Hospitality and Tourism: Start here and go anywhere

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By Erin Eagan

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woman at reception desk in lobby
The hospitality/tourism industry plays a vital role in our state’s economy, topping $20.6 billion in 2017, a $631 million increase from 2016.

“Hospitality and tourism in Wisconsin is an economic powerhouse,” says Dr. Lynea LaVoy, Hospitality Management Program Director and Instructor at Madison College. “In Wisconsin last year, tourism supported 195,255 jobs, a seven-year addition of more than 23,255 jobs to the state’s total employment, an increase of 13.5%.” Today, one in 12.3 jobs in the state, or about 8% of the total workforce, is tied to tourism.

Despite the success of the industry, businesses continue to struggle to find enough qualified workers. “There’s a misconception about our industry that we underpay workers and make them work all of the time,” explains LaVoy. “While it’s definitely a work-your-way-up industry, it’s also one that allows for diversity, individuality, learning on the job and travel.”

The Hospitality and Tourism industry offers a wide variety of rewarding careers — everything from hotel management to culinary and beyond — that can lead to opportunities for advancement and good salaries. “I think industry continues to do a better job of offering flexibility, options and growth, but we have to continue to focus on caring for each other. This is a great launching pad for people — you can start here and go anywhere — but I’m not sure everyone is aware of that magnitude.”

Wisconsin’s technical colleges offer the necessary programs and training and boast many success stories including Alison Huber, a single mother working two part-time jobs who wanted a career change. She enrolled in the Meeting and Event Management program at Madison College and has been thriving in the industry ever since.

Wes Krimmer wanted to open his own restaurant but realized he wasn’t quite ready so he enrolled in the Culinary Management program at Waukesha County Technical College. Today, he owns the successful Krimmer’s Restaurant in West Bend.

With the continued growth of the industry, now is a better time than ever to enter the field. “People will always need to eat and people will always want an experience,“ says LaVoy. “I think it will help as we continue to advocate for the awesomeness that is being in the service of others.”