Dusit International, a Bangkok-based hotel and resort company, will this year launch one of the country's first distance-learning hospitality schools, the Dusit Thani Hotel School in central Bangkok.
Chanin Donavanik, Dusit International managing director and chief executive, said the school would provide theoretical instructions, on-the-job training and communication skills under a paperless-school concept.
The school's technology infrastructure has been provided by Microsoft, especially Office 365 and Azure, and all distance-learning students will receive a Windows tablet to access multimedia-format courseware.
Haresh Khoobchandani, managing director of Microsoft (Thailand), said Dusit International had been in partnership with the software giant for more than a decade.
"Asia is the engine for the growth of the world, while tourism and hospitality are the key industries in the Asian region," he said.
Srispmbat Srisombat Wangchin, assistant vice president for information technology at Dusit International, said the company's partnership with Microsoft included some 1,000 users across its 24 hotels.
She said Microsoft Office 365 allowed Dusit employees to be productive and responsive any time, anywhere and on virtually any device, while also allowing them to share information securely, such as guest information, across its entire chain of hotels and resorts.
The school would be an extension of that partnership, Srispmbat Srisombat |said.
The school is scheduled to open in August.
It will offer a complete curriculum for the certificate and diploma levels, covering all areas of hotel operations such as reception, housekeeping, cooking and waiter services.
"Our aim is to give more young people the opportunity to have a career in hospitality and make a lasting, positive contribution to the industry as a whole," Chanin said.
He added that the school was the prototype for the company's education business expansion.
He said the concept of the school was to allow students to learn about the hospitality industry with the use of state-of-the-art technology.
All the courseware will be in a digital format and stored on the cloud, while students can take an online course with the practical and exam elements offered offline.
At the end of the six-month course, students will be able to continue to access the online curriculum for further learning.
Dusit aims to have around 4,000 students at the school per year.
The multimedia-format courseware accessed using a Microsoft tablet will eventually be offered to students in the nine other countries where Dusit operates.
"Once the learning system is embedded with technologies, by the end of this year we will start to expand this school upcountry to allow students in remote areas to take the course," said Chanin, adding that the school's approach would deliver graduates faster and easier than alternative models.
He said the school would initially offer courses in Thai and English, but would eventually offer other languages.
He said that between 30,000 and 40,000 people entered Thailand's tourism and hospitality industry each year and that was not enough to sustain its rapid growth.
For example, he said Phuket needed more than 10,000 extra staff, while Samui needed more than 7,000.
"This move [the school] is to help build the human resources of the country's tourism and hospitality industry," Chanin said.
He said the company was initially investing Bt300 million to build the school, excluding the IT investment.
He declined to disclose the technology budget, only saying the company would need to invest more in technology as its education business expanded.
He said Dusit's education business was expected to grow 10 per cent this year from Bt500 million in 2014, and was expected to contribute around 10 per cent of the company's total revenue.
"In 2016 and 2017, we will see rapid growth of the education business because at that time it [the school] will be scaled up to nationwide as well as to the other nine countries," he said.
The school will offer up to 1,300 students 7,000 square metres of learning space - nine classrooms, two language laboratories, two IT laboratories with the latest industry software programmes, three demonstration kitchens, and three practical kitchens.
It will also feature mock-up rooms of key hotel areas, such as front office, housekeeping, a restaurant, and a bar.
Dusit said the curriculum had been designed with different entry and exit points, allowing for flexible programmes that students could tailor to suit their goals.
No matter what path they choose they will acquire the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge to enter the hospitality field upon graduation anywhere in the ASEAN economic community, Dusit said.
The school will be operated separately from Dusit Thani College, where students wishing to further their studies can transfer credits to enrol in the college's bachelor's and master's degree programmes.
Additionally, credits from the Dusit Thani Hotel School are transferable to higher-education institutions throughout the country.
The company said Dusit Thani Hotel School was set to become Thailand's first hospitality school based on ASEAN Common Competency Standards for Tourism Professionals.
In next three to four years, Dusit plans to expand its portfolio by 40 hotels worldwide.