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2021-06-28

Taiwan's top proponent of hospitality management studies — Dr. Dai You-de (戴有德)

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World-class caliber

National Chi Nan University's Department of Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management has been one of the university's top programs since its inception in 2010. For the past 11 years, it has been consistently nurturing new talents in the hospitality industry, gaining governmental and corporate funding along the way, in no small part thanks to department chair Dr. Dai You-de (戴有德) and his league of passionate instructors.

Dai graduated from the world's third best hospitality doctoral program – Penn State's Ph.D. in Hospitality Management (HM) – and has since become a Taiwanese leader on the cutting edge of this dynamic and ever-evolving field.

His courses are wide and varied and available as undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral requirements. Apart from teaching, Dai's passion is research. The frequently published professor also sits on the Ministry of Science and Technology's regional geology board and reviews local research submissions.

After studying food science and technology as an undergraduate student, Dai decided to switch tracks away from working with harmful chemicals and food additives. He enrolled in the Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management at Florida International University and worked as a hotel intern; his manager's encouragement led the hardworking Taiwanese to embrace hospitality as a lifelong career.

"I applied for 8 Ph.D. programs and received 7 rejections by then. So when the hotel counter handed me another wafer-thin envelope, I was convinced that Penn State sent me a rejection letter too," he recalls.

He binned the letter and proceeded to spend the next two hours in bed, thinking about his life choices. "Maybe I don't have the fate of a man who will become a doctor," he thought as he retrieved the Penn State letter from the trash pile for final confirmation.

It was an acceptance letter. With the addendum of how the usual thick package of enrollment and payment instructions will be posted another day. Whether it was a joke by the admissions office or a different practice, relief coursed through his veins at that moment, when he went from "gator bait" to Penn State Nittany Lion.

That's the humor that life has. Seven straight rejection letters, only to be accepted by his dream school. The Penn State's Ph.D. Program in Hospitality Management (HM) admitted only 5 that year; moreover, he became the first applicant to ever be accepted from Taiwan.

Nexus of talent

After graduating and returning to Taiwan, Dai devoted the next two decades to teaching. NCNU is his third academic home, and he is happy with the university's 1995 decision to establish its campus at the heart of Taiwan instead of urban Taipei up north. Bountiful Nantou, with its proximity to both mountains and lakes, as well as to the greater Taichung metropolitan area, serves as the perfect backdrop for researching and promoting Taiwan's hospitality sector.

"It was good karma that brought me to NCNU," Dai says with a chuckle. "Students here basically come from the top high schools across all of Taiwan, and some of the best choose to stay with our department."

The NCNU's hospitality department has also been accruing global attention, thanks in part to Dai's efforts in growing international recruitment, advancing the product management curriculum, and expanding the number of courses instructed in English.  

Each year, the graduation class of his department averages around 100 students, with over half comprising international students predominantly from Myanmar, Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Macau. "A little United Nations is assembling in my research lab," he says with a chuckle.

He now concerns himself with planning for the post-pandemic era, pointing to the global rise of the hospitality sector as well as NCNU's admission numbers on growing domestic and overseas interest based on student applications and transfer requests. Many of his foreign students even elect to remain in Taiwan and begin their post-graduate lives as entrepreneurs or residents here.

Dai's academic expertise centers on the intersection of tourism, human behavior, and leisure. Human resources, especially the relational framework between management and employees, are another focal point of his studies. "Hospitality is a global trade, and the demands for new talent continue to grow," he explains, adding that unlike vocational schools, the NCNU program is oriented towards management training.

Dai remains studious about keeping his research interests aligned with the latest industry trends: "from topics backed by government fellowships and research subsidies, to real-life problems that face tourism operators in Nantou, those have all been incorporated with my research and teaching projects, like heritage tourism."

His paper "Engage or quit? The moderating role of abusive supervision between resilience, intention to leave and work engagement," which was published by "Tourism Management" (SSCI) in February 2019, explores the impact of travel agency employees' intention to leave or engage in work, while examining whether management moderates the aforementioned relationships.

There is a clear research gap on this subject in tourism and hospitality literature regarding the moderating effects of abusive supervision on the relationships among resilience, intention to leave, and work engagement, the professor says.

Vision-driven education

Inspired by the values of university social responsibility (USR), many teachers of the NCNU Department of Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management have extended their teachings beyond school halls. They have established professional consultancy teams to assist student entrepreneurs with incorporating local advantages in their startup endeavors, fostering micro businesses with a regional flair.

Citing coffee as an example, Dai explains that the hospitality department spent years looking into related research, equipment, certification, and best practices before starting this technical program. After securing a grant from the Ministry of Education, it is now fully staffed with instructors and gear, and is on its way to becoming an exemplary model of academia-industry cooperation.

A Ph.D. student studying hospitality at NCNU, Mo Zhi-qing (莫芷晴) from Hong Kong, even won Taiwan's Coffee Roasting Championship held at the Nantou township of Guoshing last year. "It might be hard to believe, but the titleholders for the world's best coffee bean roasters, baristas, and quality testers are all currently in Taiwan," he adds.

Brew aside, Dai's hospitality department has a healthy awareness of the need for fortifying current students for a future where automated labor increasingly replace human jobs, especially service ones. Foreign language skills, practical coursework, case studies, project management, and technology tools all help his students remain competitive across all fields.

Moreover, recent recruitment offers come from the greater Sun-Moon Lake economic circle in central Taiwan, including The Lalu, a world-famous Taiwanese lake resort, to overseas companies. The Chinese market has a great demand for such graduates at the moment as well, Dai says, adding that Chinese firms often will pay a handsome resettlement fee.

The relentless coronavirus crisis has impacted the global travel industry on so many levels, but Taiwan's regional tourism surged during last year's lull in local cases. The Lalu achieved an 80% occupancy rate in March 2020 in a Taiwanese reflection of the global wellness travel trend, notes the professor.

Many other tourism operators have adapted with ease as well, including re-engineering their business strategies for the post-pandemic boom. Lion Travel, one of the leading travel agencies in Taiwan, has already switched focus from international to domestic tourism, boosting employee count for the latter department from 280 to 1,500.

Of the hundreds of options available throughout the global network of hospitality programs, NCNU's Department of Tourism, Leisure and Hospitality Management is uniquely positioned to serve those who wish to join the hospitality industry at mid- to high-tier management.

More information on the English courses instructed by Dr. Dai is available here: https://eng.ncnu.edu.tw/node/258

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中文

English text by Chao Min

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