UNCG’s Bryan School of Business and Economics will launch a new, progressive program in sustainable tourism and hospitality this fall that is among the first of its kind in the nation.  The new curriculum features a fundamental shift in the program’s mission, a dozen new courses and a holistic integration of sustainability principles.

The potential impact is significant for the industry. According to the United Nations World Tourism Organization, 983 million people traveled in 2011, representing more than $1 trillion (US) in global tourism receipts and making travel one of the largest contributors to the world economy. The tourism and hospitality sectors employ more than 200 million people worldwide — one in every nine workers — and account for more than 10 percent of all consumer spending.

“While the huge economic benefits from global tourism and hospitality are undeniable, the impacts of this massive activity on society, culture and particularly sensitive environments and landscapes are staggering,” said Sevil Sönmez, professor and head of UNCG’s Department of Marketing, Entrepreneurship, Hospitality and Tourism.

An industry that focuses on moving and hosting people can contribute to cultural erosion and excessive exploitation of natural resources, as well as physical influences on the environment including soil erosion, increased pollution, discharges into the sea, natural habitat loss and increased pressure on endangered species.

“Tomorrow’s effective industry leaders require not only a solid grounding in business principles, but also a clear understanding of these negative impacts, innovative solutions to minimize them, and a genuine commitment to ensuring the sustainability of destinations and associated businesses,” said Bonnie Canziani, associate professor of sustainable hospitality at UNCG.

UNCG’s sustainable tourism and hospitality program is unique in American higher education. While many of the top universities in the country offer individual courses in ecotourism or certificates or graduate degrees in sustainable tourism, no undergraduate degree in tourism and hospitality offers such a comprehensive integration of sustainable development into its curriculum.

“Our mission is to produce exceptional problem solvers who know how to innovate, who understand globalization and sustainability, and who act ethically,” said McRae C. Banks, dean of the Bryan School. “This program perfectly delivers on the mission and will add substantial value to our students and the organizations that employ them.”

Education is the key to minimizing the negative impacts of tourism and hospitality, Sönmez added. “We are committed to preparing future industry leaders who are able to meet these mounting challenges — by teaching our students sustainability values so that they can approach business with a triple-bottom line approach that focuses on people and planet as well as profit. ”

UNCG is the first American university to merge the business and sustainability principles facing the hospitality and tourism industry into a program of study, but leaders in the field hope other institutions will follow. “There is a quantum shift needed to examine the values upon which tourism education is based and redefine them to match the future environments that students will enter,” said Pauline Sheldon, professor emerita at the University of Hawaii and co-founder of the Tourism Education Futures Initiative.

“UNCG’s groundbreaking new program in sustainable tourism and hospitality is the first of its kind to integrate the very important values of stewardship, ethics, and mutuality holistically into an undergraduate degree program—it is my hope that other programs follow suit.”

Hervé Houdré, an internationally-recognized advocate of sustainable hospitality who contributed to the development of the new program, agreed. “This is a unique program which positions the UNCG as the leader of sustainable hospitality and tourism studies in America. I look forward to more such partnerships between our industry and the academic world. We all share the same responsibility toward future generations.”

New courses in the curriculum include:

  • Introduction to Sustainable Development

  • Corporate Social Responsibility

  • Sustainable Hotel Operations

  • Tourism Impacts and Alternatives

  • Sustainable Food and Beverage

  • Greening Hotel Facilities

  • Sustainable Tourism and Transportation

  • Sustainable Destination Planning and Management, and

  • Sustainable Revenue Management

“These courses actually reflect what the hospitality industry has already started embracing, with large hotel chains like Marriott International, Wyndham Worldwide, and InterContinental creating senior-level positions dedicated to social responsibility and sustainability, because they are concerned about social justice and environmental impacts,” said Jerrie Hsieh, an associate professor of sustainable hospitality at UNCG.

One of the nation’s premier examples of sustainable hospitality is Greensboro’s Proximity Hotel, the first certified LEED Platinum hotel and restaurant in America. “I am delighted that UNCG chose to evolve their hospitality and tourism program toward a curriculum focused on sustainability,” said Dennis Quiantance, president, CEO, and chief design officer for Quaintance-Weaver Restaurants and Hotels, which owns the Proximity Hotel. “This already credible program will be of even greater service to their students and this industry.”

Work on the revised curriculum began in 2010 and has been guided by leaders of sustainability in hospitality and tourism business and education. The first graduates are expected in 2017.

“Imagine popular tourist destinations that thrive economically — yet the local culture as well as the environment are left relatively undisturbed and profits from tourism remain in the local community,” said Timothy C. Mabe, president and CEO of the High Point Convention and Visitors’ Bureau.

“Through this kind of awareness and ethical practice the very things that make most destinations a positive experience for visitors and keep the local economy strong will be preserved for future visitors to enjoy. This is the core doctrine of sustainable tourism and is what we must aspire to be in the hospitality industry. I applaud UNCG for their unique and innovative approach and the exciting curriculum now being offered.”

The Bryan School of Business and Economics helps students develop the knowledge and experience to become exceptional problem solvers that organizations and communities need. One of the largest business schools in North Carolina, the Bryan School boasts an AACSB International accreditation in business and accounting that puts it among the top 3 percent of business schools in the world.  Our students and alumni carry forward their Bryan School experience to make meaningful contributions where they work, live and lead.