Tourism industry cheers expansion of WCU hospitality degree program to Asheville

 Travel and tourism industry representatives from the Asheville-Hendersonville area, including Beth Carden (left), executive director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, and Stephanie Brown (right), executive director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau and senior vice president of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, met with Western Carolina University officials Friday to celebrate expansion of WCU’s hospitality and tourism program to Biltmore Park. Among the speakers at the event were Carden, Brown and WCU’s Steve Morse (center), director of the program.


Travel and tourism industry representatives from the Asheville-Hendersonville area, including Beth Carden (left), executive director of the Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, and Stephanie Brown (right), executive director of the Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau and senior vice president of the Asheville Chamber of Commerce, met with Western Carolina University officials Friday to celebrate expansion of WCU’s hospitality and tourism program to Biltmore Park. Among the speakers at the event were Carden, Brown and WCU’s Steve Morse (center), director of the program.

Representatives of the Western North Carolina travel and tourism industry came together Friday, June 10, to celebrate the expansion of Western Carolina University’s bachelor’s degree program in hospitality and tourism into the Asheville-Hendersonville area.

In response to demands from the burgeoning tourism industry in Western North Carolina, WCU will begin offering its hospitality and tourism program at its instructional site at Biltmore Park Town Square in Asheville. Approval of the expansion of WCU’s existing campus-based program by the University of North Carolina Board of Governors came earlier this spring.

“Asheville and Buncombe County have experienced significant growth in tourism spending over the past few years,” said Steve Morse, director of the hospitality and tourism program at WCU. “In 2014, Asheville and Buncombe County tourism spending increased by 8 percent over the previous year, more than in the other 99 counties in North Carolina. This growth is fueling a need for more and more upper-level management positions in hotels and lodging establishments, transportation businesses, restaurant and food service establishments, attractions and outdoor activity businesses.”

The expansion is designed to meet the needs of community college graduates in hospitality-related programs as well as working professionals already in the tourism industry in the Buncombe-Henderson area and across WNC, said Darrell Parker, dean of the College of Business. The program at Asheville is targeted at students with associate degrees and interest in the hospitality and tourism field, especially students in related programs at Asheville-Buncombe Technical, Blue Ridge and Isothermal community colleges.

“With the growing importance of hospitality and tourism to the economy in Asheville, Hendersonville and surrounding counties, expanding our offerings will enable us to produce graduates ready for leadership positions in what is a cornerstone industry of the region,” Parker said.

Prospective students interested in learning more about WCU’s hospitality and tourism program offerings at Asheville should contact Judy Fleming, director of advising and undergraduate affairs for WCU’s College of Business, at 828-227-3294 or via email at jefleming@wcu.edu, or visit the website ht.wcu.edu.

What they are saying about bringing WCU’s tourism and hospitality degree to Biltmore Park:

“Tourism in Buncombe County is a $2 billion business that supports 25,000 jobs. Offering Western Carolina’s tourism program here in Buncombe County will create opportunities for students looking for a promising career. And, it meets a community need to develop tourism industry leaders.”

– Stephanie Pace Brown, executive director, Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau

 

“North Carolina is the sixth most visited state in the nation, and Henderson County ranks 15th out of 100 North Carolina counties in terms of the economic impact of travel and tourism spending. Our tourism businesses are searching for well-educated, customer-focused staff to serve the growing needs of the industry. Having WCU’s degree program at our doorstep will make a quality education more accessible, and will encourage local residents to take ownership of the tourism industry.”

– Beth Carden, executive director, Henderson County Tourism Development Authority, Hendersonville

 

“We couldn’t be more pleased to hear the news regarding the arrival of the four-year Hospitality and Tourism Program at Western Carolina University’s site in Biltmore Park. As a leader in Asheville’s hospitality industry, we take pride in developing young talent and allowing them to grow within our company.  Through our relationship with WCU, we have been able to hire interns and graduates at all of our hotels, and we look forward to expanding and exploring creative opportunities with the newly expanded program.”

– Ronald J. Storto, vice president for hospitality, Biltmore Farms, Asheville

 

“The expansion of WCU’s Hospitality and Tourism Program to Asheville is exciting for both the university and the students it will serve. Asheville will no longer have the title as the only metro area in North Carolina without a four-year hospitality degree program. This program will provide students with a tremendous opportunity to study and intern in a growing, diverse industry in Western North Carolina.  Because the program is housed in WCU’s College of Business, the curriculum will provide a broad base of fundamentals along with focused attention on what it takes to be successful in hotels, restaurants, attractions, and destination marketing organizations.”

– Chad Church, vice president of operations for Smith Travel Research, Henderson, Tennessee, a global firm that that tracks supply and demand data for multiple market sectors, including the worldwide hotel industry

 

“Well-paying hospitality and tourism management positions increasingly require a sophisticated set of job skills.  This is a diverse industry that demands professional competence in a variety of fields, including human resources, analytics, marketing and sales, and operations.  WCU’s new Asheville-based program will make those skills available to many more people and encourage their career advancement. My experience has been that organizations in the hospitality and tourism category require increasingly sophisticated managers.  This is a multibillion dollar industry in the Asheville area that now competes on a global basis for both customers and talent.  WCU’s new Biltmore Park program is a great enhancement of the market’s competitiveness. It will enable many more employees to acquire the skills needed for advancement in this industry. Hospitality and tourism management jobs now require truly professional expertise in a variety of areas, and this program will encourage wage growth, entrepreneurship and business expansion.”

– Chris Cavanaugh, president and founder, Magellan Strategy Group, Asheville, which specializes in strategic planning, marketing and market research for a diverse clientele including tourism and hospitality, government and nonprofits

 

“The Biltmore Park facility expansion marks a significant step toward WCU’s goal of providing resources to Western North Carolina and the nation in areas of particular need, with a special focus on the tourism and hospitality industries that continue to be vital to economic and social success.”

– Lee Schmudde, Executive Counsel, Walt Disney World Co., Lake Buena Vista, Florida

 

“We are excited to see this program come to Asheville. As the hospitality industry continues to grow, the need for skilled professionals will grow with it. Equipping students with the leadership and technical background to fill this need is essential to the success of Western North Carolina as a premier destination and to our economy.”

– Chris Maslin, director of staffing and training, the Biltmore Co.

 

“The announcement of the opening of the WCU hospitality and tourism management program at Biltmore Park Town Square in Asheville is incredibly important for our city. The commitment by WCU to the growing hospitality industry in our region will only provide more opportunities to this great city. The benefits of having WCU partner with AB-Tech in providing a four-year degree in hospitality will be felt for years to come in Asheville and the region.

– Calvin L. Bolling, general manager, Biltmore Forest Country Club

 

“This is terrific news. WCU’s tourism program has been a big success here at High Hampton Inn. In the last eight years, we have hired and further developed more than 80 students in every operational capacity. It should offer the city of Asheville the same success story/opportunity.”

– Clifford Meads, general manager, High Hampton Inn, Cashiers

 

“As a proud graduate of Western Carolina University with a degree in hospitality, I cannot tell you how happy I am for this opportunity for residents of Western North Carolina. Travel and tourism is at the heart of any great city, and Asheville is no different. The program offered to the residents of Western North Carolina can and will only improve on the visitor experience.”

– J. Josh Paris, general manager, Old Town Club, Winston-Salem