Designing the 4-Year Travel-Hospitality Industry Management Curriculum: A Triangulation Approach

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1 Designing the 4-Year Travel-Hospitality Industry Management Curriculum: A Triangulation Approach Khoon Y. Koh, Central Connecticut State University Abstract This paper reports the preliminary findings of a study to determine the normative elements of a 4-year Travel-Hospitality Industry Management program offered in a business school. Business schools contemplating launching their own 4-year THIM program could thus use the findings as reference data to design their curricula. As for business schools that currently offer such a program of study, they could utilize the study results to re-examine their own curricula. I. INTRODUCTION Before the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001, many travel-hospitality industry writers and organizations had been reporting that the travel-hospitality industry was the largest industry in the world (in terms of annual sales, capital investments, and employment); and the industry was projected to maintain significant growth into the 21st century (e.g., Chon and Sparrowe 1995; Cook, Yale, and Marqua 1999; Gee, Makens, and Choy 1997; Howell 1993; Purzycki 2000; Travel Industry Association of America, 1998; Tuttle 1987). Hence, it is no surprise that over the last several years, some business schools in North America have begun to offer travelhospitality programs to augment their traditional offerings of accounting, economics, finance, management, marketing, and management information systems (e.g., Canisius College, Central Connecticut State University, Loyola Marymount University, San Diego State University, George Washington University, Temple University, University of North Carolina-Wilmington, University of Calgary, and the University of Victoria). A school of business in a small community college located in a mid-western state also jumped on this bandwagon and launched its 2+2 program in the Fall semester of 1999: a 2- year Associate Degree, and a 4-year Bachelor Degree in Travel & Hospitality Industry Management (THIM). It is called 2+2 because graduates of the 2-year vocational program could transfer into the 4-year management program without losing significant course credits. As for students who enter the 4-year program from the start, if they decide to drop out amidst their study, they still could leave the program with an Associate degree (with due academic advising). Thus, the 2+2 approach appeared to be a win-win strategy for both students and the school of business. However, the 4-year THIM curriculum was basically an adaptation of the college s phased out Parks & Recreation Management curriculum, which had been phased out at the end of the spring 1999 semester. As such, the 4-year THIM curriculum reflected the continuation of a passé curriculum rather than a contemporary curriculum. Hence, in the summer of 2001 (2 years after its launch), the new dean of the school of business requested a re-examination of the 4-year THIM curriculum because in his words, a

2 contemporary curriculum designed without the input of relevant stakeholders is a biased product. The author of this paper was asked by the dean to determine what a contemporary THIM curriculum should be using a literature-based and market-oriented study methodology. II. STUDY DESIGN This applied study was conducted in two phases. In phase one, a comprehensive review of the travel-hospitality education literature and a review of selected contemporary US travelhospitality curricula were conducted. The two explorations indicated that the ideal (and most commonly practiced) 4-year THIM curriculum should comprise of four educational clusters: General Education, Departmental Education, Specialization Education, and Elective Education. The objective of phase two was to determine the pool of normative courses that constitute the Specialization education cluster. To accomplish this objective, the triangulation method to problem solving was used: divergent thinking, convergent thinking, and validation from primary stakeholders. To achieve divergent thinking, input from 14 senior students, 6 educators, and 6 managers was solicited. The rationale for seeking students input was based on the generally accepted marketing thought and practice that buyers are more likely to buy products that are designed from the buyers perspective. As for business educators, the belief was that since most organizations that make up the travel-hospitality industry are businesses, it would seem illogical to omit input from these experts of business thoughts and practices. Besides, a THIM curriculum designed without educators input is unlikely to earn their commitment to develop and teach THIM courses. As for industry managers, since they are the ultimate employers of THIM graduates, and they are contemporary practitioners in the industry, it would be prudent to include them, too. Input from senior THIM students was obtained through two sequential focus group sessions. In the first session, after some familiarization time and activities, the participants brainstormed and discussed the challenge. At the end of session one, each participant was additionally given a list of courses identified by the author in phase one to take home for further thought. More discussion ensued in the second session, which concluded with participants voting their decisions in a closed format. Of the final list of 22 courses identified by the group, 20 courses were ranked as required from their vote count (the decision criterion was preset at 80%). For the group of business educators, input was obtained through two rounds of activity: a round of individual meetings with this author and a session of group meetings during which group consensus was obtained for 14 required courses (from an initial list of 18 and using the same decision criterion used with the student group). As for the group of industry managers, input was obtained through the Delphi technique. After four rounds of communications via telephone, e- mail, and s-mail, the agreed list of required courses consisted of 16 courses. To achieve convergence, the three lists were synthesized using the commonality approach. That is, if course x (either x exists or needs to be created) was identified by all three groups as important, x was determined to be a necessary element in the Emphasis education cluster. To validate the synthesized list, a survey questionnaire (using a 5-point Likert scale with 1 stated as totally disagree to 5 as totally agree ) was scheduled for sampling with a regional sample of THIM majors, THIM educators in business schools, and commercial touristic organizations. However, at the time of this conference, phase three had not yet been conducted.

