sealPurdue News

October 13, 2000

There's room at the inn when it comes to Indiana economic growth

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In the very public discussion on Indiana's economic development, there's been a significant voice missing, according to Purdue University professors. The voice is that of the hospitality industry – hotels, restaurants, resorts and attractions.

"The largest private employer in the United States is the hospitality industry," says Raphael R. Kavanaugh, professor and head of Purdue's hospitality and tourism management department. "We are behind in focusing on tourism – and even gathering basic data – as an economic development tool."

That should change with the Indiana State Commission of Higher Education's September approval of a doctoral program at Purdue's hospitality and tourism management department.

"In offering the Ph.D., we will have the resources to understand the multiple forces affecting the growth of a sophisticated industry and to develop models that lead to effective decision-making tools," Kavanaugh says.

"What this means is that we will be able to provide the research necessary to understand both the current and potential impact of tourism on the state of Indiana," says Dennis A. Savaiano, dean of the School of Consumer and Family Sciences, where the hospitality and tourism management department is housed.

"By understanding the forces that affect the hospitality industry, we can make jobs in the field better paid, which leads to better service to our visitors, which in turn leads to more visitors. All of this translates into Indiana's post-agriculture and manufacturing economic growth."

The hospitality and tourism management department is already involved in services to the state. Its Tourism and Hospitality Research Center provides conversion studies: counting tourist dollars and breaking them down into how many places, such as hotels, restaurants and attractions, those dollars touch before they disappear into the local economy.

"This research can tell us how many jobs tourism generates," says Thomas E. Pearson, director of graduate programs for the department. "The second issue is taxes. Many communities impose room taxes, but there is no state law that legislates where it is most effective to allocate those proceeds. Communities need to allocate those moneys strategically so they just don't disappear into the general fund. They also need to know at what point the taxes become a deterrent to tourists' visits."

In addition, Purdue's hospitality and tourism management professors are already active statewide. For example, they provide education and seminars for managers and testing food for safety in the department's Avery Foods Laboratory. The department also operates another research facility, the Center for Lodging Operations.

Given the global nature of tourism today, the department has increased its efforts in the international arena. There is a healthy number of international students among the department's 500 undergraduate majors and 50 graduate students, and hospitality and tourism management professors present their research all over the world. This semester, six students are doing internships at the Jin Ling Hotel in China. The Jin Ling is a five-star hotel and one of the leading hotels in the world.

Kavanaugh stresses that raising the research bar with the addition of the doctorate will complement the broad-based, practical undergraduate curriculum at Purdue that encompasses management, economics, food science, food engineering, statistics, consumer behavior and marketing by professors who also are experienced practitioners in the industry.

"Running hospitality and tourism establishments is a business in the whole range of the term," Kavanaugh says. "Our bachelor's degree graduates fill entry-level management positions with hotel and restaurant chains and corporations, resorts, and the entertainment and athletic businesses."

The hospitality and tourism management department receives high marks nationally from organizations that rank programs. Cornell University surveys educators and hotel industry executives. Both surveyed groups consistently rank Purdue's undergraduate and graduate programs among the top five nationally.

Sources: Raphael R. Kvanaugh, (765) 494-4643,

Dennis A. Savaiano, (765) 494-8210,

Writer: J. Michael Lillich, (765) 494-2077,

Other source: Thomas E. Pearson, (765) 494-4643,

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096;

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