Achieving a Travel Education Without The Travel

Travel – the heart and soul of the hospitality industry – is missing from the agendas of thousands of industry professionals as they strive to further their careers in management, development, marketing and finance.

Travel, in fact, is often the very last thing on their minds.

Engrossed in coursework designed to prepare them to to move up in a hotel’s chain of command, these employees have been busy ordering up the academic equivalent of room service: Distance learning that delivers textbooks, videos, resource materials and whatever else they need directly to their door – or even to their desktop.

“This is a nice way to learn if you can’t get to a campus,” said Bob Davies, graduate program director at the University of Wisconsin-Stout, which is in the process of shelving and retooling its online coursework in the school’s Hospitality and Tourism program, which added distance learning a decade ago.

“Because the industry requires you to work unusual hours, attending a campus class just doesn’t work,” said Davies. “And there is some rigidity even with tech schools and universities that you have to be available.”

With distance learning, of course, students are very much available – as long as they can accomplish their tasks at their own convenience and their own location.

Though globe-trotters, national travelers and even regional tourists are a driving force in the hospitality industry, staying put to enhance knowledge about about this industry is by no means an anomaly. In many cases, it is has become an occupational necessity.

The American Hotel & Lodging Association recognized this back in 1953 with the founding of its Educational Institute, at the time a formative formal program for hospitality education.

“At that time, its purpose was to provide distance learning courses in the 1950s,” said Elizabeth Johnson, marketing manager. “Correspondence school was in its heyday back then. For people who could not afford college or could not take the time from their hotel job to get additional training to get ahead, the educational institute met that need. It was founded for that purpose at that time.”

Although hotel schools now exist at university campuses in Johnson & Wales in Rhode Island, Purdue University, Cornell University, the University of Houston and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, AH&LA’s institute still offers traditional correspondence-school style coursework in certificate and diploma programs for working professionals. (For more conventional graduate and undergraduate students in classrooom-based hospitality management programs at many of these two-year and four-year schools, the institute also provides an array of professionally authored textbooks.)

In recent years, the institute’s traditional mail-based curriculum has gotten plugged into the Internet, where working professionals have the same options as their mail-based counterparts, to learn – and later take their exams for certification – in a self-paced environment online. The institute has a more intense Hospitality Operations certification program, as well as two diploma programs – one in Hospitality Management and one in Food and Beverage Management. And next year the institute will launch a new specialization – Spa Management – also to be offered online.

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