MARCO ISLAND — Upper class students at Marco Island Academy (MIA) are getting a taste of the industry that plays a major part in the area's labor and work force through the new "Introduction to Hospitality and Tourism" course.
Last week during the first of a half dozen tours held at the Marco Island Marriott Resort and Spa (Resort), students learned about aspects of front and back of house operations of the hotel's eight food and beverage outlets including in-house dining.
Director of Restaurants Youssef Oualidi led the group into the renovated lobby lounge Korals that now features a sushi bar and trendy, modern décor that includes a visually appealing, vertical, lighted fish tank and floor to ceiling windows.
Oualidi explained how the new look and popular food offering has accounted for a revenue jump from $500,000 to $2,000,000 in that outlet alone.
He then led the group into the Café San Marco that in season reaps up to $8,000 in sales per day that sometimes trumps revenue from the fine dining outlet Kurrents, then to breakfast spot, Tropiks and to Pazzi's, a casual lunch and pizza eatery.
The Italian inspired bistro, a renovation of two ground floor hotel rooms offers a new dining concept featuring self-service, which does not require tipping, similar to a Panera Bread restaurant, explained Oualidi.
The new course is a bold and ground-breaking expansion of the MIA curriculum, designed to leverage the experience of local resort management industry professionals.
Its goal is to provide a foundation for students to assist them in determining career options in an industry so crucial to the local economy.
In a collaborative partnership with the Marco Island Marriott Resort and Spa (Resort) through General Manager Rick Medwedeff, also a MIA advisory board member, MIA introduced the semester-long course at the start of the current school term.
"As far as I know there are no other district schools with a similar program that will offer hands-on experience with a local resort," said Jane Watt, MIA chairperson.
"Our students are very fortunate to have this opportunity for experiential education. They will get an inside perspective of the business world, and potential opportunities for a future in the resort management industry."
The elective course involves 16 chapters of study that includes such topics as economics, the impact of tourism, destination sales, marketing, promotion and careers in the hotel and tourism industry.
Students will learn from a selection of in-class guest speakers – resort professionals – who will speak on the topics of tourism, destination sales, marketing, product design, distribution and promotion.
Medwedeff is also slated to speak and will provide a presentation on "The Hotel Business," which will cover the types of hotel classifications, the importance of yield management and describe guest services, various hotel positions and more.
"As a global company, we open the world to the students and offer job opportunities that are viable worldwide. Under one roof, we provide a diversity of career options unlike any other business," said Medwedeff.
"The unparalleled variety of positions provides the students with a unique opportunity to preview long term careers that can provide benefits, security and a livelihood."
A half dozen scheduled tours will cover hotel will provide insight into the practical aspect of front and back of house hotel operations and feature representatives from restaurant operations, guest services, recreation, marketing and sales departments.
The semester will culminate with a tour from human resources personnel who will help students explore careers in the hospitality and tourism industry.
MIA Hospitality and Tourism instructor Kelly Monnot who also teaches health and physical education said the small class size of 12 specially selected students has been an advantage and that others are eager to take the class in the spring semester.
"So far, this is has been a very successful class and the students have been very engaged and are excited to learn about this familiar industry from the experts at the Resort," she added.
"The classroom guest speakers share 'real-life' knowledge and expertise in their specific field which gives our students a wonderful opportunity not only to learn about the hospitality industry, but also to learn about the tools needed to be successful in any job market."
Watt, Medwedeff and the MIA staff collaborated to develop the program's curriculum, goals and objectives.
Medwedeff said that Human Resources Manager Garrett Morgan and Monica Alvarez, director of training and he worked on program details for the past six months.
MIA is a tuition-free public charter high school with grades nine through 12. Any student residing in Collier County is eligible to enroll.
According to Watt, the school is continuing efforts to raise funds for decking, landscaping, roofing and other projects in order to open a new campus location.
For more information, call (239) 249-0004 or visit marcoislandacademy.com.