The Hospitality industry: Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic

Crisis Management in the Hospitality Industry: Insights from the General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, A Ritz Carlton Hotel

The Hospitality industry: Navigating through the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has introduced many variables that are obscuring the prospect of recovery of the hospitality sector.

Dr. Heba Aziz, Professor at the Faculty of Business and Economics and director of MBA programmes invited the General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, Katrin Herz, to a virtual talk to students of the International Business and Service Management (IBSM) department recently to gain insights into crisis management in the hospitality industry amid the covid-19 pandemic.

“I am pleased that students enrolled in my course “Contemporary Issues in Tourism: Crisis Management” had got the opportunity to learn about what is happening in the hospitality from a hospitality practitioner with an extensive local and international experience.” Commented Dr. Heba Aziz.

Herz gave her thoughts on the impact of COVID-19 on Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, in particular and the hospitality sector in general. A sector that has been one of the hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic. She started off by pointing out to the importance of having a crisis management team during this difficult time, inclusive of key personnel from finance, communication, marketing, human resources, and procurement. This team is tasked with addressing all sorts of aspects relating to communication, staffing  and contracts, hygiene and cleaning standards to new procurement initiatives.

Addressing a question from Fatma Al Madhani, Herz confided that a rise in operating expenses and direct costs is imminent as hotels will be required to acquire all sorts of protective equipment including, shields, masks, gloves, alcohol-based sanitisers and disinfectant installations, to maintain social distancing and ensure a touch free guests’ interaction across the hotel facilities supported by solutions such as QR scanned menus in restaurants and mobile applications for check-in.

Speaking via Microsoft Zoom to students, Herz shared how Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel, is gearing towards a staycation strategy to circumvent the pandemic’s painful impact on the hotel’s revenues, and developing package deals to attract local guests and families.

Students got also to learn that most hotels rely on external subcontractors for operating their facilities. Negotiating these contracts are among the tasks any hotel manager would start with to minimise losses. Besides, revisiting personnel’s contracts and agreeing with employees on salary cut to avoid redundancies.

The student Reem Al Khalili raised the question about gaining customers back after the pandemic. To this, Herz emphasised the importance of transparent and clear communication about social distancing practices that the hotel is planning to put in place. Besides, the hotel has been very flexible with its refund policy, allowing customers to claim their deposits or reschedule their events at no additional cost.

The virtual talk offered  the opportunity to students to learn how the hospitality industry is reorganising and redistributing resources to develop and cope with new hygiene protocols for a better customer experience. From identifying all touch points in a hotel, to dedicating personnel who will be focusing on the hygiene aspects, are among the changes a hotel will have to prepare for.

 

Caption: Katrin Herz, General Manager of Al Bustan Palace, a Ritz Carlton Hotel.

(c) GUtech/ Text: Fatima El Madkouri; Photo provided by Dr Heba Aziz

 

 

Campus in Blue to Honour Frontline Professionals during the Covid-19 Pandemic

GUtech Lights its Buildings Blue in Honour of Health Professionals and Frontline Staff and Workers

GUtech Campus Glowing in Blue

GUtech campus glowing in blue to honour the efforts of all professionals keeping us safe and protected.

To honour health professionals and all frontline staff and workers who are confronting the Covid-19 virus in hospitals and health centres, GUtech lights up its buildings in blue each evening at dark for an indefinite period of time starting from tonight, 11 May 2020.

Illuminating buildings in blue lights, GUtech rectorate and community show appreciation and gratefulness for the dedication and sacrifice of all professionals and remind all of us to wash hands and keep social distancing.

“We are glowing our campus in blue which can be seen from far to send a message of hope to the community around us for a better tomorrow and to say thank you to health professionals and all others for their hard work.” The Acting Rector, Dr Hussain Al Salmi, stated in support of all those professionals who are keeping us protected during the pandemic.

(c) GUtech/ Text: Fatima El Madkouri; Photo provided by Infrastructure Department

The Transition to Online Teaching during the COVID-19 Pandemic and its Challenges

The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has been teaching all courses online since mid-March. GUtech academics speak about their teaching experiences and challenges faced. “GUtech’s strategy was to support several online teaching tools to allow professors to select the tool most suitable for their classes. This has increased buy-in from professors who are more than happy to share their best practices with colleagues. Students, for the most part, have been very responsive. However, there is a small percentage of students who have limited internet access. Fortunately, joint efforts between MoHE, charities, telecommunication operators and GUtech have resulted in workable solutions for most students. It means that only a very small number of students have to postpone their studies,” said Prof. Dr. Armin Eberlein, Vice-Rector for Academic Affairs at GUtech.

Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Department of Applied Geosciences (AGEO) at GUtech said that their department received numerous encouraging messages from students, admitting that under the given circumstances of the pandemic they were happy to learn in a safe environment and from home. “During the last week however, the messages we received from students changed and the students are now more concerned about the situation. Most concerned are our last year students. They don’t know when they will be allowed back to the laboratories to complete their thesis work. I think this is understandable after five weeks of isolation,” said Prof. Wilfried. Another pressing challenge is the delivery of practical courses where the outcome should be a transfer of hands-on skills and internships. “Currently all our laboratories are closed, so that we have to postpone such courses to the next semester,” said Prof. Wilfried while the questions regarding conducting internships remain open. “It is not only that students cannot foresee the end of the restrictions, they also don’t know when they can find an internship or even later a job. They begin to understand that the economic situation caused by COVID-19 can threaten their future and those of their parents, relatives and friends,” he said.

Prof. Dr. Osman Barghouth, Head of the Department of Logistics and Tourism at GUtech said that in their Department students’ motivation and their participation is very high. “I think this high participation depends to a large extent on the course instructors. We as professors must consider the learning process as a two-way communication process. We have to think creatively in order to find ways to involve, motivate and engage our students instead of just giving tasks without feedback,” said Prof. Osman.

In the past weeks Prof. Wilfried Bauer and his team have gained a lot of experiences in adjusting to the current pandemic and in online teaching. However, recorded or live-streamed lectures are different than face-to-face classes. “Our lecturers and professors often lack more elaborated presentation skills of a film producer like David Attenborough. We also often lack the means to adapt all our teaching materials to more elaborated distant learning methods which require much more skills and equipment than recording our voices and preparing white board drawings on a tablet. Without direct feedback from students, we have no possibility to modify the content of the lectures,” said Prof. Wilfried Bauer.

Prof. Osman Barghouth has introduced Microsoft Team Viewer to communicate with all students. To enable the direct contact via video and calls, the Department has added all students in the course to Microsoft Team Viewer. “In our department we design homework assignments that measure the students’ understanding of the online course material and their ability to apply what they learned in practice,” he said. In conclusion, Prof. Dr. Armin Eberlein said that the current experience will bring a long-term change to higher education. “Even when (hopefully soon) the Covid-19 pandemic is over, I anticipate that blended learning will become much more common. Further investments are needed to get from Internet teaching in an emergency situation to proper online education; but Covid-19 has put us on this path.”

Caption: Prof. Dr. Wilfried Bauer, Head of the Applied Geosciences Department and Dean of the Faculty of Sciences

(c) GUtech: Text by Dr. Manuela Gutberlet, Photo: provided by Prof. Wilfried Bauer

 

 

The Research Team in GUtech’s Faculty of Business and Economics Administers Survey on Acceptance of Virtual Tours During the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

The Research Team in GUtech’s Faculty of Business and Economics Administers Survey on Acceptance of Virtual Tours During the Spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19)

COVID – 19 is affecting all our lives in multiple ways. Supermarkets are running out of toilet paper, pasta and hand sanitizer, small shops have to close, airlines stop operating – the economy all over the world has to face some severe changes!?

Meanwhile we are questioning ourselves: What impact will this crisis have on the Tourism sector!? Our research team is about to answer this question with your very much appreciated help!

The Research Team in GUtech’s Faculty of Business and Economics is asking the public to participate in a survey-based study to understand the acceptance of virtual tours during the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19).

This research is about the use of Virtual Tours during crisis such as COVID-19 and its acceptance by the society (you).

The survey takes approximately 10 minutes.

The survey can be found at this link: https://forms.gle/AF34PSHjkaiBMAHf6

Innovative Business Projects presented

HALBAN An innovative logistics application, an online platform for freelance services, a ‘clinic on the go’, a medical service website ‘I care’ or an online destination management company for tourists visiting Oman, students of the Department of Logistics, Tourism and Service Management have displayed a large number of innovative projects of the ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course’ during an exhibition entitled “Fikra – The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting Started”, held in the university’s auditorium on Sunday. ‘Fikra’ is the Arabic word for ‘idea’. “I am extremely happy to see the various results of the course and I hope the students will continue working on their ideas and realize small businesses. The Omani Academy for Small and Medium Enterprises has also supported the course with lectures on idea creation and idea evaluation. Many student companies are already online. These ideas will be further discussed and we will continue to promote their final realization,” said Prof. Osman Barghouth, Head of the Department who supervised all the projects. Students were asked to create innovative ideas in three categories: websites, manufacturing and food & beverage businesses.

“It is great to see the enthusiasm of our students who developed their own ideas, their own concepts and the realization of the ideas. It is not only learning from the textbook but realizing a business project from beginning to end,” said Prof. Dr. Armin Eberlein, Deputy-Rector for Academic Affairs at GUtech.

