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6 Fields You Can Study in Tourism

“Not all who wander are lost,” wrote J. R. R. Tolkien in the famous The Lord of the Rings trilogy. In fact, travel and tourism are both wonderful personal pursuits and also fulfilling professional career tracks. Everyone tells you to “follow your passion”, right? So, if your passion is scratching those itchy feet, getting more stamps in your passport, getting lost and then found in foreign cities where you don’t know the language, striving to find where the horizon meets the ocean, then pursuing a degree in tourism might just be what you need to turn your avocation into your vocation! Students studying tourism have a variety of specialties to choose from and can focus their studies in several different specific fields. Highlighted here are six excellent options to consider if you are interested in studying tourism.

Jan 14, 2020
  • Study Abroad
6 Fields You Can Study in Tourism

A typical degree in tourism might lead to the following jobs: restaurant manager, hotel manager, travel agent, or casino manager. However, there are so many more job options and ways to use a tourism degree -- you won’t want to limit yourself to just those four! In a tourism degree, students develop and practice key supervisory skills, critical thinking, administrative tasks, program planning and development, as well as develop advanced communication and leadership skills. These are essential in all jobs, but tailored to the specific unique ways tourism can be both challenging and rewarding.

“What I love most about my job is that it deals with the dynamic nature of the tourism industry. Every day is a new day with new challenges and that fascinates me. Additionally, my job is always balanced between two aspects – the human factor and the business factor. On one hand, and above all, everything has to do with the people and their experiences, whereas on the other hand, we have the technology and the data that steer our strategic decisions. Both of them are very important and I really enjoy the dual nature of my job,” says Ioakeim Gritsipis, the founder of Grow Hospitality in Greece.

In the fast-paced, constantly changing tourism industry, innovation is encouraged and essential to continued growth and success. For example, in a country like Kenya where tourism contributes up to 60% of the sector’s income, according to Kenya Tourism Federation chairman Mohammed Hersi, “We want the tourism dollar to trickle down to everybody by allowing tourists who are more keen on the experiential to enjoy the same by engaging with communities and their day to day lives, as opposed to the old way of enjoying products by merely observing what is going on around them.”

In London’s South Bank University's Tourism and Hospitality Management program, many students get the opportunity to study abroad and work in their fields while still in school. In a recent roundtable interview, one student said, “I really enjoyed myself, I had never been to anywhere in the world before. There’s so much direction to take in life. [...] If I hadn’t studied this course, I wouldn’t have been able to ever go to Barcelona. Living and working in Turkey was where I learned so much, too.” Studying tourism, gaining experience while still studying, can give you a leg up once you graduate and start looking for jobs. So check out these six fields to specialize in the tourism industry!

1. Adventure tourism

Always intrigued by the road less traveled? Does the quote “The mountains are calling and I must go” from American adventurer and author John Muir stir something inside your soul and make you want to buy a ticket on the next flight to anywhere? Then adventure tourism might be the career for you.

“Adventure tourism is defined as the movement of people from one to another place outside their comfort zone for exploration or travel to remote areas, exotic and possibly hostile areas,” writes Many students who pursue adventure tourism as their degree are interested in adventure sports such as rock climbing, kayaking, surfing, skiing and snowboarding, mountaineering, and more. “A career in adventure tourism usually stems from building on your own interests in adventure sports,” explains

You can’t teach surfing, or lead a surfing adventure, if you can’t surf! This seems obvious, but investing time and energy into becoming an expert in your preferred adventure sport will make you a more competitive employee once you’re on the job hunt. This is will even be encouraged in your adventure tourism degree by making certain courses and proficiency in a sport a requirement.

Worried about the future of your chosen career in adventure tourism? Don’t be. According to recent data from, the global adventure tourism market was valued at $586.3 billion in 2018, and is expected to hit $1,626.7 billion in 2026, representing a compound annual growth rate of of 13.3% from 2019 to 2026. It adds, "The development of the travel & tourism sector fosters the growth for adventure tourism market demand."

