Hawaii’s World

By A.A. Smyser

Tuesday, April 13, 1999

Expand UH travel school

PERIODICALLY -- and with no apparent effect -- I write that the University of Hawaii's School of Travel Industry Management is far too small, that our No. 1 industry deserves better. UH invests far more in tropical agriculture, with a fraction of the employment opportunities.

Hawaii ought to have one of the best travel industry training schools in the world. We have a living laboratory -- one of the best and most professionally run travel destinations anywhere. We should train more of our own people for top spots, also to sally forth elsewhere in this expanding field, and should invite others to bolster our economy by coming here to learn skills.

Why don't we? Try these possible reasons: (1) faculty territoriality -- the unwillingness of existing UH departments to see jobs transferred to others; (2) a legislative constituency for tropical ag that should be fighting harder for TIM; (3) travel industry moguls more focused on the annual fight to win state marketing funds.

Now we are at a fortuitous crossroad. A new direction might be taken. UH last year was given added independent decision-making responsibility by the state. TIM Dean Chuck Gee is retiring. He has acquitted himself well, but lost the fight to expand TIM.

Comes now a European-schooled hotel marketer named J. Hans Strasser who says that TIM should have 1,000 students instead of 230, that TIM should challenge Cornell University's top role in hotel management, and should focus on hospitality, the special gift of Hawaii's people, while Cornell turns more toward Wall Street. He suggests:

Bullet Look for a new dean with industry experience, teaching experience, youth and lots of drive.

Bullet Buy or lease a hotel to be turned into a training college for TIM. He suggests the Turtle Bay Hilton but uses it only as an example.

Bullet Over a three-year cycle have TIM students staff the hotel under teaching instructors, work with guests and also spend a lot of time in the back of the house. Cap this with the academic education that can make them top travel operators and managers. Require them to spend vacations working in the industry. Don't forget the growing need for small niche hotels amid the big chains.

Strasser was born in Austria, trained at the Salzburg Hotel Management Academy, sent from London to the U.S. by the Hilton chain and helped open its flagship Washington Hilton. He was drawn to Hawaii to manage the posh Colony Surf Hotel with its Michel's and Bobby Magee restaurants for 10 years, then spent two years managing the Prince Kuhio Hotel.

In 1983 he set up his own hotel marketing business, Hotelmark, to expand promotion practices he pioneered at the Prince Kuhio. Hotelmark now operates on all continents, has 800 associates and grosses millions of dollars each year.

He has subsidiary corporations for Europe, Japan and Africa but keeps his headquarters here. They occupy half a floor at 1314 S. King St., the Interstate Building. He could be elsewhere but chooses Hawaii for its "best anywhere" attractiveness, good transportation, security, cleanliness, hospitality of the people and professionalism in resort management.

He sees travel as one of the world's most desirable industries, smokestack free and able to enrich the lives of host communities as well as visitors.

A.A. Smyser is the contributing editor
and former editor of the the Star-Bulletin
His column runs Tuesday and Thursday.

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