CAIRO: The Egypt Tourism Workforce Development Program celebrated the graduation of 119 hotel and restaurant professionals on Tuesday.
The program, which is funded by the United States Agency for International Development, is in its second phase. The first phase provided training for approximately 10,000 workers in the tourism industry. The second phase started in October 2005 and seeks to train another 16,400 hospitality personnel – 14,600 in hotels and 1,800 in restaurants.
The program is a partnership between the Egyptian Tourism Federation and the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), a leading hotel training organization.
AHLA provided the training material that was translated into Arabic. Fifteen specialized instructors received the AHLA s Certified Hospitality Trainer credential and each have over 10 years of experience in the tourism industry, then train 1,500 supervisors. These supervisors, in turn, train their line staff.
Hotel staff is taught front desk and house keeping skills, and supervisory and managerial instruction is provided to senior staff. Food and beverage workers are also taught safety principles such as how to store food and wash kitchenware.
The Egypt Tourism Workforce Development Program is demand-driven, based on a comprehensive need assessment conducted on the tourism market in Egypt, explains Hussein Badran, the project s director. Its aim is to develop our sector s workforce skills, so as to bridge the gap between competitive market needs and existing qualifications.
The train-the-trainer approach allows the rapid spread of instruction and has resulted in 3,000 graduates since the second phase began five months ago.
The program addresses the difficulties faced by hospitality businesses in improving the quality of their staff. Training was always the most difficult part of out job, says Ahmed Mabrouk, executive assistant manager of Iberotel Makadi Oasis. We only had non-qualified trainers depending mainly on their experience. Moreover it was a huge problem to find good training materials to work with.
Such training ultimately improves the treatment of guests, resulting in a more pleasant travel experience and encouraging visitors to return to Egypt. Though our hotel suffers minimum turnover of only 1 percent, explains Mabrouk, which is usually the main reason for turning to training, our aim to achieve guest satisfaction with high quality of service remains an important objective
The program also supports the government s goal of increasing the number of tourists from the current level of 8 million per year to 15 million by 2011. Education and training is one of the government s priorities to support achieving this objective.
Our graduates unfortunately, do not fulfill our market needs, not in terms of quantity but rather quality, says Minister of Tourism Zohair Garranah. Therefore, a revisit of the tourism-related educational and available training programs became a must if we want to compete and gain our fair share of the world tourism market.
The Egyptian Tourism Federation is building a vocational training center in 6 October City which is scheduled to be ready at the end of 2007. This training center of excellence will be a major resource complementing the qualifications and services within the industry, says Ahmed El-Nahas, the federation s chairman. Its main aim will be to further develop existing employee skills and provide fresh graduates with the opportunity of having practical experience within the field.
The program s approach is the first of its kind, according to AHLA Vice President of International Operations David Lechter. AHLA handed complete control of its professional certification to the tourism federation and introduced its certification outside of the United States for the first time.
As a result of the success of the program, Lechter has proposed it as a model to the organizers of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games in Beijing in order to provide training for 50,000 workers.