Expert Opinion – Is Airbnb Changing The Notion Of Hospitality Training?

 
“SHTCA do cover the Airbnb topic and business model in our Accommodation class and also in our Hospitality and Tourism class.” -- Mr Loke Kar Koay, the Head of School of Hospitality Tourism & Culinary Arts (SHTCA) at KDU University College. “The pedagogy and teaching syllabus at SHTCA has been constantly strengthened and enriched in order to keep our students up with the evolvement of the real world, particularly in the real world of the digital era.” -- Mr Loke Kar Koay, the Head of School of Hospitality Tourism & Culinary Arts (SHTCA) at KDU University College.
When travelling becomes cheaper and more personalized with the onset of online lodging services such as Airbnb, the notion of ‘hospitality’ is seems to be changed. Some parties in the hospitality line stated that such emerging online marketplace and hospitality services have led to a decline in the hotel business.

With over 3 million accommodation listings in 65,000 cities and in 191 countries worldwide, Airbnb is aggressively targeting casual as well as business travellers – the bread and butter clients of hotels – and this has forced the hospitality industry to rethink their business models.

Looking at this inevitably growing trend, how do hospitality educators actually adjust or align their paces in providing up to date training that is pragmatic and practical? To have better insights, we talked to Mr Loke Kar Koay who is better known as KK, the Head of School of Hospitality Tourism & Culinary Arts (SHTCA) at KDU University College.

In the very first place, KK defines Airbnb as part of the tourism industry, but it will not hampering the conventional hotel business as both entities cater for different needs.
“Airbnb is a spinoff from an older concept of holiday home or apartment rental of the yesteryears,” he continued, “the only difference is, Airbnb marries the holiday home with the modern communication and internet advancement, and the very top level of this business operation does not own any lodgings, but merely a broker and receives commission from guests and hosts for every booking.”

On the ground, Airbnb allows everyone to have a small slice of the tourism or hospitality pie, thus, gone are the days where only certain players or oligopolistic leaders monopolised the big chunk accommodations business. But the question is – Will this beneficial to the upcoming generation who studies hospitality, tourism and culinary arts?

For KK, the answer is certainly optimistic as he elaborated, “The basic business model of Airbnb is just like any other accommodation related business, only that it uses the internet to facilitate the marketing, reservation and payment for the property. Thinking of Airbnb as the ‘next step’ evolution of the accommodation industry, the pedagogy and teaching syllabus at SHTCA has been constantly strengthened and enriched in order to keep our students up with the evolvement of the real world, particularly in the real world of the digital era.”

“We do cover the Airbnb topic and business model in our Accommodation class and also in our Hospitality and Tourism class, specifically in the following subjects - Accommodation Operations, Hospitality & Tourism Studies, Hospitality Sales & Marketing, Hospitality E-Commerce, Housekeeping Management, and Hospitality Entrepreneurship,” he continued.

In other words, well trained with full grasp of the fundamental and core knowledge above, graduates will find themselves more than adequate in adapting both conventional and innovated accommodation business, be it working in a high-end hotel or venturing into entrepreneurship and start up own business with Airbnb concept, they will find themselves fully equipped and versatile in any operating model.

In Malaysia, Airbnb hosts here had already earned US$48.1 million in the year 2017, more than double the US$23.3 million they earned in 2016. And that is just 97% of receipts as 3% is kept by Airbnb. Tapping into this lucrative market, graduates who have solid knowledge of hotel operation, hospitality management, tourism management and culinary arts, will be definitely set apart from any other ordinary hosts.

Moreover, according to KK, “Airbnb does not only cater to the budget traveller but do also offer very premium high-end properties.” Although this only made up a small portion it would also add the variety offered if compared to hotels which only limited to twin, deluxe or suite. “Airbnb will also have tree houses, condos in private estates, properties that were previously never available to the masses. All these need professional knowledge and skills when coming to managing, and this is where hospitality graduates with specific knowledge and entrepreneurial training background could come into the picture,” he enthused.

In summary, the hospitality, tourism and culinary arts industries are dynamic and constantly evolving. As these service-focused fields require broad skills, knowledge and etiquette covering a wide range of areas, which includes areas that are unprecedented, KDU students in SHTCA are hence taught with range of programmes that reflect upcoming developments, in ensuring graduates are armed with a combination of knowledge and skills for an industry that is a growing contributor to burgeoning economies.