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KNOXVILLE — Top professionals in hospitality and tourism will discuss the future of their industries as part of Hospitality and Tourism Leadership Week, March 26-27, at the University of Tennessee.

Susan Whitaker, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development, and representatives from Ruby Tuesday, O’Charley’s Inc., Pilot Travel Centers and Crown Plaza will discuss their industries and career opportunities in them.

The hotel, restaurant and tourism management program in the UT Department of Retail, Hotel and Tourism Management has planned the week to promote the program, recruit students interested in learning about pursuing a career in those industries and provide students a chance to network with professionals.

There will be two discussions with professionals.

• Wednesday, March 26

9 a.m. to 11 a.m., a panel discussion on “Trends, Forecasts and Career Opportunities in the Hospitality and Tourism Industries.” The panel includes Max Piet, vice president of operations at Ruby Tuesday; Steve McMillen, vice president of training and human resources development at O’Charley’s Inc.; Mark Romano, regional vice president of Pilot Travel Centers; and Ken Knight, general manager of Crown Plaza. University Center, Shiloh Room.

The panelists will talk about their career paths, the mission and marketing strategies of their companies and opportunities and trends in their companies and industries.

• Thursday, March 27

10 a.m. to noon, a discussion on “Sustainability, Tourism Development and Career Opportunities,” led by Commissioner Susan Whitaker. Hodges Library Auditorium.

“These discussions will provide students in our program the chance to learn the most insightful information from leaders in these industries. We hope students in business or other related majors will take advantage of the opportunity to broaden their career choices and learn about the top issues in these fields,” said Rachel J.C. Chen, DollyWood Professor and coordinator of the events.

Hospitality and tourism are powerful economic forces providing employment, foreign exchange, income and tax revenue.

The Travel Industry Association reported in December that foreign and domestic travelers spent $700 billion in the U.S. in 2006, creating 7.5 million jobs, $178.1 billion in payroll income and $109.9 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments.

Restaurants nationwide are second only to the federal government in the number of people employed — 13.1 million, according to the National Restaurant Association. Restaurant sales are expected to reach $558 billion in 2008.

For more information about the department of retail, hospitality and tourism management and the majors and minors offered, go to, call (865) 974-2141 or e-mail


Elizabeth Davis, UT media relations, (865) 974-5179,

Rachel Chen, (865) 974-0505,