College of DuPage's Travel and Tourism Program prepares students for careers in a thriving industry
During a time when online travel services have become increasingly popular, industry experts and educators believe that the human-interaction component of working with advisors has benefits that online companies simply cannot offer.
"Travel advisors work to develop relationships with their clients," said Kathleen Talenco, Assistant Professor of Hospitality and Tourism at College of DuPage. "They can create a custom experience for clients that is beyond the scope of an online travel agency and work within a client's budget. Should something unexpected occur during a trip, clients know they can turn to their travel advisor to assist them quickly and efficiently."
Research suggests that the career outlook for travel advising professionals is very promising.
A recent study by AAA Travel found the majority of Americans prefer to work with travel advisors when planning vacations, while both the U.S. Census Bureau and Statista expect annual industry revenue to exceed $20 billion by 2021, a 54-percent increase from 2011.
Talenco said the Travel and Tourism program at COD prepares students for careers by providing hands-on experience and opportunities to network with industry professionals.
"Since we are in the Chicago area, we can bring industry speakers into the classroom to share their knowledge," she said. "For the past four years, Travel and Tourism students have worked at MAST Travel Network's Sales Sensation, one of the largest travel trade shows in the Midwest. This experience gives students exposure to hundreds of travel suppliers and agencies, and it's a great way for students to gain inside knowledge and network with potential employers. Students are also required to complete internships to be able to apply what they've learned in the classroom."
Talenco said the misconception is that opportunities in this field are on the downfall. She expressed optimism regarding the industry's outlook and its ability to evolve.
"I expect that some of the revenue-generating niches will continue to grow, such as cruises, group travel, food tourism, luxury travel and more," she said.
COD alumna Teresa Robinson, who is now a travel advisor at Creative Travel Center in Crest Hill, said her time in the program prepared her for a successful career.
"It gave me the knowledge and job skills to confidently provide help with domestic and international travel," she said.
Robinson added that working with a travel professional is always a win as compared to online travel resources.
"We build relationships with hotel chains or cruise lines and often are able to offer additional perks to clients. Many of us have already been to the client's destinations and can share our experience," she said. "We love what we do."
Learn more about the Travel and Tourism program at College of DuPage at www.cod.edu/academics/programs/culinary/hospitality_management_tourism/travel_tourism.aspx.