As of school year 2010-11, the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) recorded a total of 666 schools all over the country offering hotel and restaurant management, tourism and related courses. Total enrolment was 237,341, with 25,478 graduates that year.
With these figures one wonders just who are teaching all these students and what is being taught. Are there enough qualified instructors throughout the country to ensure every matriculating student is equipped with the tools he/she will need to succeed in the real world?
Robert “Bobby” Lim Joseph, who has been in the travel and tourism industry for some four decades now, does not want to dwell on the how and what of tourism instruction in the Philippines.
Instead, he has set out to help fill whatever gaps formal schooling leaves in preparing people for the industry.
He enlisted the help of friends and acquaintances, experts and experienced in the field, who were just as concerned about the seeming inability of the Philippines to cash in on its natural and human-made tourist attractions.
Boosting an industry
Joseph and company want to give the Philippine tourism business the much-needed boost to make it a major income generator, the way it is in many countries.
And they hope well-educated and skilled human resources would help turn Philippine tourism into a major industry.
Joseph, chairman emeritus of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies-Philippines Inc., spearheaded the setting up of the Tourism Educators and Movers (Team) Philippines and League of Tourism Students of the Philippines (LTSP).
Both organizations aim to supplement the training of tourism students and enhance the capacity of mentors.
Juancho Rosites, former LTSP president, said the organizations conducted regular seminars for teachers and students. The events tried to facilitate an active and continuing exchange between the academe and industry to keep classroom instruction abreast of and adapted to trends and new developments.
Joseph explained, “In order (for the industry) to develop, there should always be a collaboration between teachers and practitioners.” He said students had to be made more competitive but the teachers had to be helped and supported in the task of skills training.
Although the events were usually held in universities and colleges, they were open to everyone involved or interested in the travel and tourism business, including local government officials.
“We have to cascade the culture of tourism to the grassroots and community tourism groups,” Joseph said, as he noted that 85 percent of industry workers in central Visayas, for instance, were just high school graduates.
He said they were now collaborating with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) for the training of tourism workers.
For those in college, Team and LTSP activities are not meant to replace classroom instruction. Rather they are designed to complement and supplement the curriculum.
Joseph noted that new graduates often lacked certain competencies needed by the travel/tourism industry.
One important area, for instance, was protocol and social graces. Joseph asked the assistance of the Department of Foreign Affairs in conducting sessions on how to deal with very important personages, different races, ages, etc.
Joseph said the University of San Carlos was coming out with a book on protocol and social graces, which “was badly needed by the industry.”
He said they were working to have the topic integrated into an existing subject in the college curriculum.
Conventions and seminars also focused on the teaching of the values and attitudes required by the industry, upgrading skills, developing proper hygiene and sanitation habits, and ensuring consistency in service.
Joseph said they also underscored the importance of security, a vital part of successful tourism programs that was often overlooked and neglected.
But Joseph said the bottom line for those wanting to go into the tourism business was good basic education that would provide graduates with the necessary language skills, both written and oral, and the right values and attitudes.
For instance, Filipinos had to learn again the importance of being punctual, neat and organized, he said. Although Filipinos acquired these traits as children, Joseph said, they lost them or did not see their value anymore when they became adults.
Joseph, who accepts students doing on-the-job training for their courses in his boutique hotel, Wine Museum, and its restaurant, also stressed the importance of cross-training. Students should not be exposed to only one task but should be encouraged to try every job available in the establishment where they are training.
At the Wine Museum, students get to work in the kitchen, tend the bar, etc., aside from performing certain duties at the hotel itself.
Students Weljune T. Ticala and Maria Nerissa B. Diamante, both pursuing degrees in Bachelor of Science in Hotel and Restaurant management at the University of Santo Tomas, said performing all kinds of task was fun. They learned things other than those that were strictly tourism-related.
Among the goals of Joseph’s “crusade” is to establish an accreditation system for instructors and standardized training program. The idea seemed to be welcomed by everyone in the academe—faculty, students and school owners.
Joseph strongly believes in the potential of the Philippine tourism industry as a major money earner, but he stressed that quality, not quantity, of graduates annually would help the sector to grow and improve the chances of Filipinos being employed in the global market.
He welcomed initiatives by the CHEd to declare a moratorium on the opening of new tourism schools or programs to ensure that most graduates would find use for their degrees.