Mainly available from traditional four-year institutions, programs in travel and tourism are offered online at the certificate, associate, bachelor's and master's levels. These programs typically cover a wide number of subjects in order to give students a broad understanding of the tourism industry, travel accommodations and hospitality management. To be accepted into graduate level programs, there may be some prerequisites, such as a related degree or work experience.
While many schools offer fully online classes in this field, some programs give distance learners the opportunity to gain experience through paid or unpaid internships with local tourism-related businesses. Students may be required to complete field-based courses that involve traveling to major tourist destinations for research, seminars, and conferences.
Program Information and Degree Levels
Most distance learning travel and tourism programs are asynchronous; students log in and complete coursework by designated deadlines and interact with classmates and the instructor through discussion boards, e-mail and chat rooms. A few distance learning travel and tourism programs are self-paced. The following list offers details about what to expect from online coursework in this field of study.
Some distance learning certificate programs specifically train students to be travel agents, while others prepare students to work in a variety of travel and tourism fields. Students training to be travel agents are required to learn reservation systems such as Apollo or Sabre. Schools generally provide students with access to these systems.
Typical classes in an online travel and tourism certificate program may include the following:
- World Geography
- Airline Travel
- Hotels and Resorts
- Ground Transportation
- Business Communications
Distance learning travel and tourism associate degree programs train students for a variety of entry-level supervisory positions in the travel and tourism industry. The two-year curriculum provides a well-rounded education in all aspects of the industry as well as general business courses, such as communications, finance and management. Students in this type of degree program are sometimes required to complete an internship.
These courses are common at the associate degree level:
- Travel Industry Overview
- Event Management
- Tourism Planning and Development
- Destination Marketing
Students enrolled in a four-year distance learning bachelor's degree program in travel and tourism will often choose a concentration, such as food and beverage management, lodging management, event management, club management or casino management. Many online bachelor's degree programs require students to complete an internship in order to graduate.
Sample courses in a distance learning bachelor's degree program include the following:
- Hospitality Management
- Hotel Operations
- Hospitality Law
- Domestic and International Tourism
- Hospitality Marketing
- Food and Beverage Service
Taking about two years to complete, distance learning master's degree programs teach knowledge and skills for mid-level or upper management positions in a variety of travel and tourism environments. Applicants to online programs at this level must have a bachelor's degree and may need relevant work experience. Students generally select a concentration, such as international hotel and resort management, ecotourism, destination management, airline management or event and meeting management. Some programs require a thesis, but non-thesis options are also available.
At the master's degree level, students commonly take classes on these topics:
- Tourism Development
- Tourism Economics
- Management Topics in Tourism
- Tourism Trends and Forecasts
- Facility and Event Management
Travel and tourism distance learning programs train students for careers in a variety of environments, including travel agencies, airlines, cruise lines, car rental companies and hotels. Graduates may also find positions with tour operators, Internet-based travel companies, convention and visitors' bureaus, and event planning organizations. Possible job titles include:
- Travel Agent
- Cruise Director
- Hotel or Resort Manager
- Reservations Agent
- Event Planner
Distance-learning travel and tourism programs can be found with fully online coursework at the undergraduate and graduate levels, though in-person internships may also be an option. Associate's and certificate programs are generally more career-focused, while a bachelor's degree will provide students with broad industry knowledge and a graduate degree will focus on a subfield within travel and tourism.