The business community of Nicosia has embarked on a campaign to keep the Higher Hotel Institute in the capital. But for all the wrong reasons.
There are many arguments for and against moving such a state-run educational institution to another town, from the present home it shares with the Filoxenia conference centre.
All the coastal towns in Cyprus will rightly defend their right to host the school, as collectively they account for 95% of hotel accommodation.
In the absence of heavy industry and a manufacturing sector, tourism remains the cornerstone of the island’s economic prosperity and recovery from past and present crises.
In addition to being the biggest sectoral employer, hotel workers often move from district to district, or rural to urban, to secure a decent job and welfare for the family. This is also true for foreign workers, be they EU citizens who come and go freely, or third country nationals, employed in specific areas of the hospitality and leisure sector.
Added to this, the establishment of the integrated casino resort on the outskirts of Limassol, could strengthen the port-town’s own ambitions to host the hotel institute, with the Anastasiades administration deciding to transplant it to the Cyprus University of Technology (TEPAK).
Countering this argument is that private colleges and universities in all towns already have degree courses in catering and hotel management, as tourism should be seen as a universal industry, not limited to coastal towns. The same could also be said of the maritime and shipping courses, also provided in all towns, after the previous administrations made the tragic mistake of shutting down the Higher Technical Institute.
Perhaps, it is the ill-advised decision to absorb the HHI into TEPAK that needs to be rethought, and not the location.
Cyprus lacks in vocational training, and this is what the educational institutions need to reconsider, if tourism is to remain the mainstay of our economy.
In the absence of a constructive dialogue between industry and the academic sector, there seems to be no clear objective for tourism over the next decade or more.
Just as the Forestry College should have been restructured to become an international centre of learning and research in forestry, agriculture and climate issues, so too the Higher Hotel Institute needs to be put on a new path that will drive the labour industry and trends over the next few years and decades.
Arguing over where it should go simply shows that no one has seen the potential that such an institution has and what it can provide to the Cyprus economy in the long term.
This was a wrong decision that must be put right. Where it will be based should be determined out of the vision, if any, of where our tourism industry is headed.