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Master of Tourism Administration shapes 21st century destinations

International tourist arrivals worldwide grew by 5 percent in the first four months of 2012, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization. Prospects remain positive for the period between May and August, the Northern Hemisphere's summer peak season, with around 415 million tourists expected to travel abroad.

It is estimated that the travel and tourism industry could directly contribute $2 trillion in GDP and 100 million jobs to the global economy in 2012, according to the World Travel & Tourism Council, a grouping of the industry's top executives. When the wider economic impacts of the industry are taken into account, the travel and tourism industry is forecast to contribute some $6.5 trillion to the global economy and generate 260 million jobs -- or 1 in 12 of all jobs on the planet.

"Travel and tourism is economically one of the leading industries in the world," said Larry Yu, Ph.D., professor and director of the Master of Tourism Administration at the The George Washington University, or GW, School of Business. "This program is important because the tourism industry has major impacts on the economy, society, environment and public policy at local, national, regional and international levels."

Beyond MBA programs: the Master of Tourism Administration

GW business school students can pursue tourism and hospitality management education through the school's MBA programs or through its specialized master's degree in tourism administration. The latter, the Master of Tourism Administration, or MTA program, is delivered on-campus or online, Yu said, adding that it enables students to choose among four tourism concentration options to meet their diverse interests:

  • Sustainable Destination Management
  • Event & Meeting Management
  • Hospitality Management
  • Sport Management

To complete the MTA program, Yu said, students have to take at least 12 courses amounting to 36 credits. The curriculum includes: three core courses and three electives, as well as four concentration and two capstone courses. It typically takes between a year-and-a-half and two years to complete the MTA program, he said.

Besides courses, Yu said, the GW business school offers many activities to enhance student knowledge in tourism development and management. Students complete a practicum at a tourism organization. This summer, for example, students traveled to Cusco, Peru, for six weeks to assist local organizations with a tourism project, Segura said.

GW students also organize social, professional and volunteer activities through the Tourism for Tomorrow student organization. Tourism industry leaders and GW Tourism Alumni Network members, meanwhile, serve as guest lecturers, mentors and employers. Yu said MTA alumni can be found in the following organizations:

  • Marriott International
  • Hilton Hotels & Resorts
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide
  • Disney World
  • American Express
  • Carnival Cruises
  • United Airlines

Other organizations that employ MTA students include The World Bank and the U.S. State Department, the World Wildlife Fund, the U.S. Olympic Committee, as well as the National Basketball Association, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, Major League Baseball, and Major League Soccer.

From business school to sustainable tourism

Scheduled to graduate in December, MTA Student Tania Segura became interested in tourism while traveling with her family as a child and experiencing daily life with local residents. She decided to enroll in the tourism administration business school program to understand the industry from the perspective of destinations and corporations, as well as local residents and businesses.

"Many see tourism as a fluff idea that carries no serious economic impact, but it does; it has huge economic and social effects," she said. "Tourism offers such a great way for destinations to create more jobs as well as to preserve or bring to life the character of a place and its people. It can't be ignored."

Segura is focusing on Sustainable Destination Management and works as a research assistant at GW's International Institute of Tourism Studies, where she is developing a sustainable tourism plan for the Crow Nation. More than 400,000 people visit The Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument each year, according to the official site of Montana's Crow Tribe.

"This will be one of the first sustainable tourism plans for a Native American community," Segura said. "We are lucky to be able to contribute. The Crow Nation has many rich cultural and natural resources and we hope that this plan will help them highlight these and sustainably develop and manage their resources in order to increase and measure the economic benefit regularly."