov­erty.

Even before COVID-19, Southeast Asia trailed global tourism competitiveness benchmarks for ground, port, and urban infrastructure, information and communication technology readiness, and environmental sustainability. Governments hope to address these challenges in tandem with efforts to revive tourism. The facility will support key tourism-related priorities set out by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and subregional tourism strategies in Southeast Asia.

The facility includes a  $500,000 grant from ADB’s Technical Assistance Special Fund. In addition, ADB will administer a $225,000 grant contribution from the Project Readiness Improvement Trust Fund financed by the Nordic Development Fund, a $500,000 grant from the Republic of Korea e-Asia and Knowledge Partnership Fund, and a $500,000 grant from the Spanish Cooperation Fund for Technical Assistance. 

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COVID-19: WHO urges Europeans to be smart and safe this holiday season

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The World Health Organization (WHO) is reminding Europeans to remain vigilant against COVID-19 spread as they round out the year with friends and family. 

In a message on Thursday, WHO Regional Director Hans Kluge urged Europeans to “be smart, be kind, be safe this holiday season.” 

The COVID-19 threat remains high across the continent, which was already the epicentre of the pandemic even before the emergence of the new Omicron variant.  

Use the tools 

“My message to the people of Europe and central Asia is to exercise caution this holiday season. Use the many tools we have at our disposal. These stabilizers help us to manage the virus and keep people safe,” said Dr. Kluge. 

He urged people to get fully vaccinated as soon as possible. 

“Vaccines remain the best way to prevent severe disease and death, even with the arrival of the Omicron variant,” said Dr. Kluge. “If you are eligible for a third dose and it is available to you, take it.” 

Families and friends meeting up should keep these gatherings small, he added,while recommending that people should take a lateral flow/antigen or PCR test beforehand to ensure they are not infectious.

“Follow other preventive measures, even if you are fully vaccinated,” Dr. Kluge advised.  “Avoid crowded or confined places, wear a well-fitting mask, observe physical distancing of at least one metre, ventilate indoor spaces by opening windows and/or doors, and keep your hands clean.”

Finding the right balance 

In separate advice to governments and health authorities, WHO Europe called for “a balanced and risk-based approach” to COVID-19 prevention measures this winter season. 

As people socialize more indoors, or travel to visit loved ones, the opportunities for further virus transmission are significant.  

WHO Europe said with the right mix of measures, countries can find a balance between keeping coronavirus transmission down and societies and economies open. 

Government response should be centred around preventing severe COVID-19 disease and stabilizing transmission. 

Measures include continuing to vaccinate, targeting those most at risk, and prioritizing eligible groups for booster shots.  Governments should also strengthen public health actions such as testing, contact tracing and regulations for mass gatherings. 

Regarding international travel, WHO Europe said while countries may apply appropriate measures to reduce virus transmission, particularly in response to new variants, blanket travel bans will not prevent their international spread. 

Additionally, decisions on mass gatherings should “rely on a risk-based approach”, and WHO has produced a policy brief and risk assessment tool to support authorities in this regard. 

New assessment tool 

WHO Europe recently launched an online mechanism to help governments decide on the type and level of measures to implement in their territories. 

The COVID-19 Public Health and Social Measures (PHSM) Calibration Tool brings together the crucial information required to make an assessment, and then provides a situational report with recommendations on appropriate measures. 

The (PHSM) Calibration Tool will allow governments and local authorities to quickly adjust measures as needed, which in turn should help reduce virus transmission, among other benefits.

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