Written by S.M. Audsley

“The thing about tourism is that the reality of a place is quite different from the mythology of it,” says Martin Parr, British documentary photographer and photojournalist. A tourist, upon arriving at their desired destination finds that he or she is surprised by the reality of encountering a place in person. One cannot know how the Sistine Chapel smells, or understand the way the light filters to hit the pigments on the walls, in just the right way, until one goes their and experiences the place for themselves. Tourism and hospitality is an exciting, massive fast-evolving field of study that can launch you into a career that is both rewarding and satisfying. 

Do you dream of walking the ancient streets of Rome, or waiting out a monsoon rain in India? What about strolling along the Seine with the Eiffel Tower lit up at night in the distance? Well, so do millions of other people, which is why the tourism industry is “one of the world’s largest industries with a global economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016 alone,” according to research conducted by Statista.com. Tourism and hospitality businesses are looking for “the best of the best”-- trained professionals who are ready to dive in and work in a fast-paced industry that provides excellent experiences and service. 

“More and more young people go to an agency to acquire complete packages for holidays and circuits, and about 80 percent of them seek a holiday abroad. The main reason why they are starting to address tourism advisors is the lack of time required to plan a holiday, which involves a lot of documentation, reservations and information that is sometimes difficult to manage,” writes Anca Alexe for Business Review. This industry provides unique job options at many points of entry. You’ll be surprised how many opportunities are available in this sector.

If you want to study tourism and hospitality, then consider looking at programs in foreign countries that are hubs for international travel. Here are five excellent options where you can study tourism and hospitality -- each offers something different -- but all these countries are ready to provide you with the foundational knowledge you’ll need to excel in this popular career. Also, all of these five countries is a top tourist destination. You can live, work, and study in one of these dream locations...

1. Switzerland

Switzerland is known for its lush, verdant mountains, small villages, and, of course, chocolate? In fact, Switzerland is considered to be the birthplace of hospitality for its long and rich history in the area dating back to around 150 years ago when palatial hotels were built across the Montreux Riviera, heralding the start of luxury tourism. Attracted by the healthy climate and the lure of adventure in the amazing Alps, aristocrats and royalty travelled to the country. A standard of a very high level of service was established leading to innovations and high standards of practice that are still in place today.

According to Les Roches, one of Switzerland’s top hospitality programs, “Rigor, precision, attention to detail, timely service and discretion are all core Swiss characteristics that were carried across into hospitality, with huge success.” This is one reason why programs in Switzerland in tourism and hospitality are some of the most respected and coveted in the world. 

American student, Alexis Moore, describes in HuffPost.com why she chose to complete her studies in Switzerland instead of in the US. She says, “Hospitality is all about networking and meeting new people. With over 90 nationalities represented at my school, it was easy to meet people from around the world. When I traveled during breaks or was on an internship, I met and worked with some amazing people. Of the people I met along the way, I made some friends of a lifetime and know that no matter where I am in the world I probably know someone who is either from there, living there, or can tell me all I need to know.”

You will likely earn invaluable experience with an internship, perhaps even a paid one. Almost all of Switzerland’s tourism and hospitality programs require students to complete an internship. The Business and Hotel Management School, in Lucerne, stresses the importance of the internship. It explains, “Students are expected to complete full-time internships, usually in a hospitality business, which could take place in hospitality venues such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, cruise lines, event agencies, etc. Internships allow students to test the knowledge they’ve gained in class and their experience from the international working environment, as well as to develop further their skills, what gives them a huge advantage for their first career step.”

With consistent and steady increases in tourism revenue, according to reports in TradingEconomics.com, you won’t want to miss out on studying in Switzerland.

2. Thailand

Perhaps long sandy beaches, island hopping, or exploring ancient temples while feasting on fresh tropical fruit is more your style. Then, look no further than Thailand! One of the most popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia, Thailand offers the enthusiastic world traveler many sights and delights. Thailand covers an area of 198,120 square miles and plays host to diverse ecosystems from forest ranges to rugged coastlines. 

