Thriving on Chaos: Hospitality and Tourism

As a group of SFCC students intently watched a compilation of video clips showing spectacular scenes of New Mexico, Peter Lovato, Director of Catering at Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder, asked the students if they recognized where the images were from. After a brief hesitation, several of the students in the Introduction to Tourism class correctly guessed the images were from the TV show “The Bachelor.”

“Why am I showing you clips from The Bachelor?” he asked. “It’s because in the hospitality business we’re always selling a memory. We’re not just selling food and beverages; we’re selling people dreams. On the sales side, we paint the dream,” Lovato said. He added that SFCC’s Hospitality Coordinator Katherine Fox Ehlert was “a rock star at selling the dream.” A veteran of the national hotel industry Fox Ehlert was the senior sales manager for the opening of Hilton Santa Fe Buffalo Thunder.

~ Dr. Greg Blanch, NMSU Interim Director of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management

She now leads the college’s hospitality and tourism program, which offers students the opportunity to earn a certificate or an associate degree. This spring semester, the college will partner with New Mexico State University so students can easily continue on to earn a bachelor’s degree in hospitality at the Santa Fe Higher Education Center.

“Tourism is the second biggest industry in New Mexico, and as such it provides many management opportunities for our graduates,” said Dr. Greg Blanch, NMSU’s interim director of Hotel, Restaurant and Tourism Management. “We’re pleased to partner with SFCC in this academic endeavor.”

According to recent U.S. Bureau of Labor statistics, approximately 9,800 jobs in Santa Fe are in the leisure and hospitality industries. Salaries range from $35,000 to $90,000. This fall’s Introduction to Tourism class included young students as well as industry professionals (from housekeepers to front desk managers) who are interested in upgrading their skills to move into management positions.

Christy Sandoval, 18, has been working the past year and a half for Heritage Hotels and Resorts (Hotel Chimayo, Hotel St. Francis, the Palacio de Marquesa in Taos and The Lodge at Santa Fe) as a reservation agent. “What I love about working in this industry is meeting many different kinds of people and listening to the stories they have to tell. I am very interested in pursuing a corporate position in the hospitality industry and am working not only for my business and management degree but also for my hospitality certificate.”

Another Santa Fe native, Jonathan Armijo, 26, is Hotel Santa Fe’s transportation supervisor and has worked at the hotel for six years. “I enjoy everything about the hospitality industry,” he said. What he likes most about the class is learning about the financial end of the business. He hopes his education will help him “continue to move up” in the industry.

The front desk manager at the Inn on the Alameda, José Salgado, 39, is eager to learn more about the business, too. The hospitality student says the favorite part of his job is “assisting people to make them happy and enjoy Santa Fe.” He says since the Inn has opened a restaurant he has been learning more about food and beverage, as well as pairing wines with different foods.

No doubt he’s picking up tips from his classmate and co-worker, Jen Doughty, 36. She is the Inn’s Food and Beverage manager and also the Chef at Agoyo Lounge. Doughty says, “What I like about the hospitality industry is the people, the creative chaos and that it is hard and honest work.” She wants to continue studying the various aspects of the business. “There is always more to learn,” she said.

The students commented they all have learned from the guest speakers in the Introduction to Hospitality class. Speakers have included Rebecca Latham, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Tourism Department; Ed Pulsifer, Director of Sales at La Fonda; and Rick Verruni, Managing Director of Bishop’s Lodge and Resort & Spa. “Hospitality and tourism drive the economy all across New Mexico, and especially right here in Santa Fe,” said SFCC President Randy Grissom. “Now, thanks to our partnership with NMSU, students can finish an associate degree at SFCC and go on for a bachelor’s here in Santa Fe. NMSU has an excellent reputation in this field, and we are proud to bring their expertise to local students.”

For more information on SFCC’s Hospitality and Tourism program, contact Katherine Fox Ehlert at 505-428-1332 or