Dynamic Travel and Tourism Program Ready for Fall

By Brian Kleemann

The former Travel, Tourism and Event Planning program has merged with Hospitality Management to create the Hospitality and Tourism program. While the Hospitality curriculum will remain intact, the travel and tourism component has been streamlined and will make its debut this fall. 

The Travel and Tourism Professional degree and the Meeting and Event Planning degree will continue to be offered, but needed changes have been made to the requirements. Students can also choose from three certificates: Travel and Tourism Professional, Meeting and Event Planning, and the new Travel and Tourism Foundations certificate, which consists of four courses that students can then apply toward other travel certificates or degrees.

"People think the field evaporated, but it's just the opposite," said Mary Beth Leone, Associate Professor of Hospitality. "Corporate travel and the cruise industry, for example, are doing extremely well, while specialized travel - from eco-tours to culinary getaways - is growing. The need for skilled employees is strong, so we had to determine what skills are valued in today's market."

College of DuPage worked closely with its travel advisory committee, focus groups and local travel professionals, asking such questions as "What are we missing?" and "What do you need from our students?" One major response was to strengthen students' geography skills so the required geography component will increase from one to three courses. Each class has been revised to include geography, terrain, language and culture and focuses on a different region of the world. 

In addition, College of DuPage will be the first school in the area to offer "Sustainable Tourism," while students in "Special Event Management" will study events such as Lollapalooza. New Meeting and Event Planning courses include "Contracts and Risk Management for the Planner" and a capstone class in which students will plan and execute a large-scale event.

Kathleen Talenco, Instructor of Hospitality and Tourism, said the program traditionally focused on training travel agents, a career that many thought was no longer an option as people turned to the Internet. However, the number of people using travel agents is actually climbing because travelers are beginning to question the credibility of what they find online and what really are the best deals.

The revised program broadens to the scope to better address tourism and provides a strong alignment with the College's Hospitality program as well as with four-year hospitality and tourism programs.

"I want my students to see the bigger picture, because focusing solely on travel is too restrictive," Talenco said. "So we've put our efforts toward what will benefit the most students. For example, internships are now required as part of the program, because hands-on experience is the gateway to references and employment. What's exciting is that no one will have a program like ours."

By offering hospitality, restaurant management, tourism and event planning under one umbrella, the Hospitality and Tourism program has positioned itself well for the future, Leone said. She already receives calls from across the country asking about the new curriculum, as only a handful of schools have continued offering a travel and tourism-based program.

"With Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel unveiling a plan to increase Chicago tourism 10 percent by the year 2020, which would mean 55 million visitors annually, the opportunities for skilled employees in this market will be incredible," she said.      

For more information, call (630) 942-2502, email gayanna@cod.edu, or visit www.cod.edu/programs/culinary/hospitality_management_tourism/.