EKU’s Global Hospitality and Tourism Degree Prepares Students for a Booming Travel Industry

Published on June 21, 2024

By Ethan Sirles

As tourism rapidly recovers from pandemic-era travel restrictions and revenge spending encourages travelers to get out and explore, Eastern Kentucky University’s (EKU) Global Hospitality and Tourism program prepares students for a career centered on the world of modern travel. According to Statista, the worldwide travel industry surpassed pre-pandemic levels in 2023, with revenue peaking at approximately $2.29 trillion, after declining to $1.3 trillion in 2020. 

“Our global hospitality and tourism program helps make EKU a launching point for students to enter the global workforce and make an immediate impact,” said EKU President David McFaddin. “We pride ourselves on being at the cutting edge of modern tourism and kickstarting industries in our region and beyond.” 

The global hospitality and tourism program, first offered in 2021, offers a Bachelor of Science degree and certificate programs in sustainable hospitality and gastronomic tourism. These programs are only found at EKU—no other college or university has a degree centered solely on food and drink tourism with an emphasis in sustainability. 

Sustainable hospitality focuses on understanding the economic, social, cultural and environmental impacts of hospitality and tourism, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry and the host communities to ensure long-term viability and responsibility. 

“When you think sustainability, you think recycling, right?” said Jody Denny, a 2024 graduate of the global hospitality and tourism program. “It’s not just recycling—it’s also your social and economic sustainability.” 

Covering broad environmental, cultural and economic factors, sustainability in practice can be hotels asking customers to reuse their towels so they can conserve water or a food tour highlighting locally owned restaurants to support the local economy. While other schools and universities offer degree programs in hospitality and tourism, EKU’s program is unique in that sustainability is included in the majority of courses. 

Gastronomic tourism focuses on exploring and appreciating local cuisine, culinary traditions and unique dining experiences in particular destinations, fostering cultural immersion and connection to the local community. Some of the courses included with the gastronomic tourism concentration include “Bourbon, Beer and Spirits” and “Culture and Consumption of Wine.”

“Hospitality and tourism are major contributors to the economy,” said Dr. Dana Bush, associate dean of the College of Education and Applied Human Sciences. “The revenue from hospitality and tourism stimulates local economies, creates job opportunities and supports various other industries, especially small businesses.”

For Denny, who lives and works in the Myrtle Beach, South Carolina area, EKU’s program stood out because she had not seen many other programs in tourism and hospitality and she wanted the flexibility offered by an online degree program. 

“When I moved to the area, I started working in a guest services position,” said Denny. “I liked hospitality immediately, and I knew I wanted to get a degree in that field.” 

Dr. Daegeun Kim, assistant professor of global hospitality and tourism at EKU, said he sees several avenues for continued growth in tourism, and EKU’s program addresses those areas in which the industry is developing. One industry need he highlighted was accessibility. In the “Universal Sustainable Design” course, students create accessible tourism plans to accommodate all travelers. Other courses cover emerging trends within the industry. 

“Now is the perfect time to get a degree in global hospitality and tourism, because the job market has never been better,” Kim said.

Denny’s already noticed growth in the industry since she began working in hospitality in 2021. Although COVID restrictions were in place at that time, she said there was still a market for travel. 

“The minute that COVID started letting up, tourism grew so fast,” said Denny. “And it’s just going to get bigger.”

EKU’s Global Hospitality and Tourism program is available 100% online. EKU Online offers flexible start dates, accelerated eight-week courses, online tutoring services and more. The global hospitality and management program allows students to gain the skills and knowledge needed to become culturally competent and technically advanced industry leaders with the adaptability and foresight needed to keep the industry moving forward.