RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ernest Nishizaki, a graduate of the University of Hawaii School of Travel Industry Management, is general manager for the Kyo-ya Co., which owns the Sheraton Waikiki.
LessonsIt does happen. A vacation goes awry and a customer is deeply upset.
UH's School of Travel
Industry Management teaches
the hospitality honchos
By Tim Ruel
The Travel Industry Management school at the University of Hawaii taught Ernest Nishizaki to deal with people when things go wrong.
"It improved our tolerance for meeting people," Nishizaki said.
Lessons from the so-called TIM school came more from experience than from books for many TIM graduates. The school, they say, has helped local people compete for international hospitality industry jobs. In turn, Hawaii's tourism industry benefits from their legacy.
Nishizaki, born in Honolulu, graduated from the school in 1969. Required internships prepped him, he said. Nishizaki joined ITT Sheraton Corp.'s management trainee program in Waikiki in 1970. He spent the next 30 years rising in the company, starting from resident manager of the Sheraton West in Los Angeles and ending up as general manager of support services for Sheraton in Hawaii.
Earlier this year, Nishizaki made a bigger jump. At age 55, he is now general manager of Kyo-ya Co., the Japan-based owner of several Sheraton Hawaii hotels and one of the largest companies in the state.
The TIM school had a variety of lessons for graduates. Jackson Nakasone, principal broker of commercial real estate firm Grubb & Ellis, graduated from the TIM school in 1968, when the hotel construction business was booming. He spent the next 10 years in the hospitality industry, working as a food and beverage manager, helping to open such properties as the Park Shore and Ala Moana hotels. Opening a hotel involves forecasting, budgeting, working with contractors, the sales department, the front office and so on, said Nakasone, 57.
"I think the industry prepares you very well for any business enterprise because you're working with such a highly perishable product," Nakasone said. Hotels taught him about costs. "If you don't sell a room night, you lose it forever."
The downside of hospitality management, Nakasone said, was working for someone else. "Basically, I wanted to control my own time." In meeting travel clients, he realized that people who could enjoy leisure time tended to be independent. He joined Grubb & Ellis, then founded his own real estate company, CBI, in 1985. CBI became a Grubb & Ellis franchise three years ago.
Rita Lau, TIM school class of 1977, came to University of Hawaii from Hong Kong. After graduating, she was part of a team that opened the Regent in Hong Kong. She worked in Australia, at Chicago's Mayfair Regent and Regent Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills, Calif. In her 40s, Lau is now hotel manager for the Fairmont San Francisco.
"I think work experience is very, very important, but the schooling provides you with understanding of theory and academics that would help you understand," Lau said.
STAR-BULLETIN / 1999
Chuck Gee, former dean of the University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management, is credited with helping build its international reputation.
In 1959, when the TIM school was founded as the Department of Hotel Management and Tourism, its initial enrollment totaled 83 students. By 1964, the number doubled to 200 students. This fall, the school expects to have 345 undergraduate students and 22 graduate students.
Full-time resident students pay $1,608 a semester at UH-Manoa for undergraduate studies. Tuition for graduate students is $2,160.
Most alumni, who graduate with masters' of science degrees, have an annual income of more than $70,000, according to a 2002 survey of 441 alumni. Alumni who received a bachelor's degree in business administration earn between $30,0000 and $60,000.
When the TIM school took its current moniker in 1996, the school switched to issuing a bachelor's degree in science. Those students earn between $20,000 and $40,000, according to the survey.
A little more than half of TIM school graduates say they currently work in a field related to travel industry management.
The school's departmental budget has remained at $1.4 million over the past 10 years, largely because of growth in major endowments. In 1991, the school had six major endowments. This year, it has 15.
Many credit the school's prominence to its longtime dean, Chuck Gee, who held the school and its students to international standards.
Just this year, the TIM school received the World Tourism Organization's seal of approval, the Tourism Education Quality certification, which is held by just more than 20 educational institutions in the world.
A school with an international reputation is needed so TIM students can make personal ties with people who will be their competition, Gee said. Hawaii is up against destinations including Mexico, the Caribbean, Southeast Asia and Australia.
The school's strongest alumni chapter in the 1980s was in Singapore, largely because of Clyde Min, a 1971 graduate who firmly believes in the value of networking. Min, then general manager of the luxury Marina Mandarin Singapore, harnessed TIM graduates in Singapore and began running industry seminars that pulled in money and recognition.
"Everybody knew what a TIM graduate was," Gee said.
Min says he was able to sell the lectures because Gee was the speaker. "He was the star attraction."
Min has worked in Thailand, Fiji, Hong Kong and recently helped open the Tokyo Disney Resort. In February, Min became vice president of Colonial Williamsburg Co.'s hospitality operations in Virginia. How did he make such a move? Connections, Min said. That's what he tells other TIM alumni.
"It's really personal relationships. In this field, it's really a small club."
Min's current boss at Colonial Williamsburg used to be general manager for Disney's Grand Floridian, while Min was general manager at Disney's Polynesian Resort in Florida.
Nishizaki, of Kyo-ya, said he's hired several TIM graduates who have become important industry players in Hawaii, such as Ren Hirose, who is now local director of Starwood's quality control program, Six Sigma.
In short, the TIM school is responsible for helping local people compete for jobs on an international level, Nishizaki said. In the early 1960s, hotel general managers and chefs always seemed to be from outside Hawaii, particularly Europe.
A 1996 survey of 125 Hawaii hotels found that, of general managers, 43 percent were born in Hawaii, and another 20 percent had been a resident for more than 20 years.
Only 10 percent had been resident for less than 5 years, said Murray Towill, president of the Hawaii Hotel Association, which based the survey on its membership.
"More and more of our managers are coming from local sources," Nishizaki said. He credits the TIM school.
The benefit to Hawaii, he said, is that local leadership helps the state's tourism industry become uniquely Hawaiian, distinguishing it from Australia, Mexico and other international competitors.
School of Travel Industry Management
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