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Global training, local focus

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Joseph A McInerney, president and CEO, American Hotel and Lodging Association traces the growth of the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute in India in the last 18 years and talks about the current focus on continuing education. By Sudipta Dev

Joseph A McInerney

The American Hotel and Lodging Association (AH&LA) is the sole representative of the hotel industry in the United States with an education institution that is international in scope. The 105-year-old association provides advocacy, public relations, image management for the industry, along with research, training and value added services for its members. “Our partner state associations would provide the same thing at state and local level. We also have a foundation that provides US$ 1.2 million each year in scholarships, research grants, work force development, etc,” says Joseph A McInerney, president and chief executive officer, AH&LA.

The American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute (AH&LEI) offers its Global Academic Programme (GAP) to more than 60 countries across the world. The AH&LEI office in India has been operational for the last 18 years. “K V Simon is our managing director. We are working with 70 different schools with all the major international and Indian hotel companies. We provide education resources and training material so that we can customise content for each hotel using the material that we’ve already provided,” states McInerney, adding that the last two decades has seen has AH&LEI grow tremendously in India in terms of hospitality education.

Focus on continuing education

Acknowledging that the service industry is one of the primary growth areas in India, McInerney adds, “We’ve noticed over the years the growth of international presence in India. All the major companies are developing their hotels. The greatest natural resource that India has is the brain power.” For years AH&LEI has worked with schools using the programmes to train young future leaders of the industry, now there is a lot of focus on continuing education. “We are now spending a lot of time working with the industry itself in doing continuing education programmes for them. The Taj Group has 1,500 employees using 33 of our courses that are part of their lodging management programme, we are talking with other companies about doing the same thing,” says McInerney, reminding that while there is an opportunity to work with international companies with whom AH&LEI has a relationship in the US or Europe, but also importantly with companies in India.

“The future of India is really within India itself,” he asserts. He believes in the importance of training people to run the international companies that are present in India. “It makes tourists feel better when they go to a hotel and see someone local running it and is a part of it, not someone from the US. Today’s thinking is that you have to assimilate into the local community and be part of it. Hotels have to be part of the community and the employees, the general manager has to make sure that it is a sustainable product within the community, act within the community and do things for the community,” he emphasises.

India-centric programmes

AH&LEI has a close relationship with the Hotel & Restaurant Association of Western India (HRAWI), which according to McInerney, has helped them to make their programme more Indian centric. “Originally, most our training was US centric, about five-six years ago we’ve realised that in the training field one size does not fit all, the programmes have to be adapted to the local cultures. Half a dozen of our programmes are India centric by using Indian case studies, using local people into the videos, using colloquialism from the local area, we feel that is important and use it more and more in the programmes that we have,” he mentions.

The future strategy for India is to add more people to AH&LEI operations. “We now have an office in Delhi and now we are covering more of the country. And as the industry will grow, we will grow,” he said adding that the institution is also working with other local companies that are doing training. “We are providing them with content, not just for our industry but also other industries. Because many of the things in the hospitality industry is able to be used in other industries, especially service, e.g. retail industry or the car rental industry, they all need service culture. Anybody that touches the customer out there can participate in our programme,” remarks McInerney. He points out, “India is a very interesting country, there is something for everyone in different parts of it. There is great opportunity to grow here, it can only get better.”

McInerney points out that the significant factor that separates the institution from others is that the training programme (from text books to videos) are developed by the industry and reviewed by academics as opposed to common practice academics writing the text and reviewed by the industry.

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