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Business of hiring: Hospitality campus placements take a hit, students in a spot

New Delhi: If you are about to graduate in computer science, electronics or any other engineering course, you are in a bright spot. Irrespective of your elective, the prospects of a campus hiring from some of the top-notch IT companies in India is a given. But what about the thousands, who joined a course in hospitality/hotel management? The future for such students looks bleak thanks to the havoc the woolly virus has played not just with their careers but also with the industry they so desperately want to belong to.

Hiring trends continue to plunge

A report by in 2020 stated that the hotel, travel and airline sector has seen a negative hiring trend of 91 per cent, highest across all industries in the April quarter. The national average of hirings in this sector, as per the report stood at a dismal 62 per cent. Students pursuing a course in the hospitality and travel industry were caught in a limbo. “We were right in the midst of a campus placement when the lockdown was announced and coronavirus took over. My joining date had to be pushed last year. In 2021, they changed my contract and made me a fresher from a manager. I have a job on paper but I am yet to join. My course mates are still waiting to be placed,” says Anup Singhla, who is waiting for his placement with a popular chain of hotels in Bengaluru.

The hiring trend continues to be shallow in 2021. A survey conducted by Research Gate, found 97 per cent of hospitality students agreed that their internship programmes were badly affected due to this pandemic. 73 per cent students disagreed when asked if they will prefer online mode of education post this pandemic and about 75 per cent students said that they have not received any call for any campus placement yet.

Ujwala Sonawane, dean of ITM Institute of Hotel Management in Mumbai, agrees that the pandemic has hit placements in the Hospitality industry real hard. “Most students were placed in 2020, but then came the lockdown, which changed things around. Hotels did not take students on board or kept them benched. This happened because the sector found it impossible to retain their employees and thus did not want additional recruitment which they would not be able to support financially. The trends in 2021 do not look promising as well,” Sonawane said.

“A sorry state”: The industry POV

“The first wave was far more benign. The second wave has been brutal and we are not too sure how the future will play out,” says one industry source. As the industry confronted the first phase, it decided not to hire fresh hotel management/hospitality sector graduates and despite the second wave on a decline, this stance is unlikely to change in a jiffy.

“We don’t know when the hiring will start but that’s conservatively at least 18 to 24 months away. Nobody wants to get more hands. It was clearly a wrong time for these students to enter this field of study. We can only sympathise with them but are equally helpless,” said one office bearer of FHRAI to TV9 Digital.

How the industry manoeuvred around?

The industry was forced to cut back on expenses and employees were the ones who were at the receiving end. Currently the industry employs barely 50 per cent of its total number of employees. “We have spoken to numerous people be it in the Union ministry or bureaucrats. Everyone is sympathetic but no help is forthcoming,” warns another hospitality sector expert. The industry is pegging its hopes on faster roll out of the vaccination process but fears of an imminent third wave is causing the industry sleepless nights.

Way forward… 

It will take a holistic approach to make hirings and placements in this sector come back to normalcy. Institutes have started doing their bit by tweaking course structure. The Indian School of Hospitality, for instance, launched a postgraduate programme in Service Operations Management last year in the middle of the pandemic. The college added more elective, specialisation options into the programme keeping the pandemic in mind. Similarly, Amity Institute of Travel and Tourism in Noida has re-done their curriculum to meet the current needs and introducing courses on digital marketing of tourism-related products and services.

The Indian School of Hospitality in Haryana, predicts “they will see 25-30 per cent students get into the startup space”. But is the placement scene going to revive anytime soon? Only time will tell.