According to the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC), the tourism and travel market encompasses more than 40 different industries, employs more than 230 million people, and produces $6.4 trillion dollars in economic activity. Online hospitality education can help you break into this exciting field or further your current hospitality career.
Online hospitality education programs use various web technologies -- including e-mail, online discussions, and streaming video -- to deliver courses. In addition to a reliable Internet service, online hospitality students will need email access and may need basic office software. Some courses may also use textbooks and other printed materials.
Richard Garrett, Director of Online Learning for the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA), points out that not all online programs are equal and that students need to do some research before choosing a program.
"Students should pay particular attention to how available the instructor is and how long the school has been offering online training programs. The most successful programs see that getting online education right takes a lot of work," says Garrett.
Garrett also notes that the same principle applies to successful students. "Many students make a dangerous assumption that online is easier and get themselves into trouble because they don't treat online courses the same way they would traditional courses."
Ranging from individual courses to graduate degrees, below is a selection of schools offering online hospitality education:
Online hospitality courses can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand. Check out the various financial aid options including loans, grants, scholarships, and tuition assistance.
To apply for federal assistance, you'll want to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). You should also check with school financial aid offices for information on private loans, school scholarships, and payment plans. Employed students may also be eligible to receive tuition assistance from their employers.
The hospitality industry offers a wide range of employment options including hotel, restaurant, and tourism jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in most hospitality occupations are expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2014, including an impressive 26.6% projected growth for hospitality management, business, and financial occupations.
Potential students may question whether employers will accept online credentials. Richard Garrett with the AH&LA Educational Institute says that employers have been very accepting of their online programs. "The primary limitations we have run into are not from employers, but from the state regulatory side, as some states regulate what type of training is accepted to serve in certain positions." Although Garrett does believe online education is widely accepted in the hospitality industry, he notes that reputation counts. "Particularly for certification in specific areas, I would advise students to look for programs with name-brand recognition throughout the industry," says Garrett.
Ross Pearo, vice president of marketing and business development for eCornell, points out that degrees and credentials aren't the only things that online education can provide to help students advance within the hospitality industry. "One feature of a well designed online course is the social aspect," notes Pearo. "Online courses can provide a lot of opportunity to interact with other people in the industry. In fact, they often provide more opportunities for interaction than traditional programs. The ability to develop a network in the industry is certainly there in an online course, students just have to take advantage of it."
Whether you want to brush up on a particular topic, get certified in a specific area, or earn your hospitality degree, there is most likely an online program to meet your needs -- you just may have to do a little research to find the right program for you.