With Nepal always looking for new innovative ways to find our footing in a competitive world, it is a noteworthy feat when an effort is recognized on an international level. Global Academy of Tourism & Hospitality Education (GATE College) was not only nominated at the 12th Annual Worldwide Hospitality Awards but they also earned the award for “Best Innovative Training Program”.
“We heard about the nomination in August and after answering questions and sending our material we got confirmation of our nomination around Dashain,” says founder and CEO Khem Rak Lakai.
The ceremony was hosted by the Paris based think tank, MKG Group, on Nov 21, 2011 in Paris, France. With approximately 800 guests, media personals from TV5 and other French press, various awards were given to companies and schools in the hospitality industry from around the world.
“There were people from all over the world. For the first time ever the voting was done live,” explains Lakai of how the final voting took place in the vicinity itself.
“There were different categories for hotels and for hotel schools,” says Lakai and mentions that the Best Innovative Training Program award had been designed and added specifically for GATE College.
There is good reason the program garnered as much commotion as it did. Established in 2008, GATE College is unique in that it offers academic and vocational training in the hospitality field.
Lakai believes that while academics is important, vocational training doesn’t receive the attention it should, “I went to Australia last year and I found out that there about 80 percent of students go into vocational trainings after high school, while about 20 percent go straight into research or academics, here it is exactly the opposite – everyone wants to study and no one wants to work.”
In Lakai’s opinion, “If you look for a plumber here it’s difficult, there’s no international standard for something like plumbing. The country is going to change through work, but no one is willing to learn these skills anymore. Vocational education makes a difference - it should be brought about and given priority.”
Though GATE offers training only in hospitality it offers students the option of focusing on something specific like cooking through the vocational programs.
For those enrolled in other programs, going abroad to countries like Dubai, Germany and Malaysia is highly encouraged.
As Lakai was educated in Swiss School of Tourism and Hospitality (SSTH) in Switzerland he believes his students have much to gain from international exposure.
“Frankly speaking, it’s just about people serving people – a person using a vacuum cleaner here is not very different from a person using a vacuum cleaner in Singapore. But when it comes to work ethics it’s totally different.”
In short, by completing internships in other countries students here are able to gain perspective and will be able to have a better understanding of where hospitality in Nepal stands in order to be able to improve it.
In Lakai’s words, “We need to know what the rest of the world is doing. Without comparison we cannot know who we are, instead of just believing hotels here are the best, we need to see and learn and raise our confidence and standards.”
He even invites others to come see the work that GATE is accomplishing and welcomes others to replicate their model.
Though there is great prestige that comes in a Nepali institution being able to make a name for itself on an international scale, Lakai believes that on par with the joy in having received the award, there is much to celebrate in being able to make connections with other people in the industry.
“Sri Lanka’s Senior Consultant to UN World Tourism Organization, Omar Nawaz, came to me and said ‘This award is very small compared to what you’re doing in Nepal, please come and replicate this in our country,’ and I am as happy about that as I am about getting the award!” he shares.
Ashish Maharjan, operation manager at GATE College returned to Nepal after 11 years abroad and says the entire college is thrilled and a large group of them went to receive their CEO at the airport upon his return.
There is no doubt that all of the current 350 students are thrilled but the benefit of the awards expands to all of Nepal.
“There is big potential in Nepal now, hotels and restaurants have become professional, says Maharjan, “It’s Nepal Tourism Year 2011 and to win this award, it’s a big thing for the whole country.”
(Source: Republica Nepal: Written by Shreya Thapa)