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Hospitality, tourism major clears WVU senate

This past June, the WVU Faculty Senate approved an academic major in hospitality and tourism management. Students will apply to the new major during spring 2014 and will enter the program in the fall of 2014. College of Business and Economics administrators hope to have the new program in full swing by fall 2015.

The first courses in this area, Hospitality and Tourism Leadership, were offered in 2009 and immediately became academic stars, with enrollment reaching maximum capacity within the first week of registration.

Since then, an "area of emphasis" was created with four courses offered within the existing management major.

Hospitality, travel and tourism together are among the nation's largest industries with $2 trillion in economic output, according to a 2012 report by the U.S. Travel Association. It supports 14.6 million jobs, including 7.7 million directly in the travel industry and 6.9 million in the hospitality industry, such as hotels and restaurants.

A study for the West Virginia Division of Tourism showed that travel and tourism contributed $4.27 billion to the state's economy in 2010. Also, the report showed that travel spending in the state has increased 5.6 percent per year since 2000. The 2013 Economic Outlook Report showed that the hospitality and tourism industry is responsible for 74,000 jobs in West Virginia.

In 2008, state tourism officials requested that the College design a hospitality and tourism program. Betty Carver, Commissioner of Tourism for West Virginia, served on the College's Hospitality and Tourism Board of Advisors and has been involved in the planning of a degree program.

The fact is, hospitality and tourism is big in West Virginia and students are eager to find careers in the industry.

"By offering this major, we are able to expose our students to more opportunities and to respond to the needs of the state," said Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Karen Donovan.

The area of emphasis has seen an 88 percent increase in enrollment, she said. "This growth is expected to continue as the degree is marketed to freshmen and sophomores." College of Business and Economics Dean Jose Sartarelli has made the hospitality and tourism program a funding priority.

Frank DeMarco is coordinator of the area of emphasis and a management instructor. Additionally, in the fall of 2011, the College hired a tenure-track research faculty member, Ajay Aluri. By fall 2015, Donovan said one additional assistant or associate faculty member would be needed to fully cover all courses.

"I am very excited about hospitality and tourism management becoming a major," DeMarco said. "A major will enable us to recruit and develop future leaders for a growing industry."