“Flexibility is the order of the day, and even more so during this the pandemic,” said Margaret Heng, chief executive of hospitality school SHATEC, speaking at the opening of the Asia-Pacific Council for Hotels, Restaurants and Institutional Educators (APacCHRIE) virtual conference.
That nimbleness was demonstrated at APacCHRIE 2021, themed 'Reboot, Reimagine, Redesign', when the event organisers had to quickly pivot the conference from hybrid to virtual in a short three weeks when Singapore imposed heightened anti-pandemic restrictions from 16 May, said Heng.
Nevertheless, the virtual APacCHRIE 2021 — which took place from 2-4 June — kicked off to a rousing start with a Taiko drums opening performance by special needs adults, live-streaming keynote presentations and plenary sessions to more than 380 delegates from 142 institutions and corporations across 28 countries in Asia Pacific, US and Europe.
Heng, who is chair of APacCHRIE and executive director of the Singapore Hotel Association, added that the global attendance of the conference is “a testament that it is indeed a great platform for delegates globally to connect, exchange ideas, garner new perspective as well as share best practices”.
The conference also featured a lineup of distinguished speakers and moderators "sharing insights on how to reinvent tourism, and redesign hospitality experiences by leveraging tech solutions such as AI and robotics”, noted Heng.
Founding president of APacCHRIE, Professor Kaye Chon, reminded attendees “to never waste a crisis”.
Founding president of APacCHRIE, Professor Kaye Chon, reminded attendees “to never waste a crisis”, recounting complications when the inaugural APacCHRIE took place in South Korea during the SARS pandemic in 2003.
In the 19th edition this year, the APacCHRIE organisers continue to see value in innovation and resilience.
“Having been in this field of hospitality, tourism and education for a long time, I can tell without hesitation that whenever there’s a crisis, we come back even stronger and more resilient," said Chon, who is a professor in International Hospitality Management at The Hong Kong Polytechnic University's School of Hotel and Tourism Management.
Chon also highlighted the need for tourism and hospitality students to stay focused on the digital and experience economy in preparation for market recovery, as many hospitality graduates would continue as a commodity in the luxury service line.
Ong Tze-Ch’in, chief executive at SkillsFuture Singapore.
Ong Tze-Ch’in, chief executive at SkillsFuture Singapore said, "When demand returns to the hospitality sector, I hope that training providers and employers will work with us to introduce such courses [under the SG United Skills banner] to bring new mid-careerists into the sector."
Chon concurred, adding: "This is Asia's century in tourism and hospitality. We are at the moment in 'pause' but when the crisis is over, we'll continue to demonstrate that Asia is the centre of excellence, the centre of gravity for world tourism."
APacCHRIE 2021 was also held in conjunction with the 12th APacCHRIE youth conference and annual SHATEC hospitality conference.
Travel Weekly Asia, Meetings & Conventions Asia and Northstar Travel Group are official media partners of APacCHRIE 2021.
The conference is supported by Singapore Exhibition & Convention Bureau, part of Singapore Tourism Board, and Singapore Hotel Association.