The country’s first degree in spa management was launched last week at a function in Athlone Institute of Technology.
The degree, which will qualify graduates to work in one of the fastest growing areas of the tourism market, was declared a positive step in returning the industry to growth in the future.
Dr Marian Fitzgibbon, head of the School of Humanities, said that “The course would develop the management competencies of students, which would enable them to work in the health and wellness sector, as well as in the broader tourism industry. It is rooted in and underpinned by a focus on transferable skills applicable to a wide range of areas of employment other than tourism and hospitality,” she said.
Commenting on the 2008 tourist industry numbers, Dr Fitzgibbon said; “Potential students have to look beyond the current downturn and try to imagine what the economic situation will be like in three or four years’ time. Despite the drop in tourism revenues and the loss of jobs, tourism continues to be a major contributor to the economy. The flexible skill-set that students gain at AIT enables them to best adjust to changing circumstances in the marketplace.
“We also need to look at the spa industry not simply as a luxury experience, but one that has much to offer in terms of care of the elderly, for example. The overall greying of Western society and the corresponding focus on health and well-being guarantees the persistence of the industry and Ireland’s need to develop its capacity in the sub-sector. This is a much more robust industry than might initially be imagined and those strategic factors which led us to develop the qualification still hold true,” she stated.
Guest speaker at the launch, Natasha Kinsella, chief executive at the Irish Hospitality Institute, said: “While 2008 and 2009 were proving difficult for many hotels, surviving these times was also generating opportunities for the sector. Factors such as the abolition of hotel capital allowances and the substantial investment in marketing and promotion of Ireland as a destination will only support our sector’s continued growth.”
She added that a “close alignment” between the tourism industry and education providers was essential to ensuring “a highly skilled workforce that will ultimately meet this growth potential”.
The degree in spa management, she stated, featured a “balance of both academic and practical experience, as well as a clear link of learning outcomes to meet industry-specific needs; I would be confident that any student completing this programme has an extremely bright future ahead of them, but most importantly has been provided with the skills and competencies to meet the various needs of the business.”
The aim of the three-year degree programme is to give students the knowledge, skills, and competencies necessary for employment in management and/or support positions within the spa health and wellness tourism sector. The scope of the programme extends to customer service, operations, and management of spa health and wellness tourism resources, enterprises, and/or destinations in a modern dynamic business environment.
AIT will work in close co-operation with the Hodson Bay Hotel and the Sheraton Athlone Hotel in delivering the therapy and professional treatment modules of the course. This partnership will ensure that graduates will be technically orientated as well as being flexible enough to work in different areas of spa management. The course also includes a six-month period of industrial placement in an international setting.
According to John O’Hara, head of the Department of Hospitality, Tourism and Leisure Studies at AIT, the degree builds on three key strengths. “The department combines expertise both in tourism and hospitality and in sport and recreation, hosting two complementary suites of programmes in which strong synergies have been developed. Furthermore, it has significant expertise in developing niche programmes to meet industry needs, and these strong industry contacts benefit students greatly through an extensive programme of placement,” he said.
Application to the BA in Spa Management degree is through the CAO, course code AL017. Anyone interested in obtaining further information should contact the Admissions Office at [email protected] or visit www.ait.ie