Department: Hospitality Studies School: Management Campus: Old Westbury
Member of NYIT Since: 1985
As an entrepreneur, environmentalist, and adventure traveler, Alan Fairbairn (M.A. '90) brings a unique perspective to his hospitality classes at NYIT. In the first week of November, he will launch Agritourism International Network, a Web-based marketing company for rural and adventure tourism.
"The rural traveler is usually an adventure tourist," says Fairbairn, who has more than 40 years of experience in the hospitality industry. "If you want a hot air balloon over a vineyard, you can find it on the website."
Fairbairn knows his audience because he is one of them. He is an adventure traveler who surfs twice a year in South America. He has served as Master of Foxhounds (chief operating officer) for the Smithtown Hunt, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation of open spaces on Long Island, where he rides cross-country chasing hounds on one of his six horses. He's also a two-time winner of the Hunter Pace Cross Country, a horse-riding competition.
Eventually, Fairbairn plans to involve students in the business by providing internships and opportunities to research marketing techniques for rural tourism. In his classes, agritourism is already a discussion topic for reasons beyond pleasure-seeking.
"A safe food and water supply is part of our mission statement for agritourism – both for my company and at NYIT," he says. "That's something we want to stress to our students. Every course I teach has something about sustainability and the social responsibility of protecting our food and water supply."
Fairbairn has involved students and alumni in other ventures, such as the award-winning Wingate Inn, which he operated from 2001 to 2003 in Garden City, N.Y. He notes that the hospitality industry is rapidly changing.
"In reality, the growth of the hospitality industry is in the international scene today," Fairbairn says. "Brazil and China are top growth markets."
This global focus is part of the ongoing redesign of the School of Management's undergraduate curriculum. Another change is adding a concentration in hospitality management to the M.B.A. program.
At the same time, Fairbairn hopes to widen the perspective of hospitality students and correct the misconception that their industry is all big hotels, when there are plenty of successful "mom-and-pop" businesses. He says an independent eco-lodge is one example.
"The future lies in developing areas of sustainable tourism," he says. "We have a social responsibility to make sure we leave behind a smaller carbon footprint."