One adventure tourism professional makes it look easy and fun. Studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands, student Ruta Melvere is a professional diver, snowboarding, kayaker, and mountaineer. Ruta advises “Life's too short not to enjoy it. My mission in life is not to barely to survive, but to thrive and to do so with humor and compassion. I believe that any dream needs a plan. My dream is to build a one year schedule of professional trips and expeditions, adventures, that everyone can join.” Ruta is one excellent example of putting your adventure tourism skills into practice to create a lifelong fulfilling career path.

Another example of excellence in adventure tourism education is Humak University in Finland where the goal is “theory put into practice.” Students practice designing -- from concept to completion -- outdoor adventures and educational trips in the lakes and waters, forests and fells, and the wilderness of Lapland. In the field and in real time, students learn how to safely navigate and facilitate adventure programming for a variety of target groups. They develop the hard outdoor skills, like using a map and compass, setting up tents and cooking in the backcountry, and the foundational knowledge needed to work with any type of group to evaluate and develop adventure educational activities.

2. Ecotourism and sustainable tourism

If you are looking to merge your passions of environmental activism and tourism, then you should consider studying ecotourism or sustainable tourism. More and more travelers and tourists are looking for authentic experiences that have minimal impact on the environment. They are often looking for ways to integrate their travels with environmental activism or service projects. This trend will only increase as the world increasingly comes to see the effects and consequences of climate change unfold.

Recently, tourism companies are asking scientists to advise them on planning and developing their hotels and services while keeping the environment in mind. Abby Ellin reports in The New York Times, “Eco-tourism has been a buzzword in the travel industry for some time now, with more and more hotels giving guests the option to reuse their sheets or to forego housekeeping entirely in an effort to ‘protect the environment’ [and companies like] Inkaterra are hiring scientists to conduct serious academic inquiry while also offering nature tours, workshops and classes for guests.”

The Global Tourism Network defines ecotourism as: “Responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment, sustains the well-being of local people, and creates knowledge and understanding through interpretation and education of all involved (visitors, staff and the visited).” In many circles, it is no longer acceptable to just travel to another country and not take into account your impact on the local people, economy, and environment and ecosystems you travel in.

Japanese environmental activist Kazuhiko Nakaishi says, “Running a more environmentally friendly business does not mean going broke. There can be financial rewards in operating with a sense of social responsibility, including lower energy costs and increased customer loyalty. They may not all be ‘quick win’ opportunities, but the potential rewards are enormous.” Nakaishi established Bio Hotels Japan in 2013 and has seen success in developing a eco-friendly and sustainable business model. Tourists are looking for places to eat, sleep, and the ability to “stay green” while doing so.

All-inclusive resorts might end up being one of the most sustainable models for environmentally friendly tourism because they localize the impact and also promote site-specific options for shopping, eating, sightseeing, and more.

One excellent example is how the Belek Resort on the Antalya coast in Turkey began constructing sustainability from the start. Julia Buckley writing for CNN Travel, finds this resort prioritized “environmental issues from the day it was founded in 1989. No fewer than 52 biological diversity programs are currently in progress, including sea turtle protection projects and one to conserve the pear of Serik, an endemic plant that's found nowhere else in the world. The Belek area is home to over 120 species of birds -- a quarter of Turkey's entire bird population.” As a prospective student in ecotourism and sustainable tourism, you will likely study these types of developments as case studies to get a better understanding of how you can build a career in this field of tourism.

3. Leisure and recreation studies

The idea of studying leisure and recreation as a potential profession sounds too good to be true, right? However, it is another excellent option for those interested in another side of the tourism industry that appeals to the softer, luxurious, fun-loving side of life. Some jobs that a degree in leisure studies might include park ranger, fitness center manager, sports director, and even an amusement park manager.

