WAILUKU - The Academy of Hospitality & Tourism (AOHT) recently held its annual AOHT Student Conference at the University of Hawaii Maui College.
More than 200 attendees took part in the conference, including students, educators, visitor industry representatives, Hawaii Tourism Authority officials, members of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association and local leaders.
Since AOHT's inception in the early 1990s with a one-time grant from Kaanapali Beach Hotel, the program has proven to be a successful public-private partnership.
Toni Marie Davis (left) from Activities & Attractions Association of Hawaii interviews Jennifer Nguyen of Lahainaluna High School.
The seed that was first planted at Lahainaluna High School now includes programs at Maui High and Baldwin High School.
This "schools within schools" concept emphasizes academic excellence while exposing students to the "real world."
AOHT's primary goal is to prepare students for post-secondary education and cultivate workforce development in one of the world's largest service industries.
This innovative program administered by the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association (MHLA) provides students with valuable exposure to the industry via internships, job shadowing, research and event planning, service projects, job site visits, university visits and travel.
Today, the AOHT program on Maui includes over 220 students.
The day-long student conference focused on Sports Marketing in Hawaii and included a keynote speech from HTA Brand Manager Michael Story about the importance and economic benefits from sporting events and programs in Hawaii.
Breakout sessions included a presentation from Janet Clark of TEAM Unlimited about the progression of XTERRA from a single event to a series of premiere competitive events telecast throughout the world. To showcase the importance and relevance of our host culture to tourism in Hawaii, Kainoa Horcajo of the Native Hawaiian Hospitality Association conducted a course in "Proper Values & Integrity in Sports & Competition."
Students also had the opportunity to visit with various visitor industry businesses during the Career Fair/Mock Interview session. Students were required to provide a resume and job application for the "mock interview" portion, where industry leaders provided valuable feedback to each student.
During lunch, Lahainaluna High School's academy shared their knowledge of the industry to attendees.
The event capped off with a lively "Jeopardy, Visitor Industry Style" competition that included topics presented to the students throughout the day.
"The AOHT program offers students a unique opportunity to gain first-hand knowledge of the visitor industry. Many of these students continue on to post-secondary education with a head-start in selecting their field of study," said Carol Reimann, co-chair of the AOHT and executive director for the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association.
"We are pleased to offer such a great program to high school students - our future business leaders - and contribute to our workforce development initiative."
The program is supported, in part, with funding from the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Maui County Office of Economic Development and the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association.
For information, contact the Maui Hotel & Lodging Association at 244-8625.