Amadeus will soon open an educational program for travel careers at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. The plan is for employees and professors to use virtual reality tools and other technology to train students. If it works, it could address a yawning skills gap in the labor market.
Many university students who seek to work in the travel sector confront jobs transformed by new technologies and operational practices. Yet traditional educational programs for degrees in hospitality, tourism, and computer science often aren’t up to date about “real world” business realities.
Riding into the breach is Amadeus. The Madrid-based travel tech giant is creating a kind of travel career education program to supplement instruction at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) on Spain’s Canary Islands.
Travel Tech School (TTS) by Amadeus will operate starting in March within the top-ranked university, which has several tourism- and technology-related majors.
“One of the key objectives is to make sure that the tourism industry becomes much more digital,” said Christian Boutin, general director of Amadeus in Spain and Portugal and head of retail in western Europe.
The school will supplement the academic portions of undergraduate and graduate programs. The aim is to teach the current expectations of both travelers and travel companies.
“In 2021, we hope to have 1,000 students,” said Eduardo Williams, co-founder of the Travel Tech School and adjunct professor of marketing and innovation. “Companies in the Canary Islands see TTS by Amadeus as their talent factory for digitization.”
Many students will want to work for travel providers, but some will want to work with technology companies like Amadeus, Williams said.
Digital Teaching Methods
The travel tech school has received about $6 million (€5 million) of funding to invent a new pedagogical system called NeuroTalentour. The system will use virtual reality to simulate challenges such as a negotiation or job interview.
“We want to become part of a new, digital way of training that’s really different from the traditional university lecture,” Boutin said. “We want to bring students very close to the business realities and issues that we are facing today in the tourism industry.”
New biofeedback tools can help instructors measure explicit behavior, such as how a student responds or acts, and implicit behavior as measured by “biomarkers,” such as tracking eye movements, sweating, and tone of voice.
“The school’s system will use technology to detect how the student is communicating, such as if your attention has wandered off, if you’re sweating, or if you need to calm down,” Boutin said. “The tech will be used to train the students better.”
Coursework will focus on building student “autonomy” in a tech-led career by training them in soft skills. Workshops may cover skill-building topics, such as programming, robotics, and machine learning, and business lessons about topics such as revenue management, customer relationship management systems, and operational systems, Williams said. Cultivating a responsibility for climate change is also a goal.
The university will offer credits in the master of tourism program for some of the classwork. Coursework will begin at the general library of the university’s Tafira campus. The travel tech school’s managing company in the Canary Islands is The Wise Dreams, a project led by regional companies and organizations, including the Lopesan Hotel. The Gran Canaria Turismo Innova Cluster, the Gran Canaria Tourist Board, and the Canary Islands Government also support the Travel Tech School by Amadeus.
If it’s successful, the effort could lead to other travel tech schools, said Boutin. Universities elsewhere in Spain or Latin America might want to create similar efforts, Williams agreed.
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Photo credit: Here's a view inside the main reading room of the library on the Tafira campus of the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, with a statue of "The Thinker." In the basement, Amadeus plans to build a "travel tech school." But we thought this photo was more interesting to look at than the basement. ULPGC