The definition of leisure studies includes recreation and is defined as “a social science that focuses on how recreational activities impact individuals and communities. By definition, recreational activities are those done to help people unwind and find enjoyment when they are not working. Examples may include hiking, biking, reading, playing card games or attending events in music or the arts,” writes

As a specialist in leisure and recreation, you will be able to organize appropriate events and activities for a variety of different groups’ needs. Students in the field work to engage communities and build social relationships to promote health. As a leisure and recreation student, you will “practice what you preach”, meaning you will learn how to organize, engage, and teach clients and tourists whatever sport or activity you enjoy, big or small.

4. Resort management

Looking for higher managerial positions in the tourism industry? Specializing in resort management can allow you to gain the necessary skills to excel and rise to the highest positions in a resort, one of the tourism industry’s most lucrative markets. Resort management is the study of how to run an efficient, effective, and successful lodging and hospitality enterprise.

Courses you might study in a resort management degree are not limited to the following: microbial food safety, hospitality accounting, hotel rooms division management, beverage management, public relations, and management information systems. As a manager of a hotel, resort, casino, or any establishment that requires high quality hospitality and management, you will oversee daily operations and be the leader and manage a large staff. Catering, meetings, special events, weddings, and more might fall under your purview.

As a student interested in becoming a future resort manager, it is very advantageous to gain real-world hands-on experience through internships and summer jobs in a variety of hotels and resorts to learn the ropes about the industry and what kinds of leadership and management styles you favor. Studying resort management can help you do this.

Becoming a member of professional industry-standard networks such as the Hospitality and Tourism Marketing Association (HTMA) will help you gain insight and connections to others in your chosen field. HTMA offers services to help add value to their members in the industry and their properties, and it also protects their members' interests by representing them in many countries. This includes: “Hotels, resorts, conference centers, country inns, bed and breakfast establishments, attractions, historical sites, chambers of commerce, colleges and universities, and even suppliers to the industry.”

5. Spa management

Perhaps you enjoy the finer side of life. If so you may enjoy working in the spa management side of the tourism industry. Spa culture is ubiquitous in the travel and tourism industry, so there are many career opportunities for graduates in the lucrative, dynamic spa and wellness industry. In an interview with HospitalityNet, Lisa Starr, principal of Wynne Business Span Consulting and Education, says, "Wellness tourism is growing faster than the tourism sector overall — and even faster than the global GDP." Trends rise and fall in the spa and wellness field and in your spa management program you can assess different case studies and likely intern at different places to gain insight into the field.

“Spa managers are responsible for supervising spa staff, overseeing inventory and managing finances. There are varying levels in spa management including spa supervisors and spa managers,” reports A spa manager generally oversees all of the day-to-day operations in a spa, making decisions to prioritize the customer’s happiness and provide them with a positive experience. They manage staff, the overall finances and budget, and make sure the facilities are maintained.

6. Tour guide training

One very specific and important aspect of adventure tourism, and a sub field that requires both dedication and special skills, is tour guiding. As a tour guide you are responsible for the wellbeing, health, and the overall experience of all the participants in your group. Gaining adequate skills and knowledge to lead groups in specific sports or activities happens in enrolled courses that allow you to develop and hone those skills. You’ll need to figure out your leadership style.

The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) has students practice four key leadership roles in group dynamics in outdoor settings. You’ll learn how to be the designated leader, active follower, peer leader, and self leader. Gaining industry-standard training and certifications will allow you to more quickly and successfully enter the job market.

Additionally, you’ll be able to directly apply your education and skills in real time. One example of women pushing the boundaries of professional tour guiding is happening in Nepal. Sonam Choekyi Lama, writing for Nepali Times, finds that women trekking guides are in higher demand than men, and she reports that, “as women get more educated and travel more, they see opportunities in being guides. Many trekking groups are all-female or have many women among their members and they prefer women guides, who seem to understand their needs better.”

Working with groups of people, helping them achieve their personal goals by providing safe and exciting touring experiences, could be the most rewarding career. “Customers may forget what you said but they will never forget how you made them feel,” as the famous quote goes.

So tourism students have a plethora of specialties to choose from. But in all, helping others have amazing, unforgettable experiences makes for a fascinating, exciting journey...

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