This fall, UCF will offer a new master’s degree in travel technology and analytics to prepare computer scientists, data analysts, software developers and information technologists for jobs in the travel industry.

The proliferation of new and emerging technologies that make traveling more convenient and efficient, such as ride-sharing mobile apps and third-party booking services, is fueling the industry’s demand for high-tech workers.

The master’s degree program — the first of its kind in the nation — will be offered by UCF’s College of Engineering and Computer Science and Rosen College of Hospitality Management, which is ranked No. 4 in the world for hospitality education by CEOWorld magazine. The degree was approved by the UCF Board of Trustees and the Florida Board of Governors last year.

“This innovative program is the result of strong collaboration between our two colleges, and illustrates how UCF continually strives to create opportunity beyond traditional academic boundaries,” says Michael Georgiopoulos, dean of the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“The increasingly complex business environment the travel and tourism industry is facing requires an interdisciplinary approach to produce professionals who not only have a strong technology foundation but also understand the business context in which the technology is applied,” says Youcheng Wang, dean of the Rosen College of Hospitality Management. “Such a partnership program between the two colleges is definitely the right answer to the industry call.”

Orlando, where UCF is located, is the No. 1 travel destination in the United States and provides an ideal learning environment for technology professionals who may want to apply their skills in the travel industry.

The program has been designed by a team of UCF faculty led by Alan Fyall, associate dean of academic affairs, Visit Orlando Endowed Chair of Tourism and a professor of hospitality. Fyall is an expert in global travel industry workforce trends.

“There is no better place than Orlando to get hands-on experience in the travel industry,” Fyall says. “Students in this degree program can work for airlines, hotels, resorts, travel companies, entertainment companies, theme parks — the opportunities are endless here.”

The travel technology and analytics master’s degree will appeal to technology professionals who may be working in other industries, according to Ali Gordon, associate dean for Graduate Affairs in the College of Engineering and Computer Science.

“Many of our computer science and information technology graduates are recruited by large-scale technology companies, and therefore may not initially consider the travel industry when they make early-career moves,” Gordon says. “This new degree gives these professionals another exciting career choice.”

Also on the faculty team is Naveen Eluru, associate professor of civil engineering. Eluru is an expert in transportation engineering and technology and heads the Transportation Econometric Modeling Group at UCF. He will teach one of the core analytics courses in the program.

Eluru notes that while the COVID-19 global pandemic has disproportionately affected the travel and tourism industry, this time can present an opportunity for professionals to broaden their skills and engage in the industry’s resurgence.

“The revival of the travel and tourism industry will lay increased emphasis on the application of technology and analytics in the future,” says Eluru. “With the rapid emergence of new technologies, the opportunity for career growth in travel technology and analytics is huge, as the role of smart infrastructure expands in tourism and hospitality sectors along with burgeoning smart transportation systems across cities.”

Eluru is also on the faculty team that designed and oversees UCF’s master’s degree in smart cities program — another first-of-its-kind program in the nation — that began last fall.

The 30-hour master’s degree program in travel technology and analytics is offered partially or fully online. In-person classes are scheduled to be held at both the Rosen College campus near International Drive and UCF’s main campus in east Orlando.

The coursework follows an appropriate mix of required core courses and elective options. The core courses will cover concepts in travel technology, hospitality management and travel analytics, providing STEM students with a solid foundation in the travel and tourism industry. The program also includes a capstone course to provide students with hands-on tourism industry experience.

Core courses include Smart Travel and Tourism, International Tourism and Management, Service System Quality Engineering, Discrete Choice Modeling in Transportation, Algorithms and Models for Smart Cities, and a capstone course.

The deadline to apply for the program is July 1, 2020.