What makes studying the service industry in Dubai unique compared to other destinations?
SUNJEH RAJA Seeing the level of investment, number of hotels, and enthusiasm here, we realized Dubai's potential. We are talking about a USD20-billion food and beverage market and 600 hotels. We have a 100% placement record for graduates of our professional program, and 86% of the hospitality brands in the UAE are serviced by ICCA Dubai. In terms of ranking, we are amongst the world's top-10 training centers and accredited by the City and Guilds in London. In 2016, we became the center of excellence for the Middle East. At the Lion Awards (the Oscars for skills and vocational training), we were recognized as the international center of the year, making us the number-one school across 86 countries and 1,300 centers. We also participate in and partner with several events and conferences, including Taste Dubai. Through a 360-degree approach and several partnerships, we are showcasing the culinary experience in Dubai. We came with a vision to make a difference and become world class.
SCOTT RICHARDSON Dubai is unmatched in terms of hotel and tourism management. We have around 100 five-star hotels within a 20-km radius of the school, giving our students fantastic opportunities to do internships with luxury brands. Moreover, the constant industry growth consistently provides new opportunities for students. We are not a hotel school as such; we offer a hospitality and management degree and work with a range of other sectors in Dubai and the UAE, including the event sector. Our students can get a feel for careers in hotels, and we provide them with opportunities to explore other sectors of the hospitality industry. As our bachelor's and master's programs are business degrees, we make sure students understand business with a hospitality flavor. As such, our graduates can then go on to enter fields such as banking, finance, and other sectors where customer service skills are sought after.
How is the academy involved in Expo 2020?
SUNJEH RAJA The interesting part of Expo 2020 is that much of the impetus will be at the Expo site. A few countries have approached us, because at Expo 2020, apart from showcasing the country, the technologies and the cultural food experience will be massive—a multi-million-dollar business. We can support them with our facilities here. We want to promote ICCA as a culinary destination through the Expo, like an Airbnb experience. We plan to launch a whole new course and are dedicating a part of the day for the Expo for the whole six months. We want to call it Taste of Dubai, where we bring leading restaurants in Dubai to showcase each day. This works to promote their concept, the school, and Dubai, while giving guests a great experience.
How is digitalization and AI affecting the way you teach and the industry in general?
SCOTT RICHARDSON In the hotel industry, and more broadly the travel industry, we see a huge push for digitalization. We are seeing facial recognition scanners being used in Dubai Airport, while self-check-in kiosks are now in most airports and increasingly being introduced in hotels. We are constantly looking at how we can ensure students are aware of these emerging technologies, how we can showcase these in the classroom, and how we can work closely with technology partners to identify new technological trends. In Dubai and the UAE, many of the world's best technology companies are at our doorstep, so we establish partnerships often. We do many online simulation activities for students. As VR becomes more affordable and mainstream, we are looking at how it can be implemented in different scenarios and experiences in the classroom. At the moment, a number of studies claim that 50% of our current jobs will not exist in the next five years. However, this is not true for the hospitality industry. Technology and AI will impact staffing; however, there will always be a need for the personal touch in hospitality. That is the whole purpose of the industry.