#taste2connect – A virtual competition for hospitality, tourism and wellness students
Tanja Angleitner Sagadin, PhD (firstname.lastname@example.org), Vocational College of Hospitality and tourism Maribor
Knowledge can be transmitted in a much better manner apart from sitting in one corner and reading books. However, with the 2nd Covid-19 wave lock down that started in October 2020, European countries and consequently students experienced different levels of lock-downs, limited access to schools, face-to-face teaching, and practical training. This also affected the practical aspect of tertiary vocational education that relies heavily on hands-on experience, practical training in specialised classrooms, internships, and strong connections with the world of work, which was in some cases not only limited, but non-existent at all (Slovenia’s lock-down of hospitality businesses in this period lasted almost 7 months).
Practicality is far better than theory. An international competition was therefore introduced within the European hospitality school association EURHODIP, based on the idea of the Vocational College of Hospitality and tourism Maribor. The competition was aimed at Level5 and Level6 students of hospitality, tourism, culinary arts, wellness, and hotel management. It not only wanted to connect young and talented professionals in making with the aim of acquiring practical competences in their field of studies, but also to give students a rich practical experience that will make it much easier for them to enter the labor market.
The added value of this project is applicable to the world of work and should form an indispensable part of vocational hospitality training at Levels 5 and 6 because it stimulates the development of creative integral products, based on the principles of Generation Z, and promotes European natural and cultural diversity. The content shows its relevance in that it also includes some goals from the SDG2030 agenda, emphasizing the principles of sustainable development and wellbeing through gastronomy tourism.
Compulsory elements, such as a short business plan, presentation of unique points of sale of a destination also have to include the elements of wellbeing, sustainability, and culinary tradition. The requirements foresee clearly exposed components of the entire integral tourism product and calculation of the selling plan, finishing with a draft promotional plan for an integral tourism product. All in all, the project combines knowledge that the students gain in the first 2 years of their studies and brings it to the next level, herewith making it an ideal starting point for their future careers in hospitality management, DMOs, tourist boards, or perhaps even starting their own business.
There was a total of 10 participating teams from all over Europe and Pakistan. Teams had to back up their story with a short video that had to include all elements of a business proposal: a 1-minute pitch that concisely presents the main advantages of the presented integral tourism product and a 3-minute creative presentation and promotion of it. Basically, creating an unforgettable user experience, backed up with a written business plan.
Submitted projects were then evaluated by a group of 4 judges: two professionals from the hospitality industry and two professors of hospitality and entrepreneurship. The evaluation was based on the detailed professional knowledge of the topic, feasibility, practical value, creativity, teamwork, and promotion approaches.
Tourism education at vocational tertiary level requires a lot of practical experiences. And since “practice makes perfect”, such practical experience should be integrated in the national study curricula, perhaps even counting as a final graduation project. Students acquire cognitive and professional skills through the “learning by doing” approach, and this combination of acquired theoretical knowledge applied to the actual needs of the environment would positively affect and develop their careers smoothly thereafter.