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Tourism Management Careers

A quick browse through the career section of any major newspaper will reveal an abundance of help wanted listings under hospitality, restaurants, and travel and tourism. What does it take in terms of college classes, training, skills and experience to find success in this growing industry of hospitality and tourism?

Karissa Egel, a gate agent for America West Airlines in Phoenix, AZ believes people in this industry must possess, "Patience, patience, and PATIENCE!" She adds, "Then put that with understanding, good listening, a whole lot of empathy and you have to love, not just like, working with the public." Whether your interest is in lodging, recreation, food service, or travel-related services; all share the same mission of serving the guest. Many people have misperceptions that being part of this industry is all about their personal travel, exotic destinations, glamour, and adventure. In reality, most of the positions require hard work (some of it physical), the ability to deal with irritable customers, frequent long hours, plus many positions require you to work holidays, weekends and evenings. "These positions are 365 days plus jobs and we are sort of like letter carriers in that we go rain, shine, sleet or snow...we still have to go," says Egel. She earned her two year community college degree in tourism management while working her way through college as a front desk clerk in the hotel industry. Egel believes that successful people in this industry are flexible and understanding from the start.

What opportunities are available for people with the right attitude, education, experience, and skills? In her book, Flying High in Travel: A Complete Guide to Careers in the Travel Industry , author Karen Rubin writes, "Travel has not only changed from a luxury to a necessity in the America lifestyle, but the trend toward greater affluence, the effect of more leisure time, and the maturing of the Baby Boomers into the peak earnings (and travel) years all predict fantastic growth for the industry in years to come." She believes it is not just the quantity of jobs that should appeal to people, but also the quality and diversity. "Travel and tourism is so diversified that it entails virtually every kind of activity and employs almost every kind of worker." She notes that people readily recognize the major components of this industry, such as careers with hotels, restaurants, airlines, car rentals, and tour companies, but fewer people realize it also employs archaeologists, sociologists, lawyers, doctors, teachers, computer specialists, artists, writers, marine scientists, actors, musicians, and numerous other professions.

Many people advance in the hospitality and tourism industry with hands- on experience rather than many years of college courses and degrees. However, those with college educations certainly have more opportunities for a variety of careers and advancement within those careers. According to Carl D. Riegel in an article in A Guide to College Programs in Hospitality and Tourism , "As the work force becomes better educated, knowledge and skill become more valued by society generally, and this, in turn, increases demand for workers with more education." Hospitality and tourism education programs range from six month certificate programs to post-graduate degrees. If students are seeking a certificate or a post-graduate degree or anything in-between, most colleges will require students to conduct an internship or on-the-job training in addition to taking general education classes and classes within the major. Lacey Steinberg, a tourism management student at Iowa Lakes Community College, knows that her college courses will make a difference once she enters the workforce. "I'm improving my speaking skills, learning to communicate well in writing, studying geography, researching cultural differences, taking Spanish classes and generally preparing myself to answer customers' questions correctly." She was drawn to the industry because she loves to travel but now realizes, "this education has just made me want to help other people travel. People should get out and see the world!"

Community colleges in the U.S. have numerous programs related to this career field. Some vary from broad-based curriculum objectives, while others are subdivided into specialized areas. The advantage of these colleges is that they offer students the opportunity for vocational training and the ability to transfer to a four-year college or university. A Guide to College Programs in Hospitality and Tourism lists numerous community college programs, with certificates and degrees in travel/tourism management, tourism and hospitality, hotel-restaurant management, resort management, culinary arts, food service production, and hospitality manage ment. Riegel writes, "Many programs place graduates with a mixture of national, regional, and local firms; others place graduates primarily with local and regional companies. The hospitality and tourism industry is a highly segmented, specialized industry, and the mix of firms recruiting for particular segments also differs across institutions." Prospective students need to be sure to ask the community college about its placement program and its contacts.

If this career path sounds appealing, be ready to research what is available in terms of college programs that target specific areas within the industry and also provide quality education, work experience and career placement. Interested students should also take time to meet with people already employed in the industry. Students can learn from these professionals what they like about their job, what skills they feel are critical for success, and where the job growth will be in the next decade. Be sure to ask where they gained their experience, educational background, and in general what keeps them coming back each day. Egel shared her philosophy about her position in the airline industry by saying, "Just love the job, have fun, sometimes you need to make the best of any bad situation. This is the perfect job to learn just how really strong one can be."

Provided by Renee Jedlicka, Professor, Tourism Management, Iowa Lakes Community College, Emmetsburg, IA.

References: Karen Rubin, Flying High in Travel: A Complete Guide to Careers in the Travel Industry (New York: Wiley & Sons, Inc., 1992). Carl D. Riegel, EdD, "An Introduction to Career Opportunities in Hospitality and Tourism," CHRIE (The Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education). A Guide to College Programs in Hospitality and Tourism (New York: Wiley & Sons, 1993).

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