The success of the tourism sector was a driving force behind the Celtic Tiger’s roar. And now that this roar has withered to a soft whisper, the role of tourism & hospitality in Ireland’s future economy is more important than ever. Over eight million overseas visitors came to the country in 2007, which may astonish us considering the weather and the price of a pint but our Emerald Isle must be doing something right. A recent survey completed by Fáilte Ireland concluded that Ireland’s cultural heritage is worth over two billion euro to the tourist industry on an annual basis. More than half of the visitors asked cited cultural or historical interests as the main reasons for choosing Ireland as a destination. Patriotic pride aside, this is a heritage we ought to be extremely thankful for considering that almost 250,000 people are directly employed in tourism and hospitality management, according to the figures of the Department of Arts, Sport and Tourism.
As well as being a fundamental part of a country’s economic success or survival it should also be bore in mind that tourism is a constantly evolving industry that must adapt itself to suit and cater for different trends and demands. For this reason those employed in tourism or hospitality management must be equipped with appropriate management and leadership skills in conjunction with a high level of business acumen and innovation. A postgraduate course in either of these subjects will ensure that these necessary skills are not only learnt but are mastered to such a degree that not even a busful of angry and exhausted tourists will faze you.
The wealth of opportunities available in the field is reflected by the choices of postgraduate courses available around the country. DIT offers an MSc in Tourism Management which is suitable for those with experience of working in the area as well as anyone completely new to tourism. Specific topics covered throughout the year (or two years, should you choose the part-time option) include e-commerce, marketing and customer relationships. Typical career paths would encompass management positions in the travel sector, community development, cultural organisations and national and regional tourism organisations.
DIT also runs an MSc programme in Hospitality Management which provides participants with the knowledge and experience to progress in areas such as hotel management, marketing and sales, consulting and human resource management. All aspects of the hospitality industry, everything from five star hotels to low scale catering companies, are considered within the course which has a business based curriculum. Core subjects would be inclusive of Intercultural Studies, Property Assessment Management and Tourism Forecasting.
For those with a more specific role in mind there are other, more particular, postgraduate courses available at DIT such as the MSc in Environmental Health and Safety Management, the MSc in Food Safety Management, the MSc in Health Care Risk Management and the MSc in Culinary Innovation and Food Product Development. Considering that a recent report by the Expert Group on Future Skills Needs (EGFSN) stated that over 4,000 new jobs were available for chefs/cooks between 2000 and 2005 it might be time to channel your inner Gordan/Nigella and benefit from the opportunities on offer.
For those who would prefer to be left to their own devices and away from the more structured approach of a traditional taught programme, Waterford IT offers plenty of research opportunities in tourism and hospitality management. The important position held by research in tourism in the college is evident with the introduction of the Centre for Research, Creativity and Innovation in Tourism in 2007. The Centre seeks to contribute towards the strengthening of management capability, creativity and innovation within the tourism sector, and offers great support for any potential student interested in developing their education and expertise. Key areas of research carried out by the Centre include Food Product Development & Culinary Creativity, Tourism Destination Management, Culture and Heritage Tourism, and Tourism & Hospitality Legislation.
Athlone Institute of Technology and Galway-Mayo IT’s West of Ireland Centre for Tourism and Hospitality Research, which is linked with Fáilte Ireland and Ireland West Tourism, also welcome tourism and hospitality related research proposals. The National Centre for Tourism Policy Studies (NCTPS) in the University of Limerick’s Kemmy Business School invites research proposals on every aspect of tourism from high calibre graduates of the following degrees in particular: economics, geography, sociology, anthropology, business studies, commerce, and tourism/hotel management.
Tourism is not simply a domestic industry, but a global enterprise. This has been recognised by the NCTPS, with the provision of their MA in International Tourism. The key aim of this programme is to give participants an appreciation for the key issues that affect the position of tourism around the world including the planning and development of cities and the economic appraisal of a country’s finances. This programme prepares students for careers in professions such as tour operator and tour guide manager, as well as roles such as airline executives and those in rural, regional and national tourism organisations such as Fáilte Ireland and Discover Ireland.
Research funding is also available direct from Fáilte Ireland. For example, last year Fáilte Ireland ran an Applied Industry Research Fellowship Scheme for senior lecturing staff who engaged in action based research projects in an aspect of tourism and hospitality education. The organisation also places great emphasis on learning and development programmes in order to ensure that today’s tourism professionals are fully equipped to deal with the erratic nature of the business. Professional development courses available include Management Development, Business Development, Finance, Human Resources, Marketing, Tour Guiding, Food & Beverage, and Health & Safety.
As international travel becomes even more accessible, the need for highly skilled professionals in the tourism and hospitality sector will also rise. These important areas of the Irish economy will have a continual demand for those with the relevant qualifications. Go to Postgrad.ie for full details of courses and take your first step into this exciting sector.