Q & A with Statia Elliot, Director, School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management
Given the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management’s (HFTM) long-standing reputation for educating globe-trotting industry leaders, it makes sense that its new director, Professor Statia Elliot, would have countless air miles under her belt in addition to a blend of industry and academic experience. Prior to joining HFTM in 2007, Elliot spent 18 years in consulting and management roles in the Canadian hospitality and tourism industry. She counts hospitality branding and destination marketing among her research interests and is also President of the Canadian Travel and Tourism Research Association.
What are your key responsibilities as Director of the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management?
As Director, I will be responsible for our Bachelor of Commerce, Master’s level and professional programs, a faculty and staff complement of 25 quality professionals and connections with upwards of 4,000 alumni internationally. Founded 45 years ago, we are the oldest degree-granting institution in Canada for hospitality education. More than a school, I am responsible for the continuation of a legacy.
What are you most looking forward to in this role?
Because of the strength and breadth of our alumni, our School has always had very positive relations with industry, and this I find exciting. I look forward to advancing the School with the advice and support of our partners to develop graduates that in turn help to advance industry.
What is your vision for the School over the next decade?
We are the most prestigious hospitality program in Canada, but the competitive environment is changing dramatically and we can’t sit still. Over the next decade, I’d like to see us strengthened through industry support to become the School not just for undergraduate programs, but graduate programs, not just domestically but internationally and not just as a School, but as a recognized brand.
Prior to becoming a professor, you worked in roles such as consultant with Tourism Ontario and Director of Marketing for Travel Manitoba. How did this experience impact your decision to become a university professor?
The common thread through my career has been marketing research, whether advising clients, developing my own strategy or teaching. During my time with Travel Manitoba, I was asked to teach an executive program in marketing at the University of Manitoba. A few classes in and I was hooked. I took the opportunity to return to Carleton University in Ottawa to complete my PhD, shifted my career to academia, and haven’t looked back.
You’ve traveled extensively throughout your career. Do you have a favourite place you’ve either lived in or traveled to?
Outside of Canada, my favourite place I’ve lived is South Korea. I spent two years living and studying in and around Seoul and loved it. I think it’s given me an appreciation for what it’s like to study internationally, and in support of our opportunity to attract more foreign students, an understanding of other cultures. Another favourite place I’ve visited is France. I spent January 2014 researching the ski phenomenon in the Alps, where tourism is a long-standing industry that generates over half the region’s revenues. Their approach to hospitality is sophisticated and entrenched - something we can learn from.
What advice do you have for students considering working in hospitality, food and tourism management?
The industry today is more exciting than ever, offering global opportunities and new career directions in communications, supply chain integration, yield management, franchising and more. Our curriculum is growing too, with more professional association chapters, field studies, case competitions and networking events. Guelph prepares students for a career like no other. In the words of our wonderful student association, eat, sleep, travel!