Industry leaders have welcomed last week's revelation that there has been a 30% jump in students applying to study a tourism-related degree this year.
The number of people applying to study tourism, travel and transport degrees starting this autumn has risen to 12,371, university admissions body UCAS said. A further 2,100 students have applied to study tourism-, transport- and travel-related subjects at foundation and HND level, the figures show.
The numbers are likely to rise as the snapshot of data was taken at UCAS's 15 January advisory closing date for UK and EU applicants - but it is possible to apply right up until the start of the academic year.
Grant Hearn, chief executive of Travelodge, described the increase as "fantastic news". "Despite the Government's obvious lack of enthusiasm for our industry, the potential of tourism is not lost on the students of today," he said. "We now need to inspire this next generation of professionals by providing real opportunity and some top-class role-models in business - not just another raft of celebrity chefs."
Kurt Janson, policy director at the Tourism Alliance, said the timing of the increase suggested that students might be being encouraged to join the sector in the lead-up to the 2012 Olympic Games.
"If this is the case, we may well be experiencing one of the first tourism-related benefits from hosting the Games," he added.
Bob Cotton, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association, also welcomed the figures, but said an accurate figure of those on catering and hospitality degree courses and how many applied from overseas would be more helpful to operators.
An industry source added a further note of caution, pointing out that the statistics were entirely dependent on how the colleges provided the raw data and how they categorised the courses. The source also warned that the majority of the graduates would end up in travel-related jobs, such as tour operators.
By Daniel Thomas