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Sally Bird, UQ Tourism Management student

Why study hospitality and tourism management?

Where could a Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management take you?
Published 10 Jul, 2023  ·  6-minute read

The importance of travel and its ability to nourish our hearts and souls was brought into focus over recent years when the pandemic took away the option. It’s not surprising then that the first thing everybody wanted to do when the world returned to normal was travel.

Turning a passion for travel into a rewarding career is now more achievable than ever, thanks to The University of Queensland's Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management.

For Sally Bird, studying a tourism management degree was the first step towards a rich and rewarding career in this industry. 

"I have always had a passion for travel," she says.

"I think it is the best way to understand ourselves and the world we live in."

"Travel gives us confidence and independence. You get to try new things, get out of your comfort zone, experience different cultures and traditions, and appreciate our natural environment; it is eye-opening and can help us be better global citizens."

But Sally admits she was passionate about travel for a long time before she realised she could make it a career and get paid to work in the industry that brought her so much joy.

"When I was in high school, I didn't have a career path I was keen on," she says.

"I was a well-rounded student, I excelled in maths, I loved studying home economics and participated in a lot sports; however, I struggled to envision how I could transform any of these into a career.

"Towards the end of school, I got a casual job as a barista and loved working in that busy environment. I also loved making people happy and seeing a smile on someone's face when they get their first sip of coffee in the morning, and that got me thinking about hospitality as a long-term career."

Sally Bird, hospitality and tourism management

When I discovered you could study tourism and hospitality management at UQ, I instantly knew I had found my calling.

Sally Bird
Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management (now the Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management)

Why study tourism management?

Sally started a Bachelor of International Hotel and Tourism Management (now the Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management) in 2014 and finished in 2016, including a 6-month exchange in the United Kingdom.

The program is designed to prepare students for a successful career as a manager in tourism, hospitality, hotel management or events and is taught by world-leading experts with strong industry connections. You’ll learn about contemporary topics including sustainability, social media and customer service, and cover how to address various industry challenges.

Students can choose from 2 different majors to focus their degree on their area of interest:

A unique feature of this program is the hands-on experiences, including executive shadowing, Disney World internships, industry-facing learning experiences, study tours and placements. Through the program, students develop diverse skills required in the tourism sector, including planning and staging events, marketing tourist attractions, and designing service operations and hospitality encounters.

Unlike many other tourism study options in Australia, UQ’s program is the only one accredited by the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO).

What can I do if I study tourism?

If you decide to study tourism, the career options are incredibly diverse.

After she completed her degree, Sally started her first job in the industry as a sales assistant at the Brisbane Visitor Information Centre before packing her bags in early 2017 and heading to Longreach as a marketing coordinator for Outback Queensland Tourism Association (OQTA).

OQTA is Queensland's largest regional tourism organisation by geographical size whose marketing efforts continue to drive visitors to outback Queensland. 

Sally Bird was the Marketing Coordinator for Outback Queensland Tourism Association

"It really was a case of setting my GPS to Longreach and heading off on an adventure into unchartered territory," Sally says. 

"As part of my role as Marketing Coordinator, I assisted in executing our digital marketing strategy to drive awareness and increase conversion to all operators, events, councils and drive routes in outback Queensland. 

"Growing our social media channels and consumer databases, pitching and coordinating media visits and negotiating partnerships were essential to this role. Additionally, I was privileged to contribute a tourism column to the weekly publication, The Longreach Leader."

Over the space of 3 years, Sally crammed in experiences some of the world's most avid travellers would be proud of while helping to build awareness and visitation to some of the outback's biggest events and most popular destinations.

"There were plenty of magical moments, but working on the Mount Isa Mines Rodeo, the biggest rodeo in the Southern Hemisphere, and meeting some of the world's best rodeo riders was a real highlight," she says.

Sally Bird at Mount Isa Mines Rodeo

"Helping promote Australia’s Dinosaur Trail that introduces visitors to our evolutionary history and working alongside the palaeontologists making these significant discoveries was pretty exciting.

"I got to meet graziers who lived on properties bigger than countries, I've camped in the desert in the freezing winter, and I've been to so many festivals it's difficult to remember them all.

"I also got to work with some of the world's biggest travel influencers, helping to create viral content and supporting photographers and videographers to create content that has been seen across the world … there have been a lot of serious pinch-me moments!"

"The experiences I have had helped inspire thousands and thousands of words of blog articles and hundreds of pages and travel guides, all designed to help people choose outback Queensland as their next holiday destination", she says.

The role with OQTA was far beyond anything Sally had anticipated when first deciding to study tourism.

"I had no idea what a big, incredible industry it is. There is so much more to the industry than being a travel agent, a tour guide or working in a hotel or with an airline. There's a huge variety of roles out there across the industry." 

In fact, if you study tourism at UQ, you will have the skills and knowledge to enter the industry and move up the ranks quickly. Depending on which major you choose, here are some of the careers you could be on your way to:

  • tourism and events manager
  • cruise director
  • food and beverage manager
  • travel consultant
  • tourism product development manager
  • festival manager
  • casino manager
  • sponsorship and fundraising coordinator
  • conference and convention centre marketing coordinator
  • hotel and resort manager.

These days, Sally is putting her tourism industry skills and experience to use as a destination and events specialist at Krista Hauritz Tourism and Events Marketing, where she’s supporting the development of various destination strategies, creating inspiring marketing campaigns and crafting gold-winning tourism award submissions. 

Is studying tourism worth it?

Studying tourism gives you access to a wide variety of jobs and provides exposure to one of Australia's largest industries.

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), there were 676,400 tourism jobs at the end of 2022, representing 1 in 23 (4.4%) jobs across the whole economy.

The tourism industry is also continuing to grow rapidly as the post-pandemic recovery continues.

Tourism Research Australia (TRA) recently forecast that total visitor expenditure in Australia had already surpassed pre-pandemic levels and would total $227.7 billion by 2027. This includes:

  • Domestic overnight trip and day trip expenditures were moving higher than their pre-pandemic peaks in 2023. They are projected to reach $137.9 billion and $41.1 billion respectively by 2027.
  • International visitor expenditure exceeding pre-pandemic levels in 2024 and increase to $48.8 billion by 2027.

Overall, TRA forecasts visitor arrivals to move higher than pre-pandemic levels in 2025 and total 11 million by 2027. International spending will return to pre-pandemic levels earlier, in 2024.

The turnaround for domestic travel is progressing more quickly. Overnight and day trip expenditure this year are already above pre-pandemic levels. We forecast the number of visitor nights to surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2023.

By 2027, there are forecast to be:

  • 465.8 million domestic visitor nights (up 11% on 2019)
  • 126.2 million domestic overnight trips (up 7% on 2019)
  • 244.4 million domestic day trips (down 2% in 2019).

While the job opportunities are diverse and growing, Sally has another simple reason why you should study tourism.

"This is the industry of fun, where every day is a new adventure and you'll never be bored," she says.

"This is a really rewarding career. It's not just a job; it's a lifestyle."

Where could a career in this exciting industry take you?

Explore the Bachelor of Tourism, Hospitality and Event Management to find out

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