With borders shut and hotels closed during the coronavirus pandemic, this could be the moment for remote training — and virtual reality’s role — in hospitality to shine and take off.
In the hospitality industry, virtual reality’s adoption has not been widespread despite its hype as an appealing product that can digitally transport potential guests to a hotel or travel destination.
But with travel plans grounded and hotels in temporary closure amid the current worldwide coronavirus outbreak, one hospitality trainer hopes virtual reality can pick up the slack by leveraging remote coaching to train hospitality workers in Southeast Asia and keep them connected with their workplaces regardless of their geographic locations.
It’s one vital way to keep staff morale high too, said Passport To Success Myanmar Director Tracy Cosgrove, who specializes in improving the soft skills and English-speaking abilities of service staff in hotels, restaurants and travel agencies.
The Myanmar-based global learning consultant has been conducting in-person coaching for hospitality workers in the country and neighboring Thailand in the past year using virtual reality modules, but the coronavirus crisis made the virtual reality application of her training even more apparent and beneficial.
The spread of coronavirus worldwide has already rapidly fanned the necessity of remote working, and Cosgrove believes it could have a similar effect on the virtual training. “Right now I’m creating my own bright spots. I’m busier than before the crisis,” she added.
“The training aspect and also the virtual tours are really flying at the moment. We are able to on board, train staff and also use the same concept for marketing and showing people around the hotels,” said Cosgrove. “At this time people want to visit exotic destinations and what a great time to show case their hotel.”
One of the biggest benefits of the digital medium, she added, is the ability to motivate the trainees in Myanmar, many of whom had to return to their home provinces as hotels in major tourist destinations temporarily shuttered their doors.
Offering motivation to these apprentices, who are typically one to two years into their hospitality jobs, is critical during this Covid-19 period.
“Myanmar’s hospitality workers are usually young people from the provinces, so having them continue their training even when they are back home would be a way to show their parents that they are doing something meaningful,” said Cosgrove.
Trainees, regardless of their geographic locations, can access the virtual reality training modules on their mobile phones. While the mobile experience does not have the full immersive experience that a virtual reality headset offers during an in-person session, trainees can still view 360-degree visuals of hotel surroundings, swipe them around and review their learnings, Cosgrove told Skift.
But other challenges persist for these displaced hospitality workers. She shared, “The main issue I have at the moment is many of the trainees who I normally would mentor are not able to go online due to a lack of money or absence of speedy internet, so this is a shame.”
While hotels typically foot the training bills for their employees in normal times, Passport to Success Myanmar is willing to forego fees during the coronavirus shutdown so that individuals can continue to receive coaching from her via Zoom meetings.
This is one way that the hospitality trainer, who counts 30 years of experience in Asia, could contribute to the nascent tourism sectors in the region’s developing countries like Myanmar. “Asia is where my love is. I’m bringing the mindset of hope, not doom and gloom during this period,” she added.
Likewise, interest in using virtual reality for staff training is now picking up in Europe, even if Cosgrove had not registered any interest from the continent earlier.
There are many areas of cross referencing in staff training even if Europe’s hospitality scene is at a much mature stage of development than Southeast Asia’s, said Cosgrove. Certain areas, such as housekeeping and kitchen operations, may not vary significantly as staff employed in such functions in European hotels often do not speak English.
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Photo credit: A capture of the 360-degree virtual reality visuals that hospitality staff see during their training. Pictured is the lobby of The Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar. Passport to Success Myanmar