Hospitality schools around the country are experiencing a
spike in the number of students pursuing a degree or specialization in
meetings and event management. Would you believe some credit the boost
to the 2001 Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, The Wedding Planner?
Winston, director of San Diego State University's School of Hospitality
& Tourism Management, consistently hears two things from his event
planning students (80 percent of whom are women): They planned their
high school proms, and they loved The Wedding Planner. "That's crazy," Winston admits.
Abraham Pizam, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management at
the University of Central Florida in Orlando, says his school started
a four-year event management degree program in 2006, and in just three
years enrollment has surged to 850 students. "That is unheard-of
growth," says Pizam.
Adds SDSU's Winston, "I call the meetings
and events profession ‘the accidental industry,' because virtually
everybody who's in it got into it by accident." But student interest
and other data suggest this is changing. For one, the Bureau of Labor
Statistics predicts that employment of meeting and convention planners
will grow by 20 percent through 2016. This conscious pursuit of a
career in meetings makes Winston optimistic about the future: "Twenty
years from now, the people running this industry will have gotten into
it on purpose," he says.