The Lao tourism training programme is considered to be highly successful and could be adopted by other countries, with Myanmar and Bangladesh already considering adapting the Lao model to suit their own situations.

United Nations World Tourism Organisation Secretary Mr Taleb Rifai made the statement while attending the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)’s Annual Summit, held in Bangkok, Thailand, late last month.

Mr Rifai said the Lao National Institute of Tourism and Hospitality (Lanith) is proving to be very successful, and its donor supporters from Luxembourg are already speaking with Myanmar about instituting a similar programme.

Lanith follows international standards and practices to strive for the highest standards. Also, all the teachers are of Lao nationality and educated internationally, meaning they have outside knowledge but can relate well with the students in Laos.

This is in contrast to most development agencies, which normally send a foreigner for a short time to train local staff, which is not always effective.

Lanith has internationally educated Lao teachers employing a hands-on approach in an operational hotel setting, which the teachers say really motivates the classes whereas other countries use a rote learning and note taking method, which is hardly inspiring for the students.

“It is not effective and hoteliers/tour agents complain. Hotels are seeking qualified staff, and Lanith’s model delivers this. Internationally trained native teachers teaching in their own language using international standards makes all the difference,” Mr Rifai said.

The Senior Tourism Advisor of the Myanmar Tourism Federation, Kyi Kyi Aye, said it has already approached Lanith, as has Bangladesh, as they view the model as the best alternative they’ve seen so far.

Before the Lanith programme got underway, tourism training in Laos was not so good. The teachers had no experience of tourism, and they used the old-fashioned style of note-taking as they dictated from a book while the students were passive and unengaged.

Now, university professors are undergoing Lanith training as it is based on a mix of hands-on skills training, a method that has proved successful in Singapore and Hong Kong.

It really gets the students involved in discussions, asking questions, doing group and individual projects, undertaking internships, hands-on training and sharing experiences.

The students and teachers are very enthusiastic, come to class early, and feel a sense of pride when they successfully complete a course, instead of just taking notes from an unqualified teacher.

People think the Lanith model can be successfully adapted for use in other countries, because it has proven to be effective according to Lao hoteliers, teachers and establishments who have taken on staff that have trained at Lanith.

Lanith Chief Technical Advisor and Chairman of PATA’s Education & Training Committee, Mr Peter Semone, explained that the focus in hospitality should place more weight on people and less on hardware like rooms, restaurants, and facilities.

“Students and existing hotel staff need more experience in people-to-people contact,” he explained. “The building can only take you so far. People are a hotel’s most important asset.”

He emphasised that the summit is moving forward in coming up with a human capacity development initiative, possibly based on the Lanith formula, as capacity development and sourcing qualified staff remains the industry’s biggest challenge.

Another expert stated that capacity development today needs to change with the evolving demographic of travellers. They expect a higher level of service, are computer-oriented, and place their life experiences before their careers.

“Emerging nations like Laos need to cater more to this. They must understand these changes and how to face them. Executives also need to rely more on their staff to understand customers’ needs,” he said.

Source: Vientiane Times
May 10, 2013