Abeer Al Kharousi, Shurooq Al Busaidi and Shamsa Al Balushi created an online application for  renting out warehouse spaces. “We offer three services within one application. Our goal is to help warehouse owners advertise their renting services, to locate the best warehouse for traders, to satisfy their requirements, to work as third party to link buyers and sellers and to reduce the gap between the customers and the service providers,” said Nama Al Balushi while explaining their mobile application ‘Rent Me’.

Another business idea is “E-lancers”, an online platform that offers various small services and support for the local community in Oman like babysitting, tutoring, house cleaning and technical fixing and repairing. Another idea was presented by Ohood Al Hammadi, Mohammed Al Fazari, Fatema Al Riyami, Huda Al Jahwari and Hiba Al Waili. They presented their business idea on supporting and branding small and medium enterprises in Oman through online marketing, designing and consultation tools. The ‘Entrepreneurship and Innovation Course’ aimed to introduce students to various aspects of entrepreneurship and starting their own businesses with a focus on the support of the Omani ecosystem for start-up companies. The course included finding new business ideas, linking creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship, developing a business model, writing a business plan and presenting the final project to fellow students and professors.

(c) GUtech / Text & Photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet

 

GUtech Commemorates 7th Anniversary of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Visit

The German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) commemorated on Tuesday 24th December the 7th anniversary of the visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to its campus.

The 24th of December marks the private visit of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Said to GUtech campus in Halban. The commemoration of the private visit of His Majesty is annually observed by GUtech community. Students and staff remember the day to reflect on the importance of the visit in GUtech’s history and on the vision of His Majesty the Sultan for Oman’s academic and research development.

In the late afternoon of December 24th, 2012, the founders of GUtech and members of the rectorate welcomed his majesty to GUtech campus and its facilities, few weeks only after its opening.

In visiting GUtech campus and meeting the founders and the rectorate, His Majesty confers upon it an unusual distinction. “We welcome His Majesty’s private visit to GUtech campus as a gracious expression of his trust in our university and a vital catalyser enticing us to work harder and faster for further progress” proudly declares Dr Hussain Al Salmi, Deputy Rector for Administration and Finance.

The significant and ever-lasting contributions His Majesty has made to Oman and to the lives of its people are universally known; not less impressive than the wise introduction of far-reaching reforms which has promoted the development of the education system, and the prosperity of the country in general.

As more as 3000 male and female students enrolled in the university in the last 12 years. More than 400 male and female students graduated from it while there are more than 2200 male and female students are currently pursuing their studies.

(c) GUtech/Text: Fatima El Madkouri

Start of the Double Degree MBA at GUtech

WU-GUtech MBA starts with the first batch of executives.

November 2019 marks the start of the double degree MBA by the German University of technology (GUtech) and the Vienna University for Economics and Business (WU).

Representing a diverse range of academic and professional experience, 19 executives have registered for the GUtech-WU MBA; The executives hail from different backgrounds and different business sectors including healthcare, the oil sector, the banking sector, and many more.

The GUtech-WU MBA programme is designed to enable executives to follow a unique professional development opportunity in Oman without the need to travel or take long periods off work said Dr. Heba Aziz the academic director of the MBA.

Modules are delivered once a month, over four days, from Thursday to Sunday. This format allows for less travel time to and from campus and provides a way for participants to bring newly gained knowledge immediately to the work environment. GUtech is currently accepting applications for the second intake.

 

 

 

GUtech Students Participated in ‘Design Thinking Course’ in Germany

For the first time, a group of twelve Logistics students from the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) has participated in a ‘Design Thinking Course’ held together with one of GUtech’s partner-universities in Germany, Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences. “The course prepared our Logistics students to work in interdisciplinary, multi-cultural teams and to understand the logistics processes within a company. The students worked with German students in the offices of the company Fischer Verkaufsfahrzeuge (Sales Vehicles) in Neu-Ulm, located in the South of Germany. Fischer Sales Vehicles Company is a family-owned company, specialized in manufacturing different types of food vehicles and according to individual customer requirements. The vehicles are used as food trucks or to sell cooled products like meat, fish or vegetables at local markets in Europe. The students analysed manufacturing, storage and customer service processes at Fischer and developed prototypes that contributed to improve the overall quality management. We are very grateful for this fruitful cooperation with Neu-Ulm University of Applied Sciences and with Fischer Sales Vehicles,” said Prof. Dr. Tobias Buer, Head of Logistics at GUtech while adding that the students worked on prototype vehicles that were presented to employees, the upper management and external experts from the Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

“Since it was my first visit to Germany, it was a great opportunity. Along with our German fellow students, we implemented the ‘design thinking phases’, starting from understanding the problem to the integration of a suitable solution. We decided to launch an application that manages different versions of engineering drawings and which keeps them updated immediately and other features as well,” said Sara Al Rashdia, GUtech Logistics student in the 3rd year. During the Logistics course, the students learnt a lot about the culture, the people and higher education in Germany. “We faced some challenges while communicating with the company’s employees because the large majority spoke German only. But we managed to succeed with the help of some German colleagues. After having worked within a group, we now understand how important group work is for the success of a project,” said Sara Al Rashdia.

