Travel and tourism management is an in-depth study of the knowledge and skills that are required to work in and manage one of the world's greatest and most exciting industries. The global growth of tourism in 2006 was 4.5 per cent and the outlook for the future continues to look rosy. Africa achieved almost twice this rate of growth, and Asia and the Pacific were not far behind. This means that the industry demands skilled managers and one of the best ways to start on the career ladder is to undertake a specialist degree.

This hasn't always been the case as specialist degrees were not available in the UK until the beginning of the Eighties, when Northumbria and Bournemouth Universities set up the first undergraduate degrees. In addition, the industry has grown and diversified phenomenally over recent years in five key sectors: accommodation, transport, travel organisation, attractions and destination organisation.

Secondary schools and colleges offer a plethora of GCSEs, diplomas, vocational qualifications and foundation degrees. Study is not just limited to the UK either: destinations in the Far East soon realised the importance of an educated workforce. However, it is important to point out that you do not need to have studied the subject previously to study it at university though if you have, you may find some of the tourism content marginally easier in your first year.

If a travel and tourism management programme is set in a business context - as many university programmes are - then the study of businesses and organisations and the skills that are required by managers to succeed will be included; these include marketing, human resource management, IT and financial management. This study is put into the context of tourism planning and development, travel industry management and operations, visitor attraction and conference and events management, geography, responsible tourism, specialist marketing and strategy for the industry.

One of the most important aspects to consider when you're choosing a travel and tourism course is whether it has a sandwich year, whereby students spend one year working in industry in their third year. Not only can it provide a welcome break from academic studies, but there is the opportunity to earn money too. As an example, Northumbria University has placements based in the UK and overseas, in organisations such as Marriott Hotels, Sunvil Holidays and Civil Aviation Authority. Graduates always look back on their work placement as a great experience and some are offered jobs for after graduation.

Specialist courses are available; indeed there are currently 144 programmes on the UCAS site listed under travel and tourism. All prospective students obviously need to consider where they want to study and the reputation of the institution in terms of the delivery of the subject area. All universities hold open days, where students can hear full details from the programme team about the course they are thinking of studying. Membership of the Institute of Travel and Tourism (ITT) is also recommended, as they are highly supportive of young people and their ventures into the industry.

There is no doubt that upon graduation there is competition for top places. However, with a good degree, students should have no problems embarking on their career in what really can only be described as one of the most rewarding and exciting industries around.

Bridget Major is programme director of the Newcastle Business School at Northumbria University, www.newcastlebusinessschool.co.uk

CASE STUDY

Samuel Areola, 21, is in the third year of his business tourism management degree at the University of Hertfordshire

Prior to university I enjoyed studying business and partaking in my school's Young Enterprise team as the managing director, so I was looking to do something along similar lines. After reviewing various combined and individual degree courses available at universities, I was immediately drawn to tourism management.

Early on in the first year we had a field trip to established tourist attractions in Bath and Bournemouth, such as Stonehenge. This gave us an insight into domestic tourism in the UK. In my second year we went on a field trip to the Gambia, where we got to experience another culture first-hand and see how tourism affects receiving destinations.

WEB WATCH

The Institute of Travel & Tourism

For help finding a career in the industry

www.itt.co.uk

Ucas

A comprehensive search for travel and tourism courses

www.ucas.com

The Tourism Society

Find out about the sector's many jobs and events

www.tourismsociety.org

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