Vienna wants to become tourism education hot spot for local students

Walter Ruck

Carisa Chan

The President of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry was in Macau yesterday to promote the Austrian capital as a top-tier location for tourism and hospitality education.

Walter Ruck’s single-day visit to Macau reinforces the routine work of his frontline colleagues – Consul for Commercial Affairs Franz Rössler and Special Project Consultant Monica Ng – at Advantage Austria, the country’s official trade promotion authority.

“One of the reasons for my journey is to promote the Austrian educational system for tourism in East Asia,” said Ruck in an interview yesterday. “I am convinced that a location like Macau, which is totally focused on tourism, may have a big demand for education in this field.”

“We are very proud that we already have five or six students from Macau [now studying] in Vienna, and about 100 from the [China] region,” he added.

Austria’s chambers of commerce are individual and decentralized entities, each representing one of the country’s nine federal states.

The Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry, representative of the metropolitan Austrian capital, draws its support from the mandatory membership of approximately 150,000 companies. This backing has made the organization highly influential in Austria, its representatives claimed yesterday, becoming the third-largest provider of education in the country, after the government and the Church.

One such institution, MODUL University Vienna, was co-founded by the Chamber ten years ago, with a specialization in tourism, new media and business management education. It currently has an exchange program with City University of Macau.

Monica Ng leads a project promoting Austrian trade and education – in particular MU Vienna – from her Hong Kong base, where she represents the region of southern China. She said that her mission to promote Viennese education in Macau began only a year ago, but several hospitality students from the territory are already taking courses at MU Vienna.

However, while Ng may be responsible for attracting tourism students, she insisted that she has no quota to fill and MU Vienna “only selects very high quality students.”

One Macau student, Carisa Chan, has just finished her first year of a hotel management and operations course at the University. She said that “nobody knows MODUL University in Macau,” adding that there are just two other students from the MSAR on her course.

Chan explained that she had considered studying hospitality and tourism-related courses in Macau, but she received her high school diploma from an institution outside of the MSAR, meaning a slightly more complicated application process than her Macau-educated peers experienced.

In any case, “It’s also a new thing for people to go to Vienna for hotel management, and I wanted to try it,” she said.

Neighboring Switzerland has long been famous for the quality of its hospitality and hotel management education. Ng said that there was no comparison between the two, with MU Vienna being an academic university, “whereas, in Switzerland, most of the hospitality institutions are hotel schools.”

But the president of the Vienna Chamber of Commerce and Industry said that the differentiating factor was the relative affordability of the two locations, with the Austrian capital providing greater value for the education on offer.

“I looked at the hotel management program in Switzerland and Austria and I found that the cost is more affordable for me,” agreed Chan, unprompted in a separate conversation.

Meanwhile, commenting on the quality of tourism and hospitality education in the MSAR, Ruck said that they operate “at an excellent level” in his opinion, “because that’s the core business in Macau.”

On the other hand, there is a need to diversify this education if the tourism sector is to become broader in its scope, he said. “There is the challenge to diversify in the future… I am not sure if they [Macau institutions] can help to [diversify] the tourism here.”

Other parts of the world could offer a different approach to tourism education, he argued. “If you look all over the world, you will find Austrian hotel managers [and senior staff] at every destination. You must remember that Austria is a small country […] and therefore we are very internationalized in the tourism sector and we have a lot of experience in it,” he said.

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