Why Hospitality MBAs Are On The Rise

As job markets go, Florida's tourism and hospitality trade has it made in the shade. Everybody's winning, and the statistics prove it.

In February, the Sun Sentinel reported that a record 97.3 million visitors hit the Sunshine State in 2014, a fourth consecutive record-breaking year. That includes 11.5 million overseas tourists and 3.8 million more from Canada, making Florida one of the most visited tourism destinations on the planet. And all that economic activity is creating an insatiable demand for current and future MBAs.

Florida Atlantic University's MBA programs are doing their part, including the much-lauded MBA in Hospitality Management Program. FAU's southeast Florida location sits right in the heart of this tourist hub, giving hospitality MBA students a chance to learn and grow right where the action is through both online and on-campus programs.

"The hospitality and tourism industry continues to be the No. 1 private employer in the state of Florida," said Peter Ricci, who directs FAU's Hospitality Management Program. "For every 85 to 100 additional visitors, one direct or indirect hospitality and tourism job is created in the state. And for future leaders, this means jobs in every segment from theme parks to hotels and resorts, from casinos to restaurants, and from retail to conventions and meetings."

Ricci is one of many experts who are bullish on Florida's future. Consider that in 1998, 48.7 million visitors came to the state, meaning that the numbers have more than doubled in less than two decades.

Not all educations geared to hospitality and tourism are equal, which is where the FAU MBA comes in. "The hospitality industry prefers an experience-based career foundation," Ricci noted." Our MBA complements one's path toward upper management and is superior to a master of science foundation, with has less rigorous business training."

FAU's graduates often reach the top of the tourism trade. The program's strict attention to detail prepares students to take on the most desirable and challenging tasks. Alina Roibu parlayed her MBA into a post with the Boca Raton Resort & Club, a Waldorf Astoria property where she's worked for the last five years.

FAU's MBA track "is one of the most rigorous programs that I've experienced, and I have degrees in journalism and marketing as well," Roibu said. The FAU difference helped her succeed. "All the professors were very supportive and quite excited about projects in the hospitality business " not just mine, but also those of several colleagues from the industry who went through this program."

In fact, the FAU campus in Boca Raton has something of a posh tourist vibe itself. "Have you been to FAU's campus? You really need to see it to believe it," Roibu said. "It's new, modern and sophisticated. It has palm trees, perfectly trimmed lawns, a new stadium and great positive energy from the students. It's like something out of Town & Country magazine: just spectacular."

Some MBA students at FAU find that even as they enter the program, they're already starting to gain a foothold in the business. First-year MBA student Bret Borshell, who started his studies in the summer of 2015, is already at work as the food and beverage director at the Kensington Golf & Country Club in Naples.

"The MBA program has been immediately applicable to daily operations management, executive communications and marketing," Borshell said. "It's been awesome and improving my skill set daily."

The FAU curriculum has him plenty excited, too, and with good reason. "Having an MBA will help me have a stronger, more efficient toolkit, maximizing my administrative time," Borshell noted. "I consider myself in the "˜happiness' business. I'm the lucky guy who's able to touch people's lives daily and make the world a better place. It's all about being flexible, innovative and fun."

Borshell added that tourism and hospitality make for a very people-driven niche, one where MBAs need to concentrate on their people skills as well. But he said FAU is a wonderful place to hone those skills, which is why he chose the school over nearly half a dozen others.

"There's a tremendous amount of energy every day," Roibu said of the travel and hospitality trade. "You can feel that you're working in a booming field, with lots of activity. This makes your work environment extremely appealing."

Of course, there's plenty of business to tackle. "A hospitality property is like any other business. You have finance, human resources, management, marketing and operations," she said.

But here's the fun part with all those jobs: "They're all in hospitality," Roibu noted. "And if you're working in a five-star property, then it's like you're on vacation every day."