This weekend I made the four-hour drive to Ithaca, N.Y., from my home in New Jersey, for The Hotel Ezra Cornell (HEC), the annual hospitality conference—now in its 86th year—organized and managed by students in Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. I came away from the conference with a great deal of confidence in our industry’s next generation of leaders.
If I hadn’t known that the entire conference was staffed and managed by students, I wouldn’t have been any the wiser. In fact, when retrieving my car from the valet, ordering lunch, or seeking information at the conference itself, I often found myself forgetting that I was actually talking to college students. So, take that as a compliment, hospitality education schools, not only Cornell, but also many of the other universities I’ve encountered over my tenure as editor of Lodging. Today’s hospitality students seem very prepared to cultivate the future of the industry.
My opinion was strengthened this weekend not only by the professional service, delicious food preparation, and one heck of an interesting conference, but also, by what became my favorite part of the weekend—the HEC Showcase. The HEC Showcase featured a number of creative business plans conceived by Cornell “hotelies” and “foodies.”
Completed as part of their class work, these students have spent the semester conceiving plans for startup businesses concerning travel, hospitality, and food service. The HEC Showcase offers a chance for the alumni and other attendees of the conference to discuss the students’ plans, and vote for winners. The topics range from finance to marketing to operations to restaurant concepts.
Among the students I discussed plans with were Linda Gain and Karli Miller-Hornick, both seniors, who developed a web-based business concept that addresses one of the biggest trends of the day in both hotels and restaurants-sourcing locally grown foods. The website acts as a networking catalyst for local procurement through a virtual farmer’s market. Another concept created by Kendall Martin, Tareq Ali, Chase Tarantino, and Eva Simitch Warke centers on a bike-sharing program for Cornell students. Students will purchase a subscription that allows them to rent uniquely designed bicycles for trips around campus. The idea struck me as being suitable for resorts as well.
Additional concepts involved mini-hotels within airports that could accommodate travelers enduring layovers and a food truck that makes buying Asian delicacies convenient and quick.
All of these concepts, as well as the plethora of others at the showcase, each addressed significant areas of need for the hospitality industry. It’s nice to know that the today’s hospitality students are paying attention to the industry and have a keen awareness of where it’s heading in the near future.
It’s been well documented that the hospitality industry, like many others, will soon see a shift in leadership as baby boomers retire and today’s youth works itself into the mix. Judging from what I’ve seen recently as we here at Lodging have set forth to examine the up-and-coming generation of hospitality leaders, the future looks very bright indeed.
You can read more about The Hotel Ezra Cornell, as well as hospitality education around the world, in the coming days on this website as well as the upcoming issues of Lodging.