Real-World Training to Meet a Growing Demand: Educators and Industry Leaders Alike Prepare the Next Generation for Service

Article excerpt

Long before we were ready to get back to "business as usual," America was forced to face the economic reality spurred by both the September 11 terror attacks and an impending recession. The words "layoff," "furlough," "downsizing" and "bankruptcy" were showing up in news stories and articles daily, mostly referring to segments of the hospitality and tourism industry--airlines, hotels, restaurants and resorts. But within hours of the attacks, travel industry leaders had made a commitment to fight back.

"A recovery plan was already on the drawing board while most Americans were still looking with horror at the ruins of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon," said William S. Norman, president and CEO of the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA), in a recent address on the state of the travel industry. "Within days of the horrific attacks, travel industry leaders approved a comprehensive recovery plan and a message platform: Travel is a fundamental American freedom."

The industry-wide recovery plan--which included delivery of a clear, consistent, universal message to the media; a national print advertising campaign; and a public service campaign--offered reassurance and outstanding travel prices to a shaken populace. Such quick and focused action could be among the reasons that, since the 9-11 attacks, "only a third of travelers have postponed or altered their travel plans, and more than 70 percent have stayed the course."

According to a December 2001 TIA poll, the nation's state tourism directors are "cautiously optimistic" about the economy, with 50 percent anticipating recovery within six months. And TIA National Chair Fred Lounsberry remarked, "Lacking a degree in economics, or even a good divining rod, I'll leave the prognostication to the experts. What I do know is that the travel industry has forged ahead through some of the most challenging times in our history. I am optimistic about the potential before us."

Clearly the hospitality and tourism industry has been affected by 9-11 and the recession, but its leaders are confident about the growth, stability and potential of a segment that employs nearly 15 million of our nation's workforce. Despite the economic climate, the service sector is the most rapidly growing part of the American economy, and it is estimated that by 2010, food service operations alone will require more than 100,000 new managers annually to keep pace with growth.

According to Michael Bartlett, senior vice president of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation (NRAEF) and executive director of the Hospitality Business Alliance, "the huge boom in hospitality (defined as restaurants, lodging, and travel and tourism), which in 1998 was an $800 billion business, is expected to increase 50 percent by 2010."

So how can the industry prepare for such growth? With solid secondary and postsecondary education programs that introduce youth and young adults to the service industry and prepare the hotel, restaurant and tourism managers of tomorrow. Hospitality education has grown considerably over the last three decades, with more than 1,000 college-level programs in the United States. "The next step in this evolution," says Bartlett, "is to ensure that America's 25,000 high schools adopt a variety of hospitality courses and school-to-career opportunities, so young people have the opportunity to choose a career in hospitality."

Hospitality Business Alliance

The Hospitality Business Alliance (HBA), an initiative of the NRAEF in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Association, offers two high school curricula--ProStart Food Service and Lodging Management--to foster a nationwide system of high school hospitality education. The HBA has set its sights on having 5,000 high schools enroll 50,000 students in hospitality courses over the next 10 years. By creating courses linked with mentored worksite experiences, the HBA has accumulated a total of 26,319 students, 786 schools and 2,965 internship positions in 37 states. …