Almost 24 million tourists flocked to Washington, DC last year, making it the ninth consecutive year to bring in a record number of visitors, according to Destination DC, a nonprofit organization that markets the District to business and leisure travelers. That translates to $7.8 dollars and tens of thousands of local jobs, which is great news for students in the hospitality management program at Montgomery College.
Jana Anderson, hospitality management program coordinator, and Kathryn Davis, dean of business, economics, accounting, computer applications, hospitality management and paralegal studies, say this increase in tourism has created a movement of hiring local talent. Although international travel is down, Anderson says the DC area is still seeing more visitors despite a lagging number of international travelers.
“The development is crazy and there is so much opportunity,” she says. “There is a huge trend, especially in this area, to hire employees who are graduates of local programs and have grown up in the area. They have a sense of place and can better showcase that to visitors.”
One such professional is Edgar Hernandez ‘14, a graduate of the hospitality management program and a Montgomery County native. Hernandez has been teaching food production at MC for more than a year.
“Big companies like Marriott and Hilton are developing brands underneath their umbrellas that are more specific to a location as part of the current boutique trend,” he says. “Same with restaurants. Chains are downsizing from these huge companies into something more local and innovative.”
His own experience highlights this trend. Hernandez is front office manager at The Canopy by Hilton, a lifestyle brand hotel under the Hilton umbrella in “The Wharf” development, located in the District.
There is a huge trend, especially in this area, to hire employees who are graduates of local programs and have grown up in the area. They have a sense of place and can better showcase that to visitors
Growth in hospitality is such that industry partners are constantly knocking on Anderson’s door to find job candidates.
“I have more job offers right now than I have students to fill them,” she says.
In fact, a report from the DC Office of the Chief Financial Officer showed recently the strongest job growth between 2018 and 2019 had been in “leisure and hospitality” which employed 331,500 people throughout the region. That is 13,900 more than the previous year, and an annual job growth rate of 4.4 percent.
The closest partners to the MC program are Marriott and Hilton. The J. Willard and Alice S. Marriott Foundation provides significant support for the culinary program, and provided a scholarship to Hernandez when he was a student. These two chains, among several other local industry partners, such as the founders of CAVA Grill, look to MC as a talent pool.
“For them to have confidence in our program shows huge strength,” Anderson says.
Montgomery College’s hospitality management program offers associate degrees focused on food and beverage, and in supervision and leadership. There are also three certificate options: food and beverage; meeting, event and conference planning; and supervision leadership.
Anderson says the degree is not only limited to work in the restaurant and hotel business.
“We teach you how to operate restaurants, hotels, if you want to be a wedding planner, if you want to be an event manager, if you want to work in a country club, or in amusement parks,” she says. “Think about spas, hospitals, retirement communities, the list goes on.”
One of the program’s strengths is its focus on applied business, according to Davis.
“It’s about entrepreneurship and the application of it. Students get the theoretical knowledge but it is truly applied,” she says. “Part of the reason for the growth is because it’s interesting.”