Hospitality Industry

Why use VR for Hospitality Training?

The earliest form of hotels can be traced to the first millennia BC when Inns were built along the roads for lodging and boarding of the travelers who paid for the services they received. In course of time, the nature of trade and transport changed and assumed the form of hotels, motels and lodges. Post-industrial era changed the character of business. Business travels became frequent and it was realized by the end of the 19th century by the pioneers that a hotel customer is no ordinary customer but a valuable guest who needed special attention and care. It was also realized that such care could be provided only by highly sensitized and properly groomed staff. That is how the formal training programs were planned and executed that included basic traits like:

  1. Dedication
  2. Cultural Awareness
  3. Multi-tasking
  4. Positive Attitude
  5. Language Fluency
  6. Efficient Organization Skills
  7. Calm and Composed Temperament to work under pressure
  8. Friendly, approachable and empathetic demeanor

These constituted the fundamentals of the hotel training and have stood the test of time. They are still followed as the rule book. Over the period of time, the nature and scope of business further changed. Competition grew and also changed the guest profile. This required deepening of the processes and ploughing in of big investments. There grew sharp categorization of the starred properties. With rise in disposable incomes the domestic tourism is growing and so is the foreign tourist inflow from different categories. That is giving rise to the growth of the food and accommodation industry in all categories of hotels and restaurants, in both categories; starred and not starred. 

Indian policy makers had visualized, from the beginning the importance of hospitality sector as the sunrise sector. Quality hotels were built under Indian Tourism Development Corporation [ITDC] and also State Tourism Development Corporations [STDCs]. A separate national council was set-up as NCHMCT [National Council for Hotel Management & Catering Technology]; under the control of the Ministry of Tourism to be the apex formation in the country to ensure coordinated growth and development of hospitality education. As of the date, there are total 76 institutes that follow the NCHMCT curriculum. Besides, there are a host of other private and university driven programs run at different institute.

In view of the growing competition, major home grown hotel chains, foresaw the challenge to prepare their own manpower that could match up with the global standards and changed customer expectations to work in a globalized work environments.

They have recently started to seriously explore the 4.0 technology application in their training programs; but as of the day it is in experimental stage and not fully harnessed. So, the bottom-line is, India’s hospitality training format is simply an upgraded model of training with old practices; whereas it has huge potential with the AI, AR/VR and IoT.

They are expecting to overcome the shortfalls of and enhance the effects of the traditional methods of training: textbook, classroom role playing and on the job training. They also aim at increasing efficiency and employee engagement with the help of 4.0 technology.

Edgar Dale hypothesized that humans can recall only 10% of what is read, 20% of what is heard and 30% of what is seen. But we have the ability to recall 90% of what we do and say. Simulations are contrived experiences provided through AR and VR devices. Maritime Institutes and Flying School depend heavily on them.  

The following are the advantages of use of AR/VR technology in training of employees:

  1. Increases the level of customization
  2. Learning need not be in a classroom
  3. Lessens the dependence on peer to peer learning
  4. The progress can be logged and analysed real-time
  5. Content is varying and vaster
  6. Drives self-learning; lessens the cost of induction
  7. Increases efficiency and accountability of student
  8. Results in better decision-making ability than through traditional methods
  9. Enables focus to be on knowledge rather than information
  10. Helps understand and learn better and faster than traditional method
  11. Gives the trainee better and more realistic visuals than diagrams and picture slide shows
P.O.V of Trainee
P.O.V of Business

Studies say that our attention span is becoming narrower with time. Millennials have the lowest average attention span (of 8 seconds, which is lower than that of a goldfish), thanks to the emergence of connected, immersive and collaborative media. By 2020, they will make up 50% of the workforce, hence, they need to be given an immersive training.

Recently, a study was done by Neilsen, in which they presented a campaign across three formats: 2D, Flat 360 degree and VR; and they found that the reaction was higher by 27% in VR and the viewers were engaged 34% longer. VR can also help people with learning disabilities grasp concepts faster through its immersive experience. Studies show that using VR as a learning tool increases attention span.

In other parts of the world, companies have already been successful at using 4.0 technologies to effectively train employees. KFC recently developed a VR application “The Hard Way” that trains it’s employees using gamification tactics. Hilton uses VR to help management employees understand the tasks of the front-line staff.

The journey of hotel training has been from electricity to WiFi to smart class room with role playing and simulations. It has helped so far, but in order to understand the increasingly tech-savvy customer expectations and changing hotel environment, the highly structured capsules of extant training will have to be cracked. The mainstream system of education is already embracing the e-learning platforms like MOOC and Flipped class room where personalized cookie cutter menus are being offered. But the hotel training is not exactly like the mainstream education system.

Human empathy and guest alignment service design is the core here, hence it has to be in an immersive ‘training’ mode of hands-on experience to sync with the guest expectations. The only change that can be effected is incorporation of AR/VR to make it more impact as it is going to be absorbed in hotel operations from menu planning, plating to general ambiance and guest services. Novelty drives enthusiasm. It shall be movement from Information to Knowledge and from one-dimensional structure to the multi-dimensional personalized learning format. AR is the next step in hospitality and so in its training. Virtual and augmented reality companies in India are already busy catching up with the trend and are working towards a more tech inclusive environment for the hospitality sector.

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