3 III. STUDY RESULTS Using the commonality approach, the synthesized list consisted of these 10 courses: 1. Introduction to the T-H industry 2. Entrepreneurship in the T-H industry 3. T-H marketing principles & strategies 4. Managing service quality in T-H businesses 5. Laws for the T-H industry 6. Lodging & resort management 7. Food & beverage management 8. Events planning & management 9. End of year 2 practicum 10. End of year 4 practicum IV. DISCUSSION The preliminary results reported here raise at least three questions. One, the list of required THIM courses does not seem to be markedly different from traditional business courses. Example, are management practices for lodging & resort businesses and/or dining businesses significantly different from general business management practices? Likewise, are the marketing principles and practices for tourism businesses significantly different from general business marketing principles and strategic practices? What about entrepreneurship and laws? If not, then why offer such a specialization in the school of business? One business educator participant in this study contended that the industry is more a service and experience oriented industry, thus, it should be treated differently. If this argument is accepted, then shouldn t schools of business create specializations for other significant industries as well, such as the medical-healthcare industry. Is such a practice desirable and necessary in view of dwindling institutional resources? Two, the list does not seem to show any uniqueness about the program. If students majoring in THIM were required to take this list of courses in the school of business, what is the real differentiation of the THIM program since it is basically an adaptation of traditional business courses but incorporating the word, Travel-Hospitality either as a prefix or suffix? Further, if successful management requires three sets of skills (conceptual, human, and technical), the resulting list of THIM core does not seem to emphasize the development of conceptual skills. Three, compliance with AACSB accreditation standards. During the time of the study, the school of business at this mid-western state college was contemplating the pursuit of AACSB accreditation. Under AACSB standards, no Business School programs shall require students to take more than 50% of their course work from the School of Business. In this context, if this list of required courses were validated in subsequent studies and implemented, students majoring in THIM would have no/little leeway to enroll in other interesting or relevant business school courses (unless the business school core is significantly less than 30 credit hours). Is this a desirable scenario if (as explained by a few business educators in this study) contemporary business education should liberate rather than limit students learning.

4 V. CONCLUSION The objective of this study was to suggest a 4-year THIM curriculum that is literature-based and market-oriented (internal and external markets). Findings from the literature-based phase indicated that it should be comprised of four educational clusters: general education, departmental education, specialization education, and elective education. Preliminary findings from the market-based phase indicated that the specialization education cluster varies from 16 to 22 three-credit hour courses. If the commonality approach was applied, only 10 courses were commonly rated as required. Certainly, this list is not a conclusive one since the sample sizes were diminutive. Hence, the next planned phase of this study would be to validate the three lists with three regional samples of students, educators, and managers (regional sample because the mission of the institution was to serve the educational needs of a defined geographic region). The findings from the next phase of study, in addition to meeting the objective of the study institution, would benefit other similar institutions as well: cull those THIM courses that are not in the list of 10! VI. REFERENCES Chon, K.S., and Sparrowe, R.T. (1995). Welcome to Hospitality: An Introduction. Albany, NY: Delmar Publishers. Cook, R.A., Yale, L.J., and Marqua, J.J. (1999). Tourism: The Business of Travel. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Gee, C.Y., Makens, J.C., and Choy, D.J.L. (1997). The Travel Industry (3 rd ed.). New York, NY: Van Nostrand Reinhold. Howell, D.W. (1993). Passport: An Introduction to the Travel and Tourism Industry (2 nd. Ed.). Cincinnati, OH: Wouth-Western Publishing Company. Purzycki, J.S. (2000). Travel Vision. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall. Travel Industry Association of America (1998). Annual Report. Washington, DC. Tuttle, D.F. (1987). Whether Your Business is Tourism or Not, Tourism is Your Business. Business America, 10 (4): 3-8.

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