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STLCC Offers New Certificate in Travel and Tourism

June 06, 2014

Craig Mueller  
Craig Mueller

Students interested in seeing the world can go places with a travel and tourism career as their destination.

 

There has been a surge in demand for knowledgeable travel professionals, which has spurred growth in the local tourism industry.  This has sparked a revival of the Travel and Tourism program at St. Louis Community College-Forest Park. The Travel and Tourism Certificate of Specialization is a 25 credit-hour program available beginning this fall.

 

“People planning trips want more personal guidance than what is available on Internet websites these days,” said Craig Mueller, associate professor and program coordinator. “Many are returning to travel agents to oversee their journeys and do their booking.”

 

Professionals still play a vital role for business travelers, he said.

 

“There is a misconception that a travel career is no longer a viable option because of the availability of online travel purchasing, but industry forecasters are predicting a significant shortage of trained, qualified travel professionals,” Mueller said. “The outlook is very good. Those companies that survived the global recession have expanded, in both leisure and corporate travel.”

 

Positions in travel agencies, tour companies, airlines, car rental firms, incentive and online travel companies, and others would be entry-level possibilities for graduates. Job prospects are bright for those who specialize in specific destinations, special interest areas, corporate travel or event-planning, he said.

 

“As an industry, it is one of the top employers in the United States and the world,” said Stephanie Turner, president and CEO of Brentwood Travel, the oldest agency in St. Louis with 58 years in the industry. “The internet has not replaced people as many thought it would.  It has only served to create a greater awareness of travel. We’re always looking for more quality travel specialists.”  

 

In 2007, she implemented an annual $500 Travel and Tourism Scholarship for St. Louis Community College in honor of her parents, Robert and Ruth Lurie, the company founders, and to celebrate the 50-year anniversary of the travel agency.

 

The job outlook is considered excellent in the coming decades because of people in the field are at or nearing retirement age, she noted.

 

“There is an even greater need today for people educated in the field of travel and tourism,” she said. “Many long-time travel consultants are getting ready to retire and we need qualified people to begin to replace them. The travel industry is a very addictive business and offers many opportunities in a variety of areas.  Once you are in it, you are hooked.”

  

According to the American Society of Travel Agents, nearly 70 percent of the agency workforce is older than 55. Travel companies are at a huge risk because 30 to 40 percent of top sellers will be gone in the next five years.

 

Mueller emphasized that good keyboarding and technical skills, positive customer-oriented attitudes and the ability to adapt in a fast-paced work environment are important qualities for prospective students. Those with an interest in geography, who have strong interpersonal skills and are organized, would do well.

 

Mueller, a St. Louisan, helped reshape the curriculum now being offered. After working at travel agencies and in the tourism business for years, Mueller came to STLCC for career training, which shaped his career path in education. He began at STLCC in travel and tourism studies in 2001.

 

“I like teaching about the world, all the different cultures,” he said. “I think travel is a force for peace. I have always taken that to heart. The more we get together and know each other, the more we realize our similarities rather than our differences.”

 

The program was put on hiatus three years ago after the economy impacted the business.

 

“The business was up-and-down, but never went away. It just looks different,” he said. “People seek answers. They want to talk to a person. They want to know what cruise line or vacation package is the best to meet their needs.”

 

If students want to pursue an associate degree in hospitality and tourism, the certificate classes will transfer into the associate degree program.  Students interested in becoming marketing and management professionals in the field can go on to bachelor’s degrees.

 

Beginning this fall, the revised Hospitality Studies program features four focus areas: hotel management, food and beverage management, event planning management, and travel and tourism.

 

For more information, contact Mueller at 314-644-9590 or cmueller@stlcc.edu.