We spoke to Ian Millar, who teaches at the prestigious Ecole Hôtelière de Lausanne as a Senior Lecturer in Hospitality Technology and manager of the Institute of Business Creativity (IBC). Ian specializes in hospitality technology and is expertly placed to engage with students about new developments and where the industry will develop.
How did you find teaching remotely?
“It actually went better than I thought it would. Having the right tools provided by EHL helped of course, and being very clear on the class rules was important. Even though it’s now all online, having the students on time and engaging with questions is vital, which meant stopping every now and again to ensure the students can still hear okay and that the pace is okay.”
What were you teaching, and did you find the content had to change in order to reflect what’s happening around the world?
“The module was a hospitality IT course and yes, there was some course modification. This was to take into account COVID-19 but also to reinforce some aspects that had already been covered. For example, I had previously covered remote check in and mobile keys, something that wasn’t hugely used in hospitality, and suddenly COVID-19 comes along and it’s the hot topic. The same goes for using QR codes and contactless payments. So in a way – and this will sound horrible – but from the perspective of accelerating technology usage, COVID-19 has been helpful.”
Was it easy to make all these changes?
“When this started it was an unknown for all of us. However, from our experience at EHL over the past months I think we can be very proud of what we have achieved, how we have done it and how we will move forward. To quote Ray Bradbury: “Jump off the cliff and build your wings on the way down.” That was what moving from classroom to online teaching felt like. With all the benefits of digital education, there is a downside as a teacher: you miss your students. Yes they can drive you crazy at times but that human aspect so vital to our industry was missed.”
How well do you think this next generation of hoteliers are prepared to handle the changing landscape?
“Very well. They are the digital natives; they get how to use technology. Okay they have no idea how it works but they know how to apply it, what is important, and they are used to using online collaborative tools. For me, the problem lies in antiquated tools and procedures from hotel companies, and hotels having to adhere to brand standards and star rating systems that hold them back.
This is where we also need our industry as a whole to move. One more thing is that we will be frustrating future employees if we keep working this way. A procedure that requires ten excel sheets to be completed manually as opposed to RPA (Robotic process automation) is going to be a hard sell.”