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It's an industry that's internationally intertwined, with career opportunity in different sectors such as accommodation, food and drink, and travel and tourism. The hospitality industry opens doors for young people who are not only interested in careers in the service sector, but are also looking to make a social impact in their communities.

Even universities across Canada are readying their students for the field through master's programs in tourism and tourism management. It offers learning in business, social sciences, and also touches upon entrepreneurial subjects.

"We feel like that provides a versatile skill set to allow people to go in a number of different directions as far as a career, but also provides a sound academic base of knowledge about tourism as both an economic and social phenomenon," says Geoffrey Bird, associate professor and program head for the master of arts in tourism management at Royal Roads University.

Sustainability is a significant component to the tourism industry and is one of the subjects students focus on at Royal Roads University. "With sustainability we look at a range of angles," says Bird. "We look at sustainable tourism products like ecotourism, lodges, or nature-based tours." He adds that students also learn how to plan and create sustainable business operations, and address issues in relation to social and environmental impact, as well as climate change.

At the University of Waterloo, students can take on the master's in tourism program. Drawing in students both locally and internationally—from countries like the US, China, India, and the Caribbean—the master's is a joint program offered through both the department of recreation and leisure studies and the department of geography and environmental management. "These students are undertaking research projects in diverse locations and diverse issues," says Dr. Sanjay Nepal, director of the master's in tourism program. Some recently completed projects (student theses) included tourism in small rural communities in Nova Scotia, impact of tourism on coral reefs in the Caribbean, and eco-lodges in Costa Rica.

With the in-depth academic schedule in the tourism program, the career opportunities after graduation are endless. "Careers in tourism are diverse, from working in the tourism and hospitality sectors to consulting, working for government agencies [like] economic development, and non-governmental organizations," says Dr. Nepal. "The industry is constantly growing so opportunities are growing as well."

Oftentimes the tourism industry is faced with challenges. According to Dr. Nepal, some of the challenges include overcoming the stereotypical image of a low-paying service-oriented job. He ensures this isn't true and "students have opportunities to help in other areas like developing tourism policies that work for local communities, addressing environmental and ethical concerns in tourism, and developing sustainable tourism master plans for destination communities."

However, with the challenges come some of the biggest rewards. "You work with people," says Bird, "and work in an industry that can influence a community's direction in a positive way."

Photos: Michael Blann/Thinkstock

hospitality, international tourism, travel, travel and tourism degrees