Before joining RMIT Vietnam, Associate Professor Earney Lasten worked on the Caribbean island of Aruba, collaborating with the Aruban Ministry of Tourism on science and applied research projects.
He is the Discipline Lead for RMIT Vietnam’s Tourism & Hospitality Management program, and today shares his perspectives on Vietnam’s tourism industry.
What is the potential of the tourism industry in Vietnam?
With Vietnam’s impressive economic growth, it’s no surprise that cities in Vietnam are flourishing as never before. According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, the economic impact of tourism in Vietnam is $US18.4 billion. This will bring a lot of employment and it will keep growing and growing. Today it brings more than four million direct jobs and more growth is estimated.
What are the main challenges for the tourism and hospitality industry in Vietnam?
Changing the mindset [about tourism and hospitality] in Vietnam is a big challenge. The mindset in Vietnam has been that we only create bartenders in hospitality. That is not true. For years, tourism planning has been held back by a lack of focus on the intangibles. People only think about the hotels and attractions for the visitors and there is little thought on how to create the experience. We are looking to change that.
What lessons can you bring to Vietnam from your experience in Aruba?
Aruba is the “Ace of the Caribbean”, with repeat visitors of more than 70 per cent. For every dollar spent in the tourism and hospitality industry, Aruba gets more than $US50 back.
While some destinations focus on the tangibles of tourism such as monuments and landmarks, Aruba’s main focus is on the intangibles, on hospitality. Its people are central to this focus. Guest experiences in Aruba are based on creating happy feelings, happy moments, moments of truths for its visitors. Residents are the role models in hospitality.
So what I hope to bring to Vietnam from my experience in Aruba is a focus not solely on tourism, but also on authentic friendliness, hospitableness, warm reception, welcome, warmth, kindness, courtesy, amenability, generosity, congeniality, and neighbourliness.
What is your approach to teaching students in the Tourism & Hospitality Management program?
One of the important things for a lecturer in this program is to be a role model to students. We need to show our charisma and share about hospitality and how we made people feel during our time in the industry. It is not just a matter of learning about services; hospitality is more powerful than just simple service to visitors. Students need to [learn to] speak, act, present and think outside of the box.
We are developing this program to be an outlier and something very different. We use field trips and projects to create a lifelike experience.
Story: Daniel Eslick