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Dusit Thani college opens first school in Taguig

Lars Eltvik—NELSON MATAWARAN

There is no shortage of hospitality schools in the Philippines.

But even then, the Dusit group believes that there remains room for growth, thus the opening in Taguig next month of the Dusit Hospitality Management College (DHMC), the first branch in Asia-Pacific outside Thailand.

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Opening on Aug. 13, DHMC will work with prestigious institutions such as Institut Paul Bocuse for culinary courses and the École Hôtelière de Lausanne, the world’s oldest and best hotel school.

Located at dusitD2 The Fort in Manila along McKinley Parkway, the building puts together a school and hospitality services.

“We are integrating the hospitality and tourist education directly with the operations,” says Lars Eltvik, managing director of DHM; the hotel, dusitD2 The Fort in Manila, and the apartment-hotel, dusitD2 The Fort Serviced Residences. “Aside from learning how to be a hotelier, you’re also studying financial management because the hotel is like any other business. We also have strong focus on the people,” he says.

On-the-job learning

The building consists of nine floors for the college which includes restaurants, classrooms and training spaces.

“We are breaking down the mystique of the hotels to the guests and students by having all open kitchens. Classrooms are visible with glass. Learning kitchens are adjacent to the operating restaurants,” says Eltvik.

Students get to work at the hotel, which is above the school. It follows Dusit Thani’s guidelines.

Then there are the facilities, swimming pool and a roof deck.

For its maiden school year, DHMC will focus on hospitality management.

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On their freshman year, students will be immersed in 12 different areas of operation.

They will wear the uniforms of the staff. Likewise, the managers of the food outlets and front office will also be trained to be mentors as they also hone their management skills.

DHMC aims to ensure that the students’ skills match their job.

Eltvik observes that after students go through college, many changes are introduced in the industry. They have no choice but to keep up. This is why work experience is integrated into their education.

While most colleges send students for hotel internship on their senior year, DHMC sophomores will undertake on-the-job training to see the realities of hotel life.

They return to the school on their junior year to be under the tutelage of managers.

“They are working as assistant managers and learning the managerial aspects, both from the books and from the classrooms, and in the operations,” says Eltvik.

On their senior year, they will stay with DHMC and focus on strategic management. “They will be working on relevant case studies that we are sourcing from the industry. We want to make sure all the levels of our education are relevant to the industry. If they learned something wrong with us, we will have instant karma in the restaurant. We will hear about it after lunch, not after they graduate. Relevance for me is probably the most important keyword,” he says.

The graduates will acquire a Bachelor of Science degree in hospitality management, awarded by Dusit Hospitality Management College, licensed by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) and likewise certified by École Hôtelière de Lausanne.

The École will support the program through teacher training, academic development, operational reviews and quality control and assurance.

There are also plans to have a tie-up with Tsuji Culinary School in Japan and the Gambero Rosso Academu from Italy.

“We are exploring other aspects than just the traditional hotel culinary restaurant, such as media, food photography, food styling, food guides,” says Eltvik.

Inclusive

DHMC’s next undergraduate course is tourism management.

The ultimate goal is to make DHMC the center of excellence for the industry.

It will also house a library and offer short courses for people who want to expand their horizons.

Plans are likewise afoot to open a professional advancement center for industry practitioners—people who want to join the industry, and keen amateurs who want to learn about food, service, wine, beverage or how to be a barista.

“There will be entry-level service programs and preopening services for new restaurants and new hotels. We will have programs in culinary arts, pastry, bakery and wines for people who work in the industry or those who want to advance their careers. The executive education programs are designed for owners, investors and senior management who will learn the latest in technology, business and anything from real estate evaluation to excellence in service,” says Eltvik.

The planned career switcher’s program is designed for entrepreneurs as well as those who want to venture into the hotel or restaurant business.

Prospective restaurateurs can learn about restaurant design development, menu design, beverage knowledge and operations.

Asked if DHMC will give job placements to its graduates, Eltvik says there are possibilities since the international hotel chain has 29 hotels in 18 countries and has signed over 60 new management agreements.

Moreover, Dusit properties will crop up in the Philippines.

But at the end of the day, graduates will have to fend for themselves.

“We will be judged on the quality of our graduates a few years after their graduation. We are here not just to deliver knowledge but also to create futures. We are here to start people on their path and, hopefully, to awaken their passion. When you’re passionate, you learn fast. You can go wherever you want to go,” says Eltvik.

Relevance to the industry

DHMC traces its roots to the Dusit Thani College, established by the owner and founder of Dusit Thani luxury hotel chain, Thanpuying Chanu Piyaoui.

Wanting to support the tourism industry, she wanted hotel education that could make Thailand globally competitive as a destination.

Today, the employment rate of the graduates of Dusit Thani College in Bangkok is nearly a hundred percent.

Chanut’s son, Chanin Donavanik, vice chair and chairman of the executive committee of Dusit International, decided to bring the school to other countries.

When Eltvik was helping set up the school, he was amazed that there were over a thousand hospitality schools in the Philippines.

The huge number was one reason why CHEd was prompted to impose a moratorium on the opening of more of these schools.

He had to make a strong case for DHMC with its global partners and the practical application of DHMC’s education in today’s world.

He points out the rapid changes brought about by technology, cheaper fares and more options for travelers that will require further education.

The past decade, for example, saw the emergence of strong Chinese and Russian markets, individual travelers and changes to behavior patterns of travelers that the hotel industry must adapt to.

“As people travel more often and experience good service elsewhere, they expect the same when they go somewhere else. If they stay in a five-star hotel in Paris, and go to a five-star hotel in the south of the Philippines, they expect the same standards. That’s why it’s important that you internationalize your education while maintaining the local culture. You need international service levels to please demanding travelers,” says Eltvik.

Before he became an educator in the hospitality industry, Eltvik worked his way up from doorman to bartender, waiter, receptionist and food and beverage manager.

He realized that to climb the corporate ladder, he needed higher education.

Hence, he acquired a bachelor’s degree at the Norwegian School of Hotel Management, the second oldest hotel school in the world, and a graduate degree in tourism planning and development at the University of Surrey in England.

Eltvik had worked in Norwegian chains such as Scandic Hotels, the Rica Hotels and international brands such as Radisson and SAS.

He was also involved in hospitality education and projects with a hotel school in Chile. He later became a consultant, preparing feasibility and market studies for hotel investors.

He was part of the preopening team of the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management, a subsidiary of the hotel company, the Jumeirah Group.

Asked why he advises students to go to a hotel school, even if they could learn from experience, Eltvik replies: “Management has become more complex. Managers have a lot of responsibilities in diverse areas such as finance, legal, human resources and marketing. To get this well-rounded background, it is necessary to have a business education.”

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TAGS: Dusit Hospitality Management College (DHMC), Dusit Thani, Lars Eltvik
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