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Hospitality and tourism program recognized for excellence

Hospitality and tourism program recognized for excellence

Hospitality and tourism program recognized for excellence
February 19
02:30 2014

Joshua Knopp // Senior Staff Writer

UNT’s college of merchandising, hospitality and tourism program was honored as one of the best schools in the country in separate top-20 lists — one for hospitality and another for tourism.

Createacareer.org put UNT among the 25 best schools in the country for students seeking to run a restaurant or hotel, and thebestschools.org hailed it as one of the top 20 for tourism management education. The lists went off the classes offered, faculty involved and general reputation of the program.

Both websites praised the international sustainable tourism master’s degree offered to tourism majors. The program is first-of-its-kind, offered jointly by UNT and Tropical Agricultural Research and Higher Education Center in Turriabla, Costa Rica. Students spend half of the two-year program in North Texas, one semester in Costa Rica and one semester abroad doing special research. Createacareer.org also hailed The Club at GatewayCenter, a student-operated restaurant.

Department chair Lea Dopson said the master’s program was central to the college’s honors. Students learn how to make and audit a resort that is not only profitable, but sustainable and helpful to the local economy.

“You find one of the prettiest, most untouched beaches on Earth and you want to build a resort,” she said. “You don’t want to destroy the area. You want people to come and visit.”

Hospitality and tourism professor Daniel Spears, who helps run the program, said it works by emphasizing tourism’s triple bottom line — the financial, social and environmental impacts of a resort.

“Your profit isn’t driven purely by economics,” he said. “It’s driven by that triple bottom line.”

Spears and Dopson said an example to avoid is the giant shopping strip in Cozumel, Mexico, an island that most Caribbean cruises stop at for a night or two. The shopping strip is full of expensive shops and restaurants, but all the profits leave the island. Abject poverty exists just a mile down the shore.

On the other hand, Costa Rica as an example of a country that handles tourism gracefully, controlling the number of tourists it hosts through international flights and making an effort to keep money on the island. Educating students on an example of tourism gone well helps them identify locations where it’s gone poorly.

Students’ final semester requires them to analyze tourist attractions around the world.

“They get to go out and actually do it and touch it and feel it,” Spears said. “They’re learning about culture and language and people. It’s a different world down there.”

On the hospitality side, students learn the ins-and-outs of restaurant management at The Club at Gateway, open for lunch eight more weeks this semester. In five sets of classes that meet once a week, students serve and prepare paying customers.

“The big thing is every day is Monday,” said Joseph O’Donnell, hospitality lecturer and general manager of the restaurant. “It’s an unpredictable new adventure every day.”

O’Donnell said the goal is for students to be managers when they graduate, but they must first learn how to serve and cook themselves.

Hospitality management junior Melody Pinkerton, in the class’s Monday section, has worked at two pizza restaurants and an upscale dining restaurant in Dallas. She said the difference working at The Club is how much attention she needs to pay to details.

“It’s more upscale, not casual at all,” she said.  “I know in other jobs you have to meet customer needs, but I guess it’s a little more stressful to make sure everybody gets their order.”

Dopson said the master’s program is gaining students every year, and the program’s distinctive collaboration will allow it to continue growing.

“It’s big, it’s unique, there’s nothing else like it in the world,” she said. “We’re ahead of the industry on this.”

Feature photo: Chilton Hall located on Ave. C on campus is home to the school of merchandising and hospitality management. Photo courtesy of UNT

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