The Journal The Authority on Global Business in Japan

On November 27, Kansai Gaidai University held a ceremony on its campus in Hirakata, Osaka Prefecture, to announce the start of its new English language-based Hotel Management Program (HMP) for Japanese students.

Featured speakers for the event were Frank Haas of the University of Hawaii, Tadayuki Hara of the University of Central Florida, and Ari Kastrati, senior vice president of Food & Beverage Strategy for MGM Resorts International.

“It is our honor to be asked to contri­bute our expertise and resources to support Kansai Gaidai, one of the most internationally minded universities in the Kansai Region, in its effort to respond to the hospi­tality industry’s talent needs in the Japan market, Kastrati told The ACCJ Journal. This is an excellent opportunity for all future stakeholders.”

In 2016, the American Chamber of Commerce in Japan (ACCJ) Kansai External Affairs Committee (EAC), led by Arthur Matsumoto and Steve Iwamura, began organizing periodic meetings with the general managers (GMs) of 10 foreign-flagged hotels in Kansai to discuss common challenges faced by the region’s hospitality industry.

One very important obstacle identified by the GMs was the lack of global Japanese talent to draw upon for their workforce and future management.

From these meetings sprung the idea for the HMP. Iwamura said: “Japan’s hospitality industry is under­going rapid change and will be a primary driver of the Kansai economy. Labor shortages—especially at the manage­ment level—will be a significant challenge. The ACCJ-Kansai bridged a collaborative effort between the GMs, Kansai Gaidai leadership, and the students to address this challenge.”

Kastrati added: ”We believe the HMP opens up infinite possibilities for aspiring students by creating a channel of collabora­tion between operators and academics to build meaningful internships and guest lectures through which we can showcase the latest innovations from our resorts around the world.”

From left: MGM’s Jiro Kawakami, Ari Kastrati, Stephen A. Zurcher, and Frank Haas

Follow-up meetings between the GMs, the EAC, and Stephen A. Zurcher, dean of Kansai Gaidai’s Asian Studies program, led to the development of a prototype HMP at Kansai Gaidai University in fall 2017. Based on the success of the initial classes and internships, the university launched the HMP in earnest in fall 2018. This effort has turned out to be a wonderful example of collaboration between industry and education, facilitated by the ACCJ-Kansai, to solve a human resources gap that exists in the local hotel industry.

The Kansai Gaidai HMP is a two-year program that comprises two semesters of study at the university followed by a semester abroad at partner institutions that are highly ranked for their hospitality education. Examples include the Hong Kong Polytechnic University and Virginia Tech University in the United States, both ranked in the top 10 globally for their hospitality education.

Internships in Kansai and abroad are included in the program, reflecting the cooperation between the school and industry. Students will spend eight-to-12 weeks in such internships to supplement the three semesters of course studies.

The semester that began in fall 2018 has 31 students enrolled, and the goal for fall 2019 is 100. In the future, the program will be open to non-Japanese students as well. Eventually, graduates of the Kansai Gaidai HMP will work in local hotels and in the proposed integrated resort in Osaka as entry-level managers and, hopefully later in their careers, as GMs.