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13 March 2016

Using games for multi-disciplinary learning in hospitality management

With only a few days to go until the final of the Institute of Hospitality Business Game, Debra Adams, Head of Professional Development at arena4finance, reflects on the benefits that games and simulations can bring for promoting learning in a multi-disciplinary environment integrating topics from the operational, financial and marketing disciplines.

It is widely accepted in the field of education that collaborative activity has the potential to enable students to achieve high levels of cognitive skills such as negotiation of meaning and reflective analysis. The use of games and simulations is particularly suited to learning approaches based on social constructivism where learners actively engage in building their own learning. This approach compares favorably with learning techniques based soley on the transmission of knowledge via lectures and presentations.

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HOTS is a web-based tool for management training and development that realistically simulates the management of a service business, typically a hotel..

The game is regularly used as a teaching aid in universities and colleges for developing knowledge of hotel businesses particularly financial reporting and revenue management. It can also be used as a team building activity with middle to senior managers.

Working in teams, participants are supplied with a Background Document, which describes the business they are taking over. The teams also have access to Help Files and Market Research within the simulation. Each Team makes a series of business decisions and enters them directly into the HOTS website. HOTS uses these decisions, together with past performance, to calculate a new trading position. This cycle is repeated on a simulated weekly and/or monthly basis for up to five years.

The simulation is based on a hotel model, and all teams start from the same position. Depending on the options chosen, the simulation can be set up so that teams compete interactively against each other (this option is available for up to 8 teams), or each team can play against the simulation model (in this mode there is no interaction between teams).

At arena4finance we support the simulation with the interjection of learning bites on core topics in the form of presentations and access to online content from our online study centre.

Our experience of facilitating the simulation with both students and managers from business indicates that the social interaction inherent in the simulation coupled with the engagement in the teams increases individual learning. The immediacy of the feedback as teams compete with each other to improve the key performance indicators on the shared Balance Scorecard provides the opportunity to reflect in real time on the decisions made and make changes based on that evaluation.

Teams of hospitality students were invited to enter the HOTS (Hotel, Operations, Tactics and Strategy) Business Game Competition as part of the Institute of Hospitality Passion4Hospitality annual event. Participants compete against rival teams using the interactive hospitality simulation programme HOTS to manage a virtual hotel business.

The competition begins with online heats, with the winners progressing to the final held at a London hotel in March each year. Each team will manage a hotel property within the virtual environment and be tasked with making successful business decisions in all operational areas.

The Business Game Final 2016 takes place on 14th March as part of the Passion4Hospitality event at Novotel London West, Hammersmith, London.