A joint statement by the ministries of Education and Tourism regarding training for tourism professionals is a hope-filled promise that efforts are being made to improve the quality of that key sector of the Greek economy. At the same time, it seems rather ambitious insofar as the part pertaining to the founding of foreign-language schools for attracting students from abroad is concerned.
Surely the foreign language schools can wait. Tourism Minister Olga Kefaloyiannis and Education Minister Andreas Loverdos should, rather, focus their energies on ensuring the survival of the existing schools of tourism on the islands of Rhodes and Crete, which are suffering from staff shortages and serious infrastructure problems, which have been left to their own fates.
It is ironic that tourism education has been allowed to languish just as tourism itself appears to be doing so well.
The School of Tourism in Rhodes in particular was founded in 1956 and modeled according to the world-famous Lausanne Hotel School. It has been instrumental in providing Greek tourism with its top echelons both on a public authority and private level as most of Greece’s hotel managers are graduates of this school.
The school has been abandoned for a few years now. Its traditional hostel, which was used for students to acquire practical training, has been closed down, while the kitchens for cooking and patisserie classes are also out of order.
Students get their certification nevertheless for hospitality and food service, but they need to get their hands-on experience from internships and training programs at real hotels, where they have their only opportunity to see how a real kitchen works and how an omelet is made. And even though students need to sit national university entrance exams to get in, their degree once they graduate is lower than that given at technical colleges.
So why does a country that depends on tourism not have a stable and consistent policy for training tourism professionals? Once-stellar tourism schools are in decline, tourism departments at technical colleges have been merged with economics classes and on a higher level there is just one post-graduate program in the entire country, at the University of the Aegean. Private colleges cannot replace universities by any means.
So maybe the two ministers should take a closer look at the places where tourism is studied. They are bound to learn a lot more there, on the ground, than they do visiting international tourism fairs and conferences.