Black Meetings and Tourism

September/October 2014

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Page 30 of 52

INTRODUCTION O n the global level, interest in careers in the hos- pitality and tourism industry continues to grow. Traditional parks, recreation and leisure studies academic programs have claimed their historically broad foundation in human services, non-profit and commercial sectors by re-titling their programs. In the State of California, for example there is a system-wide initiative to expand hospitality and tourism curricula at both the undergraduate and graduate levels to address industry needs. The purpose of this article is to examine reasons for the limited demand among African-American students for hospitality and tourism degrees in the West; beyond the East coast cities and the traditional historically Black col- leges and universities (HBCU). Several recommendations are offered to address, and hopefully to reverse, this trend. FOUNDATIONS U nderlying history and professional practice con- tinue to attract students with an entrepreneurial spirit focused in face-to-face interactions with consumers of free time experiences and business travel services, which are increasingly characterized by combina- tions of personal or leisure and workplace responsibilities. Diversification of the hospitality and tourism industry is evi- dent as spas, retreats, conferences, meetings, weddings, con- certs and reunions have refocused the industry around qual- ity of consumer experience. Media ads such as Mandalay Bay's "You're not a tourist, you're a resortist" emphasize individual interpretation of, and personal identification with choices exercised in dining, travel, destination and accom- modation. Individuals from all walks of life believe they have many options as they exercise intentional choices in travel, leisure and recreation. Students are attracted to the tourism, recreation and hos- pitality because of the ability to learn and practice industry- related skill sets prior to graduation. Many academic pro- grams require courses in event planning, promotional tech- niques, leadership, entrepreneurialism and evaluation; all competencies affirmed through consultation with industry professionals. Capstone courses often require traditional career preparation skills, completing informational inter- views, development of a professional portfolio to document hands-on experiences, and creating measurable outcomes for an internship experience completed under the direction of a seasoned practitioner. Soft-skills are increasingly identified as those intangibles that are both difficult to teach, and difficult to measure. Through direct modeling within the industry, students learn best practices from the masters; for example those identified B M & T ••• September/October 2014••• 30

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