Reports confirm what you might expect: “Thailand has a well-developed hotel industry. Strong growth rates in the tourism industry have resulted in major investments in the country’s hotel industry, particularly in the high end of the market. Today, most investment opportunities in the hotel industry can be found in areas outside the main tourist hubs.” Thailand has long been a prime tourist destination, and, with many new destinations in the country becoming popular, that doesn't look like it's going to change any time soon

In most tourism and hospitality programs, internships are built into the degree so you can gain valuable, and applicable, real-world experience, in, for example, the food and beverage industry, culinary arts, and front desk specialties. You will no doubt gain experience and learn skills that will set you up for success and advancement in the tourism and hospitality profession, while also enjoying all Thailand has to offer.

3. New Zealand

Featured prominently in The Lord of the Rings trilogy films -- many fans of the movies are so enchanted with the landscape they do Lord of the Rings tours -- New Zealand is a dream destination for those with an adventurous spirit. The movies helped put the country on people’s radar as an essential tourist destination -- and with good reason.

Many flock to New Zealand in their twenties, taking advantage of the country’s temporary work visas. A sovereign island nation, located in the Pacific Ocean, New Zealand takes a long time to get to, but is well worth it. If you want to study tourism and hospitality in a stunning location, with like-minded adventurous souls, then look no further. Top programs in New Zealand include the International Travel College of New Zealand, Eastern Technology Institute, University of Waikato, Victoria University, and the University of Otago, to name a few.

The New Zealand government reports that tourism is vital to its economy as “the country’s largest export in terms of foreign exchange earnings. It directly employs one in seven New Zealanders.” Additionally, according to data from 2018, “Tourists generated $3.7 billion in goods and services tax (GST) revenue, with $1.7 billion coming from international tourists. Overseas visitor arrivals to New Zealand increased 7.8 percent.” If you choose to study tourism and hospitality in New Zealand, not only will you be able to roam in the land of Lord of the Rings, you’ll also gain skills and launch your career.

4. United States of America

The Big Apple, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Rocky Mountains -- USA’s cities and landscape draw millions of tourists annually. The statistics from Statista.com are telling; they report for the US a “global economic contribution (direct, indirect and induced) of over 7.6 trillion U.S. dollars in 2016. The direct economic impact of the industry, including accommodation, transportation, entertainment and attractions, was approximately 2.3 trillion U.S. dollars that year.” For those interested in studying abroad in the US, especially in the tourism and hospitality field, you can feel good about choosing a country with a thriving tourism industry, which hosted $75.9 million international tourists in 2017 alone. 

According to a report from Business Insider, California is the most visited state in the U.S., beating out iconic places such as NYC and Florida. For example, in July 2019, the number of visitors citing California as their first intended address was 720,554. With that many tourists and that much tourism revenue, it is no surprise that you can find many great tourism and hospitality programs across the country. Knowing how to succeed in this heavily trafficked market will set you up for success in all future markets and economies.

5. United Kingdom

Tea with the Queen, walking along the Thames, roaming the highlands, watching the changing of the guards, and much more, are all available to travelers and tourists who want to experience what the UK has to offer. The Old World meets the new, left and right, as you amble along London’s famous streets. With so much rich history, you’ll likely fall in love with 'Blighty'. The British government reports, “Since 2010 tourism has been the fastest growing sector in the UK in employment terms. Britain is forecast to have a tourism industry worth over £257 billion by 2025.” 

Considered one of the most popular destinations for pursuing degrees, with “over 500,000 international students joining every year,” the London College of Contemporary Arts explains, “[d]egrees obtained from UK universities are recognised worldwide. Additionally, these degrees are considered to be world-class, which could help you in enhancing your job opportunities.” 

Also, recent trends are showing that British tourism is going eco-friendly. Andrea Nicholas, managing director of Green Tourism says in an interview with FtnNews.com, “Over the last two years we have seen over a 400% increase from tourism and hospitality businesses wanting to explore how to improve their sustainable practices and how to evidence their achievements to their increasingly inquisitive consumers.” This is great news -- both for the environment and for you if exploring how to become an expert in eco-friendly tourism is your professional goal. 

Wherever you decide to study for your tourism and hospitality degree, make sure you pick the place and program that inspires you the most. You’ll be investing in your professional career, but you’ll also be able to travel and experience another culture, too, along the way.

Perhaps Brazillan author Paulo Coelho said it best: “Travel is never a matter of money but of courage.” Go, be courageous...

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