Masters in Hospitality Management
Want a career in hospitality management? Get advice on how a Masters in Hospitality Management could set you apart, the most pressing issues for future hospitality managers, and inspiration for your future.
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Studying hospitality management
The global hospitality industry is huge – and statistics to prove this are in wide supply. According to the UN World Tourism Organization, for example, tourism has a business volume equal to or larger than major industries such as oil exports, food products and automobiles.
In 2013, consultancy HVS London reported the average value of a single hotel room in Europe at €240,000 (about US$315,000) per year – or €660,000 ($865,000) in a high-end destination like Paris. Meanwhile the events sector is predicted to be worth UK£48.4 billion (almost US$75bn) by 2020 in the UK alone.
But while these kinds of statistics may be impressive, they really only brush the surface of the hospitality sector, failing to give a true impression of just how diverse and far-reaching the industry is – and, correspondingly, the type of graduates it demands.
Challenges for future hospitality managers
While a head for figures and a certain element of natural charm are undoubtedly important, there’s actually much more to hospitality management than maintaining profit margins or being able to bring a smile to the face of a disgruntled customer.
Juggling these elements may sound like challenge enough – and undoubtedly is no easy task. But on top of these demands, future leaders in the hospitality management sector also need to be strategic and innovative thinkers, ready to seize new opportunities and adapt to meet new challenges in a rapidly evolving global market. And in order to achieve this, an undergraduate degree alone may not be sufficient.
This, at least, is the view of Karl Wöber, president and dean of graduate programs at Austria’s MODUL University, where he also lectures on the MSc in International Management. “Many undergraduate programs in tourism and hospitality management only focus on operational matters, but rarely on strategic skills and research methodologies,” Wöber says.
The industry itself is experiencing “some seismic changes”, he believes, and as a result “urgently needs graduates with comprehensive knowledge of contemporary marketing and environmental and development issues to provide leadership for local and international companies.”
Key trends in hospitality management
In particular, Wöber highlights environmental impact as one of the most important fields for future hospitality leaders to get to grips with. “Tourism is about travelling and experiencing the nature and culture of a destination, which creates many environmental issues. Investigating what policies can be implemented to reduce environmental impacts in the tourism production chain is not only a very exciting but also important and fast-developing field of study.”
Wöber further identifies new technologies as a key area, particularly in relation to the marketing side of the sector. “In the internet and mobile communication age, tourism marketing is ever more sophisticated, multi-leveled and very dynamic.” Graduates looking to work in hospitality marketing therefore need the skills and knowledge to make optimal use of new developments and trends, across multiple platforms and audiences.
Beyond these two major fields – environmental impact and new technologies – what other topics might graduate students consider specializing in? Well, at the International Centre for Research in Events, Tourism and Hospitality (based at the UK’sLeeds Metropolitan University), a significant amount of research focuses on the relationships between the tourism industry and local communities.
Hospitality management research
This includes topics such as the role of tourism in reducing poverty in developing countries, the relationship between cultural festivals and a community’s social capital, and the role of ‘authenticity’ in tourism experiences.
Other ongoing research projects at the center include innovation implementation at music festivals, the use of humor in advertising and brand building, the behavior of gambling tourists, perceptions of service quality at business events, and the impact of sustainability information on customers’ holiday choices.
Meanwhile over in the US at Cornell’s Center for Hospitality Research, one ongoing priority is research into emerging markets, particularly India and China. This includes examination of hospitality industries within these regions, and also analysis of these national groups as outbound tourists.
High priority topics identified at Cornell also include the effects of new media platforms on customer decision-making, the impact of government policy on travel and tourism revenue, changes to the ownership structure of the hospitality industry, and generational differences in consumer experiences.
Hospitality management careers
As this brief overview of current research priorities should suggest, the hospitality industry reaches far beyond the doors of the hotel or the reach of an online advertisement. In fact, it impacts on and intersects with many other academic subjects and areas of human experience – from economics and politics to anthropology and psychology.
And, Wöber affirms, the range of careers awaiting graduates are just as varied and far-reaching. While many hospitality management graduates do go on to roles in “the development, management, and marketing of tourism destinations, attractions and products”, he is also keen to emphasize that these more ‘obvious’ positions are by no means the only options.
Other career paths may include consultancy, policy advice and research, with employers ranging from government agencies and international conglomerates to small independent firms.
Given the breadth of possible specializations and career outcomes, it makes sense that the entry requirements for graduate programs in hospitality management should not be too narrow. While some applicants do have an undergraduate degree in a closely related subject, Wöber says MODUL also considers students from a broad range of social sciences backgrounds, including marketing, management, business informatics, geography, planning, sociology, policy sciences, law and economics.
So, however you see your future in hospitality – whether it’s as the welcoming face at a glamorous venue, the brains behind a new research report, or the strategist behind an innovative new marketing approach – opportunity abounds.