The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

On May 23, the External Affairs Committee (EAC) of the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Kansai chapter held a Hospitality Roundtable at Doshisha University’s Umeda Campus. The meeting was organized in collaboration with Dr. Philip Sugai, professor of marketing at Doshisha University’s Graduate School of Business.

For the past four years, the EAC has met regularly with a group of 10 foreign hotel general managers (GMs) to discuss issues such as:

  • Where does the accommodation tax go?
  • What happened at Kansai Airport during Typhoon Jebi?
  • What happens when Japan’s first integrated resort opens?
  • How can we improve hospitality education in Japan?

The EAC responded to the last item by driving the creation of a prototype hospitality program in collaboration with the leadership of Kansai Gaidai University. Through the program:

  • GMs visited classrooms to talk to students
  • Students visited hotels for onsite learning
  • The university started to think about how to improve their career center internship process

This prototype turned into an actual program at Kansai Gaidai starting this year, and it has gained attention at a global level.

Through this process, the EAC re-learned just how deep the problem of English language education still is in Japan. The EAC believes this cannot be fixed by relying only on the classroom. The way to effective language and learning, it says, is through overseas student internships.

We learned that the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at the University of Central Florida (UCF) has, for the past few years, been sending their hospitality students to work at hotels in Japan on a paid basis for two to six months. Meanwhile, in Japan, interns do internships for less than a month, are not paid, and—as the EAC discovered—the experience often results in decreased motivation.

UCF’s Dr. Tadayuki Hara explained the importance of preparing interns to make and read budgets, as well as learn various practical technical business skills as part of their hospitality education. Mere omotenashi, the deep level of hospitality as taught in Japan, is not enough.

Ritz-Carlton, Osaka GM Christopher Clark quickly res­ponded, saying that, while technical hospitality skills are very important, it would be for naught if the owner of such skills did not have omotenashi in his or her heart.

Interesting! The EAC believes that, no doubt, it is the combination of both technical skills and omotenashi that is most effective. This is the future direction of hospitality education in Japan.

Jessica Wickey, instructor and director of the internship program
at UCF, explained how she prepares and counsels students for internships in Japan. Many will be living outside the United States for the first time in their lives. Despite some homesickness, UCF interns come back from Japan as different people, with a new viewpoint and mindset that serves them well for the rest of their careers.

Mayuko Okoshi, director of human resources at The Ritz-Carlton, Kyoto, explained that UCF interns are valuable. Despite the language barrier, they are great assets for our hotel, elevating the guest experience and creating positive interactions with local employees through the Marriott culture.

The EAC concluded that greater collaboration is needed between Japanese and US colleges to exchange hospitality interns as a way to motivate, inspire, and train students to become global hospitality human resources. We are currently discussing with US consular officers Jay Biggs and Lee Brayman how to connect industry, students, and schools through the overseas internship experience, and expect to have some results to report next year.

Steve Iwamura is vice-chair of the External Affairs Committee, ACCJ–Kansai special advisor, and partner with Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu.
Greater collaboration is needed between Japanese and US colleges to exchange hospitality interns.