HBCUs Gear Up to Produce Hospitality Managers: Administrators Say Menial Image of Industry Is Outdated

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HBCUs Gear Up to Produce Hospitality Managers: Administrators Say. Menial Image of Industry is Outdated

by Chris Murray

WASHINGTON, DC -- Whenever she talks to African American students about careers in the hospitality business, Joyce Green, head of the Hospitality Administration department at Atlanta's Morris Brown College, says the discussion usually conjures up images of menial labor.

"I've had students come up to me and say, 'I'm not going to college to learn to clean somebody's room'," Green said. "When young people of today think about hospitality and service, they think about servitude, and that's the reason why many of our folks have stayed away from the field."

But such perceptions are wrong, says Green, who holds a master's degree in hospitality management from Florida International University. The hospitality industry -- management of hotels and motels, the food service industry and travel and tourism -- is growing by leaps and bounds in the United States and around the world. At Morris Brown -- and at other historically Black institutions teaching hotel, restaurant and travel management -- administrators are working to keep up with the growth rate while changing long-held perceptions.

Says Green: "The No. 1 industry in the world is tourism....It's going to be the No. 1 growth industry in this country by the year 2005."

Dr. Charles S. Monagan, director of Howard University's hospitality program, agrees. "We as a people look at hospitality [as providing jobs as] hamburger flipper, maid or whatever. But we don't see what's behind that big, multi-million-dollar corporation. Not only is the manager of a major hotel making $100,000 or more a year but, depending on the size of the operation, the food and beverage director or other services manager makes $100,000."

John Naisbitt, author of Megatrends 2000, a book projecting business trends to the end of the century, has predicted that travel and tourism will be among the top three sources of economic growth in the 21st century.

According to the U.S. Travel Data Center, a Washington, DC-based group tracking industry business trends, travel ranks as the first, second or third largest employer in 30 states and the District of Columbia. Over the past decade, average hourly earnings in the service sector have grown faster than in any other industry except finance, insurance and real estate. During this period, service sector earnings increased 52.5 percent.

African Americans make up 11.4 percent of the people working in the U.S. travel and tourism industry, according to the Travel Data Center, but the statistics on management positions are not so encouraging. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that, out of 1.2 million managers employed in food-service and lodging establishments, only 97,000 are African American.

There are only two African Americans, nationally, who serve as heads of municipal tourism and convention bureaus: Melvin Tennant in Charlotte, NC, and Ron Davis in Oakland, CA, -- and only four African Americans serving as general managers of major hotels.

Gearing Up

To increase the number of African American managers in the field, historically Black colleges and universities, such as Morris Brown, are gearing up to train students in all aspects of the hospitality business. Students learn about the industry through a combination of classroom and internship experiences.

Howard's Monagan urged educators to focus on hospitality management as a business function. "Sure, you have to have a personality that allows you to interact with a wide range of people from different backgrounds, but you have to have good business skills as well. Students have to understand accounting, finance, inventory and business management to succeed in hospitality management."

Howard's program, instituted in the early 1980s, enrolls 55-65 students each year. Monagan said that 15-20 companies "come specifically to my program to recruit students for full time work and to recruit students for internships. …