Tourism marketing agency and industry partners urge College of the Desert Board of Trustees to ensure West Valley campus plans meet needs of hospitality industry and create higher-paying opportunities for local residents 


Palm Springs, CA — Today, regional tourism marketing agency Visit Greater Palm Springs (VGPS) released research findings of the Culinary & Hospitality Program Case Study VGPS commissioned through Convention Sports & Leisure (CSL). The purpose of the study was to build an informed recommendation for the creation of a dedicated Culinary and Hospitality program within the new West Valley campus of College of the Desert (COD). The region’s economic vitality is directly tied to the health of the tourism industry, which generated $7.5 billion in 2019 and sustained more than 53,000 jobs—making tourism Coachella Valley’s top economic driver and number one job creator.  

In 2016, VGPS released a regional Destination Development Plan, in which one of the key priorities identified was workforce development. The lack of a locally trained workforce was an issue before the pandemic; post-pandemic, the issue is even greater, especially in the culinary field.  

VGPS is focused on finding solutions and developing programs to support the College of the Desert and the Cal State San Bernardino Palm Desert hospitality programs. The new COD hospitality campus and culinary institute is a critical component of this solution. 

At the direction of the VGPS Board of Directors, VGPS engaged CSL to conduct an assessment of culinary and hospitality programs that operate in the United States. The goal was to understand what components and what size should be targeted to not only meet the needs of today but to also create a facility and program poised to help the region’s hospitality industry grow and elevate it in the future. 

CSL began their research examining 35 hospitality schools, and then narrowed the scope to 16, and finally reduced it to seven. Those seven “best-practice” programs compatible with a tourism destination of this size and caliber were reviewed in great depth to understand their most notable and transferrable elements that should be considered by COD. 

The resulting CSL recommendation is for a diverse certificate and associate degree program to include Hospitality Management, Baking & Pastry Management, Tourism Management, Culinary  Management, Event Management, Food & Nutrition, Resort Management, and Luxury Hospitality Management.  

A high-end, mid-sized culinary and hospitality program that can facilitate these degrees requires approximately 30,000 net square feet for multiple culinary labs/kitchens, classroom space, a student staffed restaurant, and separate pastry spaces—including a demonstration kitchen, restaurant, banquet/event space, creamery, and wine and beer cellar management lab. 

CSL is recommending that a learning hotel not be developed and is instead recommending a robust internship and mentorship program. Looking beyond infrastructure and areas of training at the COD, factors such as community engagement, domestic and international program coordination, and student-in-need efforts were also included in the comprehensive study. 

VGPS also engaged Tourism Economics to survey the hospitality industry to analyze what management jobs and compensation opportunities exist in the Coachella Valley. Although this research is still ongoing, the preliminary results (based on 35 businesses who have already submitted their data to Tourism Economics) indicate that over 700 management positions currently exist with average salaries ranging from $50,000 to $150,000. Many of these careers offer wonderful benefits and are jobs that are easily transferrable around the world.   

“We believe CSL’s program design is what’s needed to keep our destination competitive, meet the expectations of visitors and residents, and provide the opportunities our local students deserve,” said Scott White, President & CEO of Visit Greater Palm Springs. 

Report findings can be found HERE.  

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Sara Gorgon, MMGY NJF