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  • Ms. Pena

Gen Z in hospitality: a challenge for higher education?

Updated: Mar 26, 2021

Beating stereotypes

Last week, I asked some Millennials in their 30s how they would define Gen Z in one word. They replied me with phrases like: “materialists”, “incompetent at work”, “bad at sports and studies”, “retarded” and the one that called my attention the most “I thought they would be more educated than us, but they are not”. It looks like Gen Zers are stereotyped. It is inevitable! Because they are the true digital natives, other generations think that they spend too much time online checking social media and doing too little for their future. They do not see Gen Z in higher education.

Surprisingly, the fact is that contrary to Millennials, Gen Zers seem to be more career driven. Research on this topic suggests that around 72% of them want to have their own business and have a strong entrepreneurial mindset, and other 76% think about turning their hobbies into their ideal jobs. Their expectations about themselves are quite high; and success is their driving force. There is not another generation with such a vision of self-development and entrepreneurship like the Gen Z.

Students visiting Tag Heuer headquarters

Connected everywhere?

Currently, Gen Z is entering college. They come with the feeling of having the world literally in their pockets, in their hands. Basically, they do not conceive the idea of going to college or anywhere, and being be asked to be “disconnected”. They need to be online at all the time because they do not want to miss out anything, and this explains why they spend up to 9 hours on social media per day.

So, how can teachers get the attention and the interest of a generation that is completely digitally connected? Nowadays, most teachers know that if they do not use technology and internet in their classes, students will prefer to use their smartphones and other devices to do something else; something “more interesting”. Here is where internet plays an important role in the college classroom since platforms like YouTube can be very helpful for Gen Z students to produce new content rather than just for consuming.

Information just in a click

Gen Zers have the mindset that they can get everything in an instant. They are that generation of Do It Yourself, so they consider YouTube, for example, as an excellent platform to learn to do things by themselves. They love videos and images, so whenever something happens they want to post it and share it immediately. It is hilarious, when they do not know something you hear them saying “Come on, google it!”

Master class at Hotel Institute Montreux


One big challenge set by Gen Z in higher education institutions is to encourage creativity in Gen Zers. It is time to awake and realize that creativity is not only about handcrafting or arts; creativity goes beyond. It is also about the ability of making decisions, choosing a different way of doing things, avoid repetition, explore new roads, and discover a world of interesting things…

This is one of the reasons why Gen Zers do not want to go to college, sit in a chair, listen to a lecture and perform and exam that usually has the unique and the right answer. If they continue following this pattern, there would be no way to develop their creative thinking. In this sense, Gen Zers in a certain extent claim to be heard; they claim to be allowed to generate more, better and new ideas with value. If there is only one right answer, then there is not chance for creativity. It is never late to start cultivating students’ creativity; teaching curiosity; teaching to explore.

Gen Z and hospitality

As Millennials did, Gen Zers are transforming hospitality and tourism industries, and the way brands target them. Social media and digital content is a must!

Gen Z studying hospitality at Hotel Institute Montreux

Hotel Institute Montreux Gen Zers love to discover things by themselves and learn better by doing and experiencing. This is why the school combines traditional classes with virtual learning, so Gen Zers feel they can be more in charge of their own learning.

The school has opened a world or opportunities to Gen Zers. Basically, Hotel Institute Montreux Gen Zers have the opportunity to get meaningful information from their experienced lecturers, but at the same time, they are able to get different perspectives on the same topics from other people through videos, guest lectures, masterclasses, and other extracurricular activities.

Hotel Institute Montreux meeting Gen Zers’ demands:

  1. Use of apps to provide students with a social and virtual learning environment (Nearpod, Socrative, and Edmodo, maybe the “Facebook” for the classroom).

  2. Fostering students’ entrepreneurial skills through the development of projects (students develop their own concept and design restaurants and menus; prepare banquets, use of software to simulate hotels’ operations, etc).

  3. Coaching and support to students in finding internships in renowned hotels all around the world.

  4. Active presence on Facebook and Instagram.

  5. Organization of “Instagramable” events where Hotel Institute Montreux Gen Zers along with Millennials can share and experience hospitality together (thematic nights, excursions, visits to factories)…

We can say that Hotel Institute Montreux is bridging the gap between theory and practice in hospitality higher education. All in all, we can say that the typical classroom and the traditional way of teaching will be of the big challenges set by this generation. So, are Gen Zers reshaping the way things are done in hospitality education so far?

Lecturer and student at Hotel Institute Montreux

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Author: Ms. Pena, Hospitality Bachelor student at Hotel Institute Montreux (Panama)

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1 Comment

Jul 24, 2019

I am impressed with this post since the first paragraph I read. The way the generation is described “in my opinion” is totally accurate. For example, I agree with this specific phrase “ Generation Z love to discover things by themselves and by doing and experiencing”. For me, the key of success for this generation is follow their own rules. Also, they are passionate and capable people willing to get that success in the most adventurous way.

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