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I am writing to you to express my concern and the concerns of many other people within the hospitality and tourism industry concerning the planned closure of the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute, Tourism Authority of Thailand, located in Bangsaen.
During 2000, the governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, Pradech Phayakvichienit announced that he had ordered the closure of the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute, and that there would be no students accepted in the school year 2001, leaving only the 2nd year students to complete their final year. By the middle of 2002, the institute will close down.
The staff of HTTI was informed about this decision during the course of 2000 and were told that they would be relocated in TAT offices in Bangkok and elsewhere. The reasons for the closure of this institute have been explained to the staff of the institute but not fully to outside interests. It is difficult to comprehend this decision, as HTTI is the only hospitality training institute within the kingdom which provides training at basic practical skills levels and these are the skills which are required by the hospitality industry.
One reason given at a recent meeting for members of the TAT staff union was that there were sufficient universities and colleges throughout the kingdom offering hospitality training; also the curriculum of HTTI was not fully covered by the Ministry of Education and thus did not qualify for a Ministry of Education budget.
The Hotel and Tourism Training Institute was established some 20 years ago with the support and assistance of the ILO and UNDP, with the mission statement being, to train workers in the tourism and hospitality industry at basic skills levels in the 4 main department of hotel operations, and tour guides. Most of the students that have been or are currently enrolled at HTTI come from families who are in the lower income bracket, and as such cannot afford to send their children to other more expensive private institutes, which do not offer the same quality training as HTTI.
The universities and colleges throughout Thailand that offer courses, either in certificate or degree programs in hospitality and tourism training do not offer the same level of practical training as that offered by HTTI. The problem with these university programs is that they are directed at middle management level, with little or no practical training being provided to their students, and as such they naturally lack the hands on experience to work within the industry that prospective employers are looking for.
Over the years HTTI has built a solid reputation both nationally and internationally for producing good quality students, who are fully equipped for immediate employment within the hospitality industry at basic skills level.
Some examples of the international reputation that HTTI has is seen that HTTI is an executive committee and founding member of APETIT (Asia-Pacific Education Training Institutes in Tourism) an international organization set up under UN-ESCAP and currently has over 140 members from hospitality training institutes representing major universities and hospitality training institutes throughout the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, China, New Zealand and the major universities with Thailand. HTTI is also a member of the advisory panel for ME-CATS, involving the European Union and the Institute of Tourism Education Macao. These are prestigious organizations that recognize the quality, importance and contributions HTTI has made to tourism training in - not just the kingdom but within the region as a whole.
This reputation is such that there are presently 9 students from the kitchen department of HTTI on a 12 month practical training program which has been arranged and conducted by the Savoy Hotel - London, one of the leading hotels of Europe. In addition, 2 students are also currently in Australia on a similar training program. The reaction from the private sector in this industry throughout the kingdom is akin to stunned disbelief concerning the decision by the governor to close HTTI. It was hoped that these programs would be ongoing - alas this will not happen.
Thailand, under the direction of the P.M. Thaksin, is aiming to promote and develop the tourism and service industries over the next 5 years, and encourage an additional 5 million tourists to its shores, as this brings a huge amount of tourist revenue.
As equally important is the fact is that there is an acute shortage of basic skilled workers within the hospitality sector. In fact, it has been strongly recommended that additional financial resources be provided to upgrade the teaching and training facilities and recruit suitably qualified instructors to cater for this forecast increased demand for basic level skilled workers. The prevailing attitude should be one of development and not one of shutting down valued resources. It has been proven that there is definitely a demand for hospitality training institutes such as the Hotel and Tourism Training Institute. Not to mention the many jobless and unemployed persons who, when trained in the appropriate hospitality skills, could seek meaningful and long term employment in this growing and ever expanding and important industry.
Research has shown that university graduates who, upon completion of their 4 year degree programs, will not seek employment in the hospitality industry if they are required to wait on tables in hotel restaurants, cleaning bedroom toilets and making beds, nor are they going to work in hot kitchens preparing food. Their job expectations are for positions in middle or junior management, and when they discover that these jobs are unavailable to them, they do not pursue a career in this industry and seek employment elsewhere.
It is hoped that this approach to the future training of potential employees for the hospitality and tourism industry will not downgrade the quality of the many fine and reputable hotels and resorts throughout the kingdom.
The governor of TAT still has time to reverse this decision - in particular if there are enough voices expressing their disapproval at this closure.
Michael A. Sharp
Updated every Friday
Chinnaporn Sungwanlek, assisted by Boonsiri Suansuk.