Averett University and Pamplin College of Business's Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management joined forces for the "The Future of Hospitality and Tourism Workforce Summit” on October 25. Photo courtesy of Averett University.

Averett University and Virginia Tech Pamplin College of Business joined forces to explore challenges and opportunities facing the hospitality and tourism sectors in southern Virginia.

Through “The Future of Hospitality and Tourism Workforce Summit” on October 25, the two universities brought together nearly 75 industry leaders, policy makers, community representatives, related stakeholders, and academia to gather perspectives on topics such as workforce, education and destination development and exchange ideas around ways to continue building upon the regional progress already made in this sector.

“The revitalization of Danville, Bristol, and Portsmouth has created growth opportunities, especially within the hospitality and tourism sector. Addressing the labor – and related housing and support service needs – of this emerging sector while ensuring that the existing hospitality businesses are not negatively impacted, will require industry, public sector, educational and non-profit stakeholders’ collaboration,” said Starlette Johnson ’85, president and founder of SBJ Advisory Group, who served as emcee for the event.

The five-hour-long summit was held at Danville’s Institute for Advanced Learning and Research, and featured experts in academia, industry, and government from across the Commonwealth in various presentations, panel discussions and breakout groups.

“At Averett, we understand and celebrate our responsibility for driving workforce development at all levels for this city and the region. We are prepared, poised and proud to partner and lead, and this Summit is one way in which we are doing just that, in collaboration with our seasoned partners at Virginia Tech,” said Averett President Tiffany M. Franks.

“When Averett announced that we were going to develop the Hospitality Management and Tourism program, our colleagues and friends at Virginia Tech were right by our sides, willing and eager to help guide our next steps based on their learned experiences in their exceptional program. Today is a demonstration of our shared commitment and collaboration.”

Pamplin College of Business Dean Saonee Sarker (at left) speaks with Pamplin alumna Starlette Johnson (at right) during the “The Future of Hospitality and Tourism Workforce Summit” on October 25. Johnson served as emcee for the event. Photo courtesy of Averett University.

That word ‘collaboration’ was indeed key in the fruition of the joint summit. Leaders from the hospitality management and tourism academic programs from both Virginia Tech and Averett worked to assemble almost 20 thought leaders to present on varying topics throughout the day.

“Collaboration and shared commitment are the cornerstones of progress in the hospitality and tourism sectors. Workforce development, destination management and economic development are challenges for our sector that require a multi-faceted approach. Partnering with Averett University, with their outstanding commitment to the region, we embrace our role in advancing solutions for the region, for educational excellence and community growth,” said Zheng “Phil” Xiang, department head, Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management.

“I’m grateful to our peers at Virginia Tech for the continued guidance and partnership as we’ve successfully launched Averett’s program this fall,” said Averett Program Director for Hospitality Management & Tourism Thomas F. Perugini.

“Our shared vision for a prepared hospitality workforce and development of a dynamic destination in the Southern Virginia region has fueled our commitment to this work, with hopes of this Summit serving as a catalyst for further exploration, dialogue and ultimately tangible strategies toward that shared goal.”

Written by Cassie W. Jones