Why studying hospitality and tourism is one of the best routes to a satisfying international career.

Some degree courses get way more than their fair share of bad press, and those in hospitality and tourism in the UK are right up there at times. But let’s set a few things straight …

Why do a degree to be a waitress or work in housekeeping? Well ok, you can serve at tables with relatively basic training, especially if you have an interest in people, a friendly demeanour and an interest in the product : but it’s not just about food, drink or rooms is it… really… IS it? When was the last time you looked in a smart hotel or restaurant and wished you could stay or eat there? It’s about the experience – these are Experience Industries! The setting, the table touches, the crisp décor, the attention to detail in every aspect so you receive true hospitality.

Taking a degree in one of these subjects doesn’t mean you should get to skip the basics, but you’ll understand why not just how, you’ll be able to take the manager’s and the guest’s viewpoint. You’ll be able to deliver on their expectations and, given some experience, initiative and flexibility, you should be able to launch yourself into one of the most dynamic careers imaginable. You’ll only be doing the same thing in future if that’s what you choose to do.

Where will it take me anyway? So firstly, the answer is where do you want to go? If you want to stay in the UK there are plenty of upscale, luxury, boutique and simply special places offering memorable stays. Similarly we have some excellent tourist attractions catering for the interests and entertainment of a niche or mass audience. But what really interests you, and how far do you want to go? Because tourism can give you the chance to follow that interest at home or internationally, given some enthusiasm, dedication and people skills.

To really take control over your future, to take control of a business in this fast-moving field of technology, marketing, service and investment yes, you guessed it, that’s where your degree comes in. Taking a degree in one of the experience sectors – hospitality, tourism, leisure, sport, events – should be a commitment to develop yourself beyond your early career and give yourself power to choose where it takes you, not be led by it.

So where will it take you? That’s up to you, but there’s a world out there, Europe won’t disappear with or without Brexit, and these industries are both important and respected beyond our borders as well as in those enlightened places within the UK. So the USA? Of course! France, Italy or Spain … why not? You can chart your future or you can see where it takes you. But with a degree and experience you’ll be ready.

I’ll never get rich working in the hotel or tourism industry! No? Frankly there are plenty of people who’ve ‘made their millions’ in these areas, some very close to home and from humble beginnings, … is that what it’s about? The fact is that these experience industries offer the chance to shape people’s life experience, to shine light on people, places and opportunities your guests and visitors may never have dreamed of. But this isn’t a one-way street : toiling to make others happy. You can shape what you want to get out of this business and earn a good living doing so.

A degree, or rather working towards that degree, should give you the tools to accelerate not just your learning but your experience and your future career, should you wish to follow it. At the same time, if you understand what goes into service settings like a hotel, restaurant or attraction, how to manage finances, marketing and people, or how to deliver an unforgettable event, you can use those skills in pretty much any other service sector. The choice will be yours.

You’ll be rich in opportunity if you choose this path, or if you can develop entrepreneurial flair and hard work there’s no reason you can’t make a great living and do a job you really enjoy too.

Get a real job! There’s so much expectation placed on employability now, and rightly so, but getting a ‘real’ job, a worthwhile job, takes commitment, focus, knowledge, skills and a few lucky breaks. You can make those lucky breaks more likely as well as developing the rest by realising that a degree in hospitality or tourism, or any other experience industry subject isn’t an easy ride.

It takes partnership between you, your university, your tutors, your employers, as well as the support and belief in you that comes from family and friends.

Think of it this way… so you joined a gym to lose weight, get fit, look great. But you’re not going to get any results if you don’t go. If you go to the gym but just sit and watch without doing anything, that will be just as pointless. You could do the minimum gym routine, that might make a difference. Or you go to classes, use a personal trainer – this is where your lecturers and tutors come in, where you get truly involved. You just do as you’re told by the professionals and you’ll be getting somewhere. But if you only do as you’re told in the gym, and if you don’t get inquisitive, ask questions about what else you can do, where else you can go to improve, your future ‘shape’ will still have limits.

So ask questions, engage in your education and development at home, university, at work, locally and internationally and now you’re in the driving seat. Look for the international, mind-broadening, culturally enlightening and inspiring experiences that these industries uniquely offer. It takes a little investment but the benefits and opportunities from a degree in hospitality and tourism – they’re global!

Published by John Humphreys

Education and leisure industry professional with over 30 years' experience and a focus on delivering international experiences and employability development.

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