Hospitality School Enrollment and Recruitment Challenges

The pandemic greatly disrupted the hospitality industry, and many commercial sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals are dealing with those ramifications on a daily basis. One key area of impact has been the talent pipeline, starting with hospitality schools. The HSMAI Foundation recently held its Hospitality School Deans and Directors Forum to gain firsthand insights on issues challenging those in higher education.  

Participants included program directors from hospitality schools including East Carolina University, Florida International University, Florida Atlantic University, Florida Gulf Coast University, University of Denver, Michigan State University, North Carolina Central University, Northern Arizona University, Penn State, San Jose State University, University of Massachusetts Amherst, University of Delaware, and University of New Haven. 

When surveyed, nearly half of participants said they experienced enrollment, recruitment, and retention challenges as a result of the pandemic. In addition, 24% agreed that attractiveness of hospitality careers/industry image among students had been a challenge as well. The following outlines additional insights gleaned from this group.  

What student perceptions do we have to overcome to increase enrollment? 

  • Understanding that hospitality is more than F&B and hotels 
  • Lack of career stability and limited growth potential 
  • Long hours and low pay; no work-life balance 
  • Industry fragility and future disruptions 
  • ROI on college education 
  • Lack of diversity 

What faculty perceptions do we have to overcome to increase enrollment? 

  • Recruitment is only a university concern, not a faculty concern 
  • Questions about tenure-track positions in the future 
  • Tourism and hospitality students are academically weaker 
  • Programs are not supported, and resources are minimal 

What are the hurdles to offering courses in sales, marketing, or revenue management? 

  • Number of available and qualified faculty 
  • Connecting students with industry practitioners 
  • Class minimums, enrollment, and demand 
  • Bureaucracy and length of time for approval 
  • Overlap with courses that other departments offer 

What is keeping your students motivated and encouraged about hospitality career opportunities? 

  • Diverse career pathways in the industry 
  • Daily social interaction  
  • Hospitality jobs won’t be easily replaced by AI 
  • The return of field trips and industry-focused projects and assignments 
  • Potential for a new lifestyle 

What is a best practice for job placement of your students in commercial positions? 

  • Networking 
  • Mentoring 
  • Bringing professionals into the classroom as guest speakers 
  • Alumni 
  • Internships 
  • Engaging with HSMAI chapters 

The hospitality school directors also shared that student interest in the commercial disciplines is lower than other areas, and among the three primary disciplines, marketing is the top area of interest, followed by revenue management and then sales.   


In addition, the directors identified mentorships and internships as the top ways for the industry to influence student preferences in career paths. 

Categories: Marketing, Talent and Leadership Development
Insight Type: Articles