Tourism is an important sector in Wallonia (6.2% of GDP in 2012) but many initiatives fail through lack of management skills and incomplete knowledge of tourism and leisure specifics.

To address this, the Interuniversity certificate in tourism and leisure management (equivalent to a certificate in advanced studies) was launched in 2013, drawing on a unique partnership in French-speaking Belgium between the worlds of higher education and vocational training ([1]). The aim is to train current and future professionals for the tourism sector in Wallonia.

The programme allows graduates with a post-secondary diploma (master degree or a bachelor degree plus at least two years of professional experience) to acquire professional skills and earn a certificate awarded by the universities (20 ECTS credits). Based on seven teaching modules, this programme is offered for a total of six hours/week in the classrooms of the Competence Centre ([2]) in Marche-en-Famenne in the Province of Luxembourg, a region with considerable tourism activity. The classes are taught by academic and professional experts from a complementary range of institutions. This continuing education provides management tools geared towards the reality of the sector, such as knowledge of clientele for tourism and leisure or e-tourism. There is an additional, mandatory module involving an on-site visit to reinforce the skills acquired in the course.

‘The goal is to train professionals who are able to question their own practices, make the necessary adjustments and successfully complete projects’, explains the co-director of this programme. ‘This training opens doors to jobs involving strategic thinking and project management at private companies, associations and public authorities in the tourism and leisure sector.’

The programme is having a significant impact. Approved graduation projects are being introduced into the tourism and leisure sector in Wallonia and developed in the field. This includes, for example, the director of a tourist attraction in the city of Rochefort (in Wallonia), who has taken actions to strengthen the management and quality of the organisation based on information developed in her graduation project.

In the past four years, over 120 participants have taken part in the programme. According to Karlin Berghmans (graduated 2014), shop manager at the Bastogne War Museum, ‘This training allows us to understand specifically what is involved in the management of a tourism activity, whether it's in a museum setting or otherwise. Since I am an art historian, this training enabled me to develop many new skills in marketing, management, and communication, which are absolutely necessary in my job’.

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([1]) The partners are: the Universities of Namur and Liege, in partnership with the postsecondary schools Robert Schuman, Charlemagne, HENaLLux, and the Competence Centre ‘Forem Tourisme’ (Forem being the Public Employment Service in Wallonia also in charge of vocational training for adult jobseekers).

([2]) ‘Forem Tourisme’, distributed throughout the entire territory of Wallonia and organised per sector, the 25 Competence Centres make advanced training infrastructure available to jobseekers, trainees, students, employees and teachers.

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