Fanny Vong Chuk Kwan, president of the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT) is a forerunner in training professionals to serve Macao’s prospering tourism.
MACAO MAGAZINE: The Macao SAR government intends to transform Macao into a global centre for tourism and leisure. What implications and/or impact will this have on the Institute for Tourism Studies (IFT)? Do you share a sense of responsibility in this endeavor?
FANNY VONG: Absolutely, IFT is the leading pioneer of tourism and hospitality education in Macao, and to date, it is the most comprehensive provider of tourism and hospitality degrees and related professional programmes in Macao. It is our honour and mission to continue providing quality educational programmes to help nurture local professionals in the field of tourism who can then contribute to realising Macao’s goals. We continue to be committed to internationalising our programmes to help broaden our students’ horizons, providing them with a global mindset as they become future managers and leaders transforming Macao into a world centre for tourism and leisure.
MM: The number of tourists visiting Macao has grown steadily. Does IFT’s enrollment follow this trend with increased student registration as the industry grows?
FV: Yes, when we were first established in 1995, our annual enrollment was around 60, while the number of registered students was 114. For the 2014/15 academic year, we numbered 1,532 students in degree programmes and 20,227 in professional training programmes. IFT has been growing concurrently with the industry, not just in terms of enrollment but also in the quality of available programmes.
MM: As IFT has been growing steadily every year, what specific areas of growth are you focusing on?
FV: We hope to offer postgraduate pro-grammes as soon as the revised Higher Education Law is passed. There is an urgent need for IFT to extend beyond its current portfolio of bachelor programmes. Macao needs an army of well-educated and well-trained professionals stationed throughout all ranks of the tourism and hospitality industries. We also need to continuously maintain, and even exceed, the benchmarks we have established by keeping abreast of new trends and best practices in higher education and professional training.
MM: What are the main advantages for IFT with the new installations on Taipa? Who will be staying on Mong-Há campus?
FV: With the handover of the East Asia dormitory hall, the staff quarter building, as well as two laboratories of the University of Macau’s old Taipa campus, the Institute is better equipped to offer more quality programmes and professional courses addressing the changing industry environment.
Currently, Year 1 and Year 2 students enrolled in bachelor degree programmes and some faculty members as well as some professional training participants are staying on Mong-Há campus. It is expected that all bachelor degree students and faculty members will move to Taipa campus within two to three years while practicum and professional training will remain on Mong-Há campus.
MM: It is said that COTAI is currently to the biggest absorber of Macao’s labour force. What is your opinion? Is Macao prepared to respond to the new hotels opening in 2016 and 2017?
FV: We believe the education sector (inclu-ding high schools and universities) will do its best to prepare local residents for the development of Macao, which includes development in the hotel sector.
MM: IFT offers a myriad of courses related to the tourism sector. Are there any particular trends in course enrollment?
FV: Looking at admission statistics from the past five years, of the six majors that IFT offers, Hotel Management and Tourism Event Management are the most popular. This is likely due to the expansion of the hotel industry in the past decade, which then triggers an expansion in the event industry. Students are highly optimistic about career prospects in these two sectors. Due to their popularity and to adequately address industry needs, IFT has introduced evening programmes for these two majors, which has been well received. To gauge post-graduation employment success, IFT conducts a career placement survey every year. Most graduates find employment shortly upon graduation, and on average, more than 70 per cent find placement within the tourism and hospitality sectors.
MM: What about internships? Do students prefer to stay in Macao or study abroad?
FV: Most of our students choose intern-ships based in Macao as there is a good variety of opportunities available locally. Additionally, local internships also give students a head start in establishing connections with our local industry partners for future career development. But we always encourage students to venture aboard to expand their horizons by offering overseas internship scholarships, and every year about 15 per cent of our students participate. Popular destinations in recent years include New Zealand, the Maldives, and Thailand. Over 500 companies worldwide such as The Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc, Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, LVMH Moët Hennessy – Louis Vuitton and so forth offer internship opportunities to our students.
IFT also offers a range of exchange opportunities in collaboration with our partner schools worldwide. Our students have been to Austria, Portugal, Japan, the United States, and the United Kingdom, among others. IFT’s international network covers 97 organisations and institutions in 28 countries and regions.
MM: It has been suggested that it is hard to find qualified personnel to fill high-level positions. Do you see IFT graduates assuming important roles in the tourism business?
FV: Our employment survey (1995–2012) completed in 2014 shows that quite a number of IFT graduates are now established in senior and managerial positions in the industry.
Of the 20 respondents employed at the executive level, 75 per cent are self-employed.
15 per cent of the graduated class of 2011-2012 held mid-level positions, whereas 62 per cent in 2006-2010 held mid- or senior level, 77 per cent in 2001-2005 also held mid- or senior level and 26 per cent in 1995-2000 held positions at the executive level or above. The median salary over 13 years decreased: In 1995-2000, 2001-2005, 2006-2010, 2011-2012 graduates received 38,800, 30,900, 23,400 and 18,000 patacas respectively.
IFT – FACTS AND NUMBERS
Total number of bachelor degrees and higher diploma graduates: 5,971
IFT currently offers eight 4-year degree programmes and two 2-year diploma programmes.
For the 2015/16 academic year, the student body represented 22 different nationalities, and the faculty 18 countries and regions.
Pousada de Mong-Há and the Educational Restaurant offer our students unique on-hand practical training from professionals in an environment similar to that which they might work post graduation. Guests at the hotel and restaurant can enjoy top-quality service and food without paying government tax and service charges.
Pousada and its restaurant have been recommended in the Michelin Guide since 2009. Pousada has consistently won TripAdvisor Travellers’ Choice Awards since 2011, and it was ranked 12th out of the top 25 small hotels in China in 2016. Additionally, Pousada was awarded the Macau Green Hotel Gold Award organized by the Macau Environmental Protection Bureau in 2013.
In 2015, Pousada hosted 5,426 guests from all over the world. (Macao Magazine)