Hospitality, tourism need CSU students to major in field

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With industry professionals having said that California universities need to produce around 10 times more graduates in the fields of hospitality and tourism, CSUN’s Department of Leisure Studies and Tourism is looking to spread the word.

In June 2005, CSU administrators called for a meeting with leaders of the hotel and restaurant industry to discuss what kind of skills are necessary to be successful in the industry and how to achieve them, according to Clara Potes-Fellow, CSU spokesperson.

The meeting was held at the Collins School of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona. The Collins school is the largest hospitality program in California, and is continually ranked among the top programs in the United States.

There are more than 600 students working toward a degree in the field at CSUN, Potes-Fellow said.

At CSUN, however, leisure studies and recreation major is almost completely unknown, according to Craig Finney, the Leisure Studies and Recreation department chair.

“Most students don’t know that if they are interested in traveling, tourism, and hospitality, this major with give them the skills necessary to be a part of the largest industry in the world,” Finney said.

He also said it is up to state universities, which are designed to be more career-orientated, to produce these professionals.

Even though the amount of graduates in this field fluctuates from year to year, CSUN graduates, an average of 20 to 30 students a year, study hospitality, Finney said.

Finney said Scott Williams, the new travel and tourism professor, would help establish the importance of the major because of his experience in the industry.

“I try to focus on the benefits of recreation,” Williams said. “Life is fast-paced, and recreation is used as a tool to escape the anxiety of life.”

Williams said tourism and travel have become a worldwide phenomenon, and students who graduate with these skills can get a job all over the world.

Students, who major in leisure studies and tourism, are taught about the ecological, economic, and social impact that this industry has on areas all over the world. They also begin to understand legal aspects, customer service and behavior, marketing, and event planning, Finney said.

Students also gain experience during a 600-hour internship program at places like Carnival Cruise Lines, Disneyland resorts, and theme parks like Magic Mountain.

“The industry is looking for graduates that are able to read and write well, are confident self-starters, and have an understanding of what people are looking for in leisure,” Williams said.

As the industry evolves, so do the tourists.

According to Finney, as baby boomers get ready to retire, and it is up to these graduates to know how they are going to want to spend their money on tourism.

“Students need to learn the aging process,” he said. “Seventy-year-old tourists are not going to want to (do) what 20-year-olds want to do.”

Finney said the industry looks to other professionals for suggestions on how to increase the leisure experience for consumers.

The Leisure Time Advocacy Board brings together professionals like Finney with specialists from companies like Hilton Hotels, he said.

In addition, students are taught about the negative affects of tourism to the environment.

Finney said that by teaching students about alternatives, they might be able to implement changes once hired.

Students can get jobs on cruise lines, airlines, hotels, and adventure-travel groups with a degree in recreation and leisure studies.

“It is a phenomenon the amount of money brought into California from tourism,” Finney said.

Ariana Rodriguez can be reached at ariana.rodriguez@csun.edu.