Dr Sara Nunes, Assistant Professor Business – Tourism Management, Higher Colleges of Technology, UAE

Dr Nunes has been an academic in Tourism & Hospitality Management for more than 15 years. She held teaching positions in Portugal, South Korea, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates in undergraduate and graduate levels. Apart from teaching, Dr Nunes engaged in support tasks as thesis advising, curriculum development, student mentoring, advising and admissions. Dr Nunes also held management positions in internship coordinator, minor coordinator, program leader, and director of international relations. 

 

Studying tourism management can be the ticket to be a part of one of the world’s highest growing and most dynamic industry. This industry gives you the opportunity to travel the world, meet new people from different countries, offer a significant pay scale, and benefit from an exciting work environment. Unlike regular 9-5 jobs, careers in this industry are often flexible and unlimited.

When pursuing a degree in tourism management, students will learn a wide range of transferable skills, like teamwork, leadership, problem-solving, presentation skills, IT skills, research skills, and communication skills with a strong focus on the customer. In terms of offered courses, the majority of the universities focus on events, culture, and heritage, destination management, travel intermediaries and transportation, tourism geography, and economics, regulations in tourism, strategic management in tourism, policy, and planning, HR in tourism, tourism marketing, special interest tourism, visitor attractions, and sustainability. 

Some universities are incorporating on their curriculum other offers related to the latest trends of the industry. The newly offered courses are related to tourism management dynamics such as safety and security, crisis management, information technology in tourism, and social media. These courses recognize a new paradigm shift towards the role of information and communication technology and the disruptive correspondent effects on the industry. Technology will transform how the tourism industry design, offer and deliver tourism products, services, and experiences. Also, push our attention to the industry’s susceptibility in terms of the external environment, especially to potential incidents, like terrorist attacks, outbreaks of disease, and natural phenomena, and how it is vital to deal with these dynamics and adopt the correct management approach. 

Besides the crucial skills from the curriculum, universities are investing in creating more collaboration opportunities between academia and the industry. This collaboration increases students’ learning experiences and empowers them with the competencies; they need to thrive when they pursue their careers. An example of this partnership is developing international projects, competitions, and challenges to build and enhance students’ management skills and motivate them to get involved within the industry, presenting innovative solutions for the current challenges. In addition, the majority of universities invest in their startups to engage students with the possibility to open their own business in the industry after graduation.

Universities are also investing in internal projects with the same goals; examples are tourism clubs, field trips, webinars, workshops, guest lectures, and practical classes since the student must develop their practical skills. Some universities face issues to expand and provide certain facilities; instead, they are arranging partnerships with the companies that allow students to pursue a career while studying, hence the apprenticeships offered by many tourism companies worldwide. Even though tourism management is an area of relative certification, universities also invest in accreditation and memberships with the essential institution to ensure schools’ accountability and quality of their degree programs. 

Like other areas in tourism management, there are a variety of possibilities for academic degree partnerships, such as offering joint or double degree programs, which bring benefits for students to ensure their CVs and be more competitive in the domestic and international job market. Also, study abroad programs that grant students the chance to be exposed to other people, their traditions, culture, and history, the opportunity to learn a foreign language, expand network tools will increase internship opportunities. 

In addition, universities are investing in projects and capstone projects industry-related; that way, it is possible to integrate previously taught courses, apply, and critically review theory and practice in a business environment, allowing a high level of authentic learning. Finally, yet significantly, universities are investing in expanding their network opportunities for internships; students nowadays have the chance to pick internships worldwide and to be exposed to a new business organizational culture and society. Many agencies on the market focused on developing talents and giving them international opportunities. As can be seen, infinite opportunities are waiting for those willing to study tourism management.

Whenever students graduate, they will have access to endless opportunities with a wide range of options to choose from. There is a misunderstanding between the meaning of tourism management and hospitality management. Hospitality is only a tiny part of the tourism industry; besides that sub-sector, we also have visitor attractions, travel agencies, tour operators, transportation, ancillary services, and tourism development and promotion sectors. Therefore, studying tourism management does not lead to a career in hospitality as the unique option; students can also pursue their careers on airlines and airports, travel agencies, tour operators, cruises, theme parks, events, and tourism attractions, government officials, IT, and social media, tourism shopping, among others on management-level positions. 

Some examples could include airport manager, route-planning manager, director of sales and marketing, director of customer service manager, tour operators managers, travel agents managers, tour guides, hotel managers, recreation and entertainment manager, events manager, a government official in tourism, social media managers, tourism shopping manager, amongst others. 

The bachelor in tourism management is a trend in Europe, the Americas, and Asia. Many students aspire to enroll in a university and pursue an outstanding career on the area; however, the reality over the Middle East and the United Arab Emirates is different. A degree in tourism management is not viewed as a potential area among students, even though this region of the world is investing to be a part of the international tourism demand panorama, with substantial investments in tourism infrastructures, attractions, services, and events. 

There is a lot of work that needs to be done, and I feel responsible also to give my contribution. Emirati students must understand the importance of studying this area since tourism continues to grow and new opportunities for business and career development are created since the country is determined to rely less on oil and strengthen the tourism portfolio. In January 2021, the UAE Cabinet approved the formation of the Emirates Tourism Council, which shows the importance of this sector for the country. 

On Higher Colleges of Technology, we recognize the importance of this industry and we offer a bachelor of tourism management (operations), emphasizing the understanding, application, and analysis of managerial skills applied to travel, tourism, events, and hospitality. The college also invests in bringing the best international opportunities for students with international projects, international competitions, international internship opportunities, guest lectures from the industry, community-related projects, capstone projects industry-related, and virtual exchange. We are the first college of the Middle East to be represented and have a student chapter, PATA UAE Higher Colleges of Technology Student Chapter, from PATA – Pacific Asia Travel Association. HCT goal is to prepare Emiratis to play an essential role in the tourism and hospitality industry and contribute to the country’s aspirations and vision for the sector.

In this industry, the sky is the limit, and students have many opportunities to grow and develop outstanding career. I never regret choosing this industry to build my career, and the possibilities were more limited when I started; now, the tourism industry, due to the development of technology, brings more exciting and challenging positions and opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic also changes the dynamic of this industry; however, this industry keeps on being resilient and one of the most important economic activities worldwide with the possibility of being so much more.

 

About Dr Sara Nunes

Dr Nunes is the holder of a Ph.D. in Business with specialization in Tourism Destination Marketing, MBA in Marketing and Tourism Promotion, and two bachelor’s degree, Hotel Management and Tourism Management from European’s universities.

Furthermore, Dr Nunes’ main areas of research are tourism destinations images, future development of tourism destinations, over-tourism, and visitor pressure, the resilience of tourism destinations in times of crisis, new business models on the accommodation sector, information technologies in tourism, and special interest tourism.

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