(c) GUtech text and photo: Dr. Manuela Gutberlet and Prof Dr. Tobias Buer

 

GUtech Students Conducted Internships at Seifert Logistics in Germany and Poland

As part of the BSc Logistics programme, two students from the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) have conducted a two-month internship at Seifert Logistics Group, in their offices in Germany and in Poland. Mubarak Al-Nasseri and Manaf Al Raisi are both studying Logistics in the 7th semester at GUtech. The main purpose of the internship was to learn more and understand more about how a logistics company works in Germany and in other European countries.

“During our internship, we were able to work in three different branches of Seifert Logistics Group. In the head offices in the German city of Ulm, in their branch in Jawor in Poland, and in Malsch, located in the South of Germany. I personally feel that I have received a lot of information about how logistics works. For instance, how to build-up a warehouse from scratch while considering different aspect such as the costs, design and functionality involved. During our internship we were both involved in 3D modelling warehouses, creating barcodes and in barcode scanning procedures or in creating a 2D floor-plan,” said Manaf Al Raisi. Their European colleagues at Seifert Logistics were very helpful and friendly. They introduced them to life in Germany. “I believe that my German language skills have improved because I had to practise the language. I have made many friends and I have met a lot of people from different backgrounds that helped to settle in Germany. Our colleagues also showed us around the southern part of the country. Overall, we were both enjoying the time in Europe and we are very grateful for such a special internship opportunity,” said Manaf Al Raisi.

Caption: At the head office of Seifert Logistics: Manaf Mohammed Al Raisi (second from left) and Mubarak Nasseri from GUtech along with Dario Dante Oncak (right) and Lukas Niewiara from Seifert Logistics (left)

 

 

Learning about Logistics in Europe – An Excursion to Germany

HALBAN A group of 16 Logistics students from the German University of Technology in Oman (GUtech) and their professors have conducted a two-week study-excursion around Germany recently. As part of the excursion, the group participated in a special logistics course at RWTH Aachen University, Department of Business. At RWTH Aachen University the group was welcomed by Professor Dr. Oliver Lorz who is the Inaugural Dean of the Faculty of Business and Economics at GUtech. The Dean of the RWTH Aachen School of Business and Economics, Prof. Dr. Peter Letmathe RWTH Aachen welcomed the students. “For the trip, the best among their cohort were sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) to RWTH Aachen in Germany. At RWTH Aachen, the students were happy to meet Prof. Dr. Oliver Lorz who is teaching at GUtech as a fly-in professor. Students were fascinated by the different research areas, in particular, “Operations Research and Management” which is supported by the “Business Analytics Lab”. In this laboratory, contemporary management situations are supported by methods from Operations Research. This area is very strong in Logistics education at GUtech and combines practical applications with basic research, which is in particular, relevant for Logistics,” said Prof. Dr. Tobias Buer, Head of the Logistics Department, Faculty of Business and Economics at GUtech.

As part of the excursion, the group visited the city of Cologne and a number of companies such as Zalando in Essen and the Zeche Zollverein that was once the largest and most modern hard coal mine in the world and a symbol of industrialization in Germany. The group also visited leading Logistics companies such as the DHL Innovation Center in Troisdorf. In its ‘Innovation Centers’ around the world, DHL showcases the latest logistics solutions and discusses visions and trends for the future. The students also experienced Electric Vehicle developed for Deutsche Post DHL by professors and students at RWTH Aachen. At Duisport, Europe’s biggest hinterland hub that connects rail, inland-waterway, and road transport, the students saw containers that arrive via deep-sea vessels at the port of Rotterdam or Antwerp. The containers are shipped via the river to Duisport and then continue their transport via Germany, Poland, Belarus, Russia, Kazakhstan to other ports around the world and as far as China.

During the excursion, students also experienced everyday life in Germany. “They were exposed to the benefits and hassles of complex public transport systems in Germany. Through several cultural visits, the students also learnt a lot about German and European history. For example, we visited the ‘House of European History in Brussels’, Belgium, and the UNESCO World-Heritage Site Zollverein Coal Mine industrial complex in Germany. Zollverein was one of the largest and most advanced mines in Europe until it closed in 1986. Until then it was the heart of the industrialization of Germany, it is a symbol for hard-working miners that brought wealth back to Germany after World War 2, and a painful but necessary transition from an industrial, coal-based region to a cultural and technology-driven region today,“ said Prof. Dr. Tobias Buer.

(c) GUtech Text & Photos: Prof Dr. Tobias Buer and Dr. Manuela Gutberlet