Spain is widely recognised as one of the most significant tourist destinations globally. According to the latest official data published by the WTO, Spain is the second most visited country in the world, receiving nearly 84 million tourists in 2019. The impact of tourism on the Spanish economy is an undeniable fact. Therefore, it is imperative for education authorities to provide their future professionals with an appropriate, up-to-date and high-quality tourism education. Vocational Education and Training is no exception.
However, it is no longer a matter of quantitative growth, but a matter of a qualitative one. Innovation, solidarity and sustainability become a must. The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a catalyst for some changes that were already taking place in the industry, even before the pandemic.
On the other hand, tourism education in Spain cannot be understood without the hospitality sector, hence the sector branch in the Spanish VET system is known as Hospitality and Tourism. Having this in mind, some of our associated VET centres have implemented a few good practices that help redefine our tourism industry. In a nutshell, in order for this industry to thrive, we need it to be:
Innovation is precisely what the students and teachers in the VET centre CIFP La Merced do not lack of. Due to the pandemic, tourist guide training could not be carried out normally. So, they decided to make use of the latest technology in order to overcome this learning obstacle. Students received training in QR codes, Google Business and VR editing programmes. This way, they were able to create their own contents and continue their practice. The teacher of this module, Ana Hernando, highlighted: “This new working method was such an inspiration that three students decided to present an innovation project on VR tourism for the elderly, receiving an award by the regional authorities in the VET category”. She adds: “The students have recorded, edited and collected all the virtual visits of this project in a blog”. Ana Hernando considers that, thanks to this, the students are now guides of the 21st century and are much more multidisciplinary professionals, who have made a difficulty a new opportunity, reinventing themselves.
Technology was also put to good use by the Hospitality and Tourism Department in the VET centre CIFP Simone Ortega. Due to the particular circumstances caused by the pandemic, they decided to design a complete take-away service for their teaching community, basing it upon the principle of responsible consumption. In order to manage surplus of food, they launched an app, called Nice to eat you, to connect external customers with the school and facilitate purchase. The resulting funds are donated to non-profit organisations within the same municipality. According to the participating teachers: “this activity helps to consolidate the correct use of the raw material, making the students participate through the entire process”.
Solidarity is another element that cannot miss when reshaping the future of our industry. If an excellent service to tourists is to be provided, future professionals need to be trained within the frame of human values, such as empathy and solidarity. This is exactly what the VET centres CIPFP Canastell and INS Escola de Hoteleria i Turisme de Barcelona are promoting.
Given the difficult times that we have had to endure in the past year, the CIPFP Canastell decided to start a partnership with Alicante Gastronómica Solidaria, a non-profit local project whose main goal has been to help those in need by fulfilling their basic need for food. The school director, Carlos Navas, explains that “by taking part in this initiative, giving out thousands of menus to thousands of people, some students have had the opportunity to continue their cooking and services training face-to-face and, most importantly, to actively participate in the social development of their area”.
For its part, the INS Escola de Hoteleria i Turisme de Barcelona has established an alliance with the Mahou San Miguel Foundation to give a full scholarship to 30 young people, who come from difficult backgrounds, to study an Intermediate Dual VET Cycle on Hospitality Services. This successful initiative aims at training professionals who excel for the quality of their service. Students receive counselling and support from the moment their training begins until they find a suitable job. Nacho Marín, tutor of one of the groups of this initiative, highlights: “It is a sometimes very tortuous and winding path, which we travel along with the students. Sharing that journey, whatever it may be, is very enriching for all of us who share it”.
And of course, the key factor that brings everything together: sustainability. VET centres with Hospitality and tourism provision are well aware that in order for the industry to grow healthy, it needs to be strongly committed to sustainable practices.
This is the case of the VET centre CIFP Hostelería y Turismo de Gijón, where its students of tourism, with the motto “Open your eyes, take care of your paradise!” and in collaboration with Ocean Initiatives, have volunteered to clean the beaches of their region, Asturias. They ingredients of this project, solidarity and sustainability, have made this VET centre win an award at the school contest “React, recycle!” organised by the regional company of waste management COGERSA. They have also designed a charity calendar and used the funds raised to adopt two WWF endangered animals. Isabel Méndez, head of the school’s Recycling Coordination Unit, underlines: “The CIFP Hostelería y Turismo de Gijón is much more than a training centre, it is a school committed to good practices and respect for the environment”.
The VET centre Altaviana counts on its project FOSTER, co-funded by the EU Commission LIFE Programme. With its claim, Love Food, Reduce Waste, they aim at raising awareness on food waste and how to prevent it. The idea is that future professionals implement these practices at their workplaces and this way, multiply the communication effect of the project. Gema Trillo, from the school’s management team, points out: “Participation in this project has been an excellent opportunity to make our students aware of the importance of reducing waste. At the same time, it has made them carriers of this message, transferring the sustainability training received to the companies where their internship is carried out”.
In line with this action of raising awareness, the VET centre Escuela de Hostelería de Egibide Mendizorrotza, with its accredited Km0 Restaurant, promotes the consumption of locally grown produce. This way, they contribute to the sustainable development of small business and farms nearby and support the local economy. A win-win project. Xabier López, school principal, highlights: “For the Escuela de Hostelería de Egibide Mendizorrotza, the transmission of these values to the students is important due to the support it represents for the local economy, agriculture, livestock and gastronomy, for the caring of the environment and sustainability; for a healthier diet through the consumption of food collected at its optimum moment, which maintains its nutritional qualities and makes it tastier”.
The entire Hospitality and Tourism Department of the VET centre CIPFP Valle de Elda is strongly promoting sustainable practices among its students. They believe that well-trained students in the field of sustainability will become better professionals for the industry. Professionals who will, in turn, defend and implement sustainable measures in their respective jobs. Juan Carlos Martínez, Head of the Department of Hospitality and Tourism, considers that “we are facing a generation of students who are very aware of the environment and through the dynamics of this type of activities we favour the introduction of actions that reinforce the responsible and sustainable use of resources”.
All these good practices show one thing: by providing students with practical knowledge and useful expertise, VET providers play a major role in shaping a brighter future for our tourism and hospitality industry and, most importantly, in shaping the future of a more innovative, more caring and more sustainable world.