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TSU encourages students to capitalize on Tennessee's billion-dollar tourism, hospitality industry

Tourists spent $7 billion in Nashville in 2018
Posted: 5:03 PM, Aug 09, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-09 20:32:21-04
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — The Volunteer State raked in $22 billion from tourists in 2018 and local colleges and universities want students to know now is the time to take advantage of the boom in the classroom.

Zuhair Al-Bunni, 20, plans to graduate from Tennessee State University with a degree in Hospitality and Tourism Management.

While enrolled in school, he works at Holiday Inn at Vanderbilt, making a name for himself.

"Ideally, I want to become a GM and then run my own property 'Zuhair Suites' soon come, run that and then I also want to make a non-profit to help kids in third world countries," said Al-Bunni, a native of Jordan.

Last year, Nashville took in $7 billion from tourists. With those numbers in mind, Al-Bunni is tapping into the economic boom.

Thom Druffel, a TSU adjunct professor and Holiday Inn-Vanderbilt's general manager, teaches students course in Hospitality and Tourism Management. He wants students to know there are hospitality careers available now more than ever.

"We started a program 4 years ago with the sense of, hey you can intern here, you can have the best job here and you have some of the best careers that you can possibly imagine without having to move anyplace," Druffel said

"To find talent has been a challenge by all means. So how do we grow talent organically and try and do it more in Nashville and I think that's what we're working on right now. We need future leaders," he said.

Druffel said TSU is also partnering with Nashville State and high school academies.