School of Tourism students with Dr Richard Robinson, Mr Neil Scanlan and Mr Gavin Wheeler at the Novotel Brisbane
School of Tourism students with Dr Richard Robinson, Mr Neil Scanlan and Mr Gavin Wheeler at the Novotel Brisbane
10 February 2012

UQ School of Tourism students recently had the exclusive opportunity to experience the culture and workings of an international hotel from an insider’s perspective, staying as live-in guests and participating in immersion style classes at Accor hotels across Brisbane.

Industry experts suggest that gaining practical experience in the hotel and hospitality industry while undertaking study is critical to gaining employment in the field after graduation.

As part of the Masters of International Hotel Operations course, the program allowed 22 postgraduate students to learn about the diverse and exciting hotel industry from Accor industry professionals including Regional Human Resources Manager, Mr Gavin Wheeler.

Mr Wheeler said in the past, graduates had an exaggerated expectation about the sort of position they could get straight out of university at an undergraduate level. While expectations are now more realistic, students should be gaining experience while studying so they have practical skills by the time they graduate.

“As one of the key tertiary bodies in Queensland, UQ is recognised as an institution that provides high-quality people for the tourism, hospitality and event industries,” Mr Wheeler said.

“Despite the academic side of it, hotels will always be a very practical industry and it’s important for people coming in not to just have the academic qualifications but to also understand the practical nature of the industry across all departments – it’s a very hands-on industry.”

Course coordinator Dr Richard Robinson said that as well as participating in interactive seminars and lectures, students were given property back of house tours to demonstrate the workings of the hotel in real-time, allowing them to see, hear, smell, feel and even taste the world of an international hotelier.

Having this close alignment with the industry ensures students have an accurate portrayal of career opportunities and the industry itself before they start to work, according to Accor’s Mr Neil Scanlan.

“We need to ensure they understand that there are areas they can grow to, especially graduates - there are opportunities in human resources and revenue and sales that give them career growth in all areas of hotel operations,” Mr Scanlan said.

“From our point of view, the students going through this course are the future of tourism and this program is a great opportunity to ensure industry and universities are aligned.”

As one of the major hotel groups in the industry, Mr Wheeler believes Accor has a responsibility to play some part in the students’ development, for not only Accor’s benefit but the industry as a whole.

“Businesses need to understand the huge role tourism plays in the economy. It’s one of the biggest contributors to the economy, so as a large employer we have a responsibility, as do other large employers involved in the industry, to play a part in making sure people are educated about the industry and opportunities within it.”

Claire Shuter
School of Tourism
The University of Queensland
(07) 3346 9259