After four years in the Peace Corps in Ecuador, Jason Kreiselman, an engineer, decided to shift his focus on development to a different field: tourism. He saw that Ecuadoreans wanted to draw more tourists to their South American country, but they didn’t quite know how best to do it.
“People would think that if they have a waterfall on their property the world is going to come see it,” he says. “But not if there’s no road to get there or restaurants to eat at. I saw the power tourism could have as an international economic development tool, when planned properly.”
So Kreiselman, 34, enrolled in George Washington University’s master’s of tourism administration program. He chose George Washington in part because of its location in a world capital.
“Being right in D.C. is a huge asset,” he says. “There are just tons of opportunities to meet people making a difference in the tourism world.”
That’s because the Washington area is home to the headquarters of hotel chains Hilton and Marriott, as well as all kinds of associations and nonprofits focused on tourism.
“D.C. is undoubtedly the heart of the global hospitality industry,” says Gray Shealy, the executive director of the new master’s of professional studies in hospitality management at Georgetown University’s School of Continuing Studies. “We’ve seen students from all over the world applying to the program, because they see the potential being in D.C. has for advancing their careers.”
Understanding the global hospitality and tourism marketplace is a must for any job in the field these days. “The hospitality industry is one of the most diverse industries in the world,” says Solomon Keene Jr., president of the Hotel Association of Washington, D.C.
That’s why D.C.-area master’s programs teach tourism concepts from a global perspective and build international experience into their curricula with internships and study-abroad opportunities, helping to prepare graduates for a world that’s more interconnected than ever.
Case in point: As their economic situations improve, more people in countries like China, Brazil and India will have the ability and desire to travel, meaning that Europeans and Americans will no longer make up the majority of travelers in the world.
“We’re seeing a huge shift in who is traveling,” says Kristin Lamoureux, an assistant professor and the director of the International Institute of Tourism Studies at George Washington University’s School of Business. “If you have an understanding of the global perspective, it opens up more opportunities from a career perspective.”
Employers are looking for people who can effectively respond to the needs and desires of different cultures. You’ll certainly need to know how to interact with non-American travelers if you’re managing an international location of a major U.S. hotel chain or helping a foreign country improve their economy by luring tourists.
But even if you hope your career keeps you firmly on American soil, you’ll encounter travelers from all over the world, who all have different expectations.
“A Chinese traveler is looking for something totally different than a traveler coming from Brazil,” says Kreiselman.
George Washington’s program provides students with plenty of opportunities to get firsthand experience with the global marketplace. They’re focusing on sports management, or event and meeting management. Students in the program have attended Olympic Games and the World Cup and assessed tourism practices in places like Campeche, Mexico, as part of a consulting practicum.
That experience helps set graduates apart from other job candidates.
“I’ve had students come back to me and say that class is what got them the interview for a job,” Lamoureux says. “The employers saw that they had real international experience while in grad school.”
Nearby, Georgetown is ushering in a new program, its master’s of professional studies in hospitality management, which begins this fall. The program will offer a combination of core concepts and international exposure.
Part-time students can graduate in approximately 24 months over six semesters; full-time students are able to graduate in 16 months over four semesters.
Professionals in the industry will teach classes on subjects like marketing and human resources, potentially using actual work experiences as case studies.
Students can take advantage of internships and short-term study-abroad opportunities in places like Singapore and Dubai, United Arab Emirates, which will be designed for folks who might still be working full-time and attending classes at night.
“Being more worldly will really give students a one-up,” says Shealy, a former Starwood Hotels executive. And, he adds, that experience applies across the field, for students who aspire to work at a hotel chain’s corporate headquarters, as a regional director, or simply at a single hotel property.
Kreiselman, who will be completing his degree at the end of the summer, is already putting what he’s learned to use in his part-time job as a digital marketing adviser with Brand USA, assessing the best ways to use blogs and social media to help draw foreign travelers to America.
“My understanding of the international marketplace was pretty key in securing that job,” he says.
That kind of knowledge should continue to help him and other students throughout their careers. “International experience is really a résumé builder,” Lamoureux says.
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