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Jan 7, 2019 at 12:00am ET By Alyssa Walker

Tourism has seen huge growth in recent decades. Compare approximately 25 million international arrivals in 1950 with around 1.3 billion today. In that time, revenues have spiked from $2 billion to $1,260 trillion. Today, people are spending more on travel and restaurants than ever before.

But the draw of tourism and hospitality is about more than just numbers. It is about facilitating experiences for people traveling for a wide variety of reasons – anything from rest and relaxation, to business, to learning more about the world.

What does this mean? It means those in the industry must have a wide range of expertise that caters to the needs and demands of today’s tourists.

Let’s take a closer look at why you should study hospitality and tourism -- and one leading institution at which you can earn your degree.

1. Be at the forefront of change

Social media and big data are generating new jobs in hospitality and tourism by the day. For example, managing social media accounts to draw people in to staying in the region or resort you are promoting.

And while the collaborative, or ‘gig’, economy is having a disruptive impact on the sector, platforms such as Uber and Airbnb are having beneficial effects and creating many new opportunities for enterprising graduates.

For example, ridesharing apps such as Uber and Lyft often save travelers money, which is being put towards sightseeing and excursions, and they are also allowing people to spend more on alcohol on nights out, safe in the knowledge they can get an affordable ride home.

Also, apps, websites, and advanced recruitment algorithms, such as CleverGig and ALICE, have made it easier for the hospitality industry to fill vacancies, finish projects, and agree on terms of service.

With a degree in the field of hospitality and tourism, you are perfectly positioned to capitalize on the many changes taking place in the industry today.

2. Ample room for creativity

Are you a creative person?

A large aspect of hospitality tourism is about getting travelers’ custom. It is about more than running nice hotels and restaurants. It’s about giving people an experience they did not realize they wanted.

But before this happens, you need to get people to stay in your region or your resort, which is where marketing -- and your creativity -- comes in.

The latest trend in creative marketing? Pop-up activations. The idea behind them is that a brand literally pops up in someone’s life and encourages them to do something. In the tourism and hospitality industry, it’s usually around travel.

For example, in 2016, to launch Jet Blue’s new direct flights from New York to Palm Springs, the Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau invited New Yorkers to “break out of the chill” of winter. They erected two ice molds with frozen prizes inside and dropped one in Manhattan, one in Flatiron Plaza, and one in Washington Square Park.

Those who literally broke the ice won prizes.

It is marketing like that -- fun and interactive -- that gets people to notice.

3. It is not boring

You never have the same day twice.

Working in tourism and hospitality, you probably won’t work in a stereotypical 9-5 office with a cubicle at your desk. While you will likely have some desk time, you will likely be constantly on the phone, organizing, working with staff, arranging events for guests, and helping out where needed.

If you are on the marketing side of the business, you are thinking up campaigns like pop-up activations, social media hashtags, marketing events, and commercials.

It is likely you will also get the chance to travel a lot as part of your job. For example, you may work as a conference manager and travel to set up and manage conferences, or you may travel to help a new hotel in your hotel chain get off the ground. Who knows, one day you may even manage a whole business operating all over the globe, traveling to different continents every year. 

Bottom line: you are constantly working as your brand constantly evolves.

One place to learn all this and more

Ready to immerse yourself in the world of hospitality and tourism? Then The Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel & Tourism Management (SHTM), with over 75 expert academics from 22 countries and regions, could just be for you!

Their postgraduate programs, targeted at those with some previous experience in the industry looking to take the next step, include master’s and doctoral degrees in hotel and tourism management, with specialties in International Hospitality, International Tourism and Convention Management, International Wine Management, and also a MicroMasters in International Hospitality Management.

Ms. Fujiao Chen, a 2017 graduate of the Master of Science (MSc) in Hotel and Tourism Management and Secretary General of the Hunan Tourism Association, says, “During my two years of study at the SHTM I gained much more than I expected -- not only knowledge and experience, but also friendship.”

Their doctoral programs also offer an intense experience that give graduates a competitive edge in the hospitality industry. Dr. Matias Jørgensen, a professor at Roskilde University and former PhD fellow on SHTM’s PhD program in Hotel and Tourism Management, said the course helped him grow a “huge network of different people within the tourism and hospitality industry.”

The unique degree offers a theoretical and research-based curriculum that gives graduates the opportunity to work in research and education-related positions in hospitality and tourism.

SHTM programs also offer opportunities for invaluable industry experience. Students on the MSc programs in International Hospitality Management and International Tourism and Convention Management have the chance to gain hands-on professional experience by undertaking a paid internship at Hotel ICON, an award-winning 28-floor hotel owned by The Hong Kong Polytechnic University and managed by a team of hotel management professionals, with a spa, rooftop pool overlooking the Hong Kong skyline, and three restaurants.

All of this is reflected in the school’s standings in international rankings. It is rated number one in the world in ‘Hospitality and Tourism Management’ by the Shangai Ranking Global Ranking of Academic Subjects 2017/18, rated number one in ‘Hospitality, Leisure, Sport & Tourism’ by the CWUR Rankings by Subject 2017 and ranked among the top three ‘Hospitality and Leisure Management’ institutions globally in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2017/2018.

Dr James Mabey, who graduated from SHTM’s Doctor of Hotel and Tourism Management (D.HTM) in 2013, has lived and worked in several countries and now works as Chief International Business Officer, Head of Asia and Middle East at Standard International, the company behind the Standard and Bunkhouse hotels.

 “I had no hesitation in choosing [the course],” he says. “When I started my D.HTM programme, I felt I had a lot to offer the world of hospitality but I needed a platform that could open doors for me. I use the knowledge and skills from the SHTM many times a day, in every task from strategic planning and data analysis to simply calling my classmates to ask advice in their areas of expertise.”

In addition, the metropolitan city of Hong Kong, at the heart of the booming Asia-Pacific region, which recently saw a 6% year-on-year rise in tourist arrivals, is the perfect place to study tourism. It has around 280,000 jobs in the sector and 60 million visitors a year flocking to experience the bustling atmosphere and view Kowloon’s stunning skyline, from sea or from the hills which tower above the city. The industry is currently bolstering its status as a center for multidestination travel, with emerging passion for culture, heritage, green tourism, and live entertainment among travelers drawing even more people to the region.

With its focus on preparing students for any aspect of international hospitality and tourism management, SHTM, which nurtures future leaders for advancement of the industry, is the place to be for students seeking to gain experience, expertise, and a competitive edge in this dynamic industry.

Alyssa Walker is a freelance writer, educator, and nonprofit consultant. She lives in the White Mountains of New Hampshire with her family.

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