In early April, the NYU hospitality community opened its arms to welcome fellow hospitality students from the Northeast. From April 8th through the 10th at the Hotel Beacon on Broadway, NYU’s chapter of HSMAI (the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International) hosted its 11th Annual Intercollegiate Conference. The Intercollegiate Conference is a weekend event that welcomes hospitality students from Cornell University (“Cornell”), Boston University (“BU”), New York City College of Technology (“City Tech”), and new this year, students from Pennsylvania State University (“Penn State”). The weekend is comprised of a Friday night social, all-day conference on Saturday featuring panelists and discussions, and various hotel tours on Sunday. The evening is a great way for students to not only network with professionals, but to network with each other and make cross-school hospitality bonds that are invaluable.
This year’s Friday night social was held at the Expedia building on Madison Avenue. There, students were introduced to each other, had the opportunity to mix and mingle with Expedia professionals, and warm up to each other before the penultimate event of the weekend: the conference.
If students could not make it to the Friday night social, the one thing they should hope to attend is the Saturday conference. This year’s conference was titled: Digital Marketing | Data Analytics | Internship Success. The goal behind the title is that the entire day would feature professionals to act speakers of their respective expert topics in [hospitality] sales and marketing. But also, the conference title reflects the college’s presentations they would give to the room as well.
Saturday began with a breakfast catered by the Hotel Beacon, but students were encouraged to sit at tables with students from other colleges and universities. In the hospitality industry, you will be forced to speak and interact with people you do not know, and practicing that skill at any opportunity is a valuable experience. It did not take long for the volume of the room to increase as students were immediately lost in conversation with each other.
At 10:00am, opening remarks were given by Paula Giammanco and Consuela Hooblal, the Director of Collegiate Relations and President of the HSMAI Greater New York Chapter, respectively. They welcomed the students and introduced the keynote of the day, Alexander “Alex” Shashou.
Alex is the Co-Founder, and President, of ALICE, a guest experience management platform that enables hotels to deliver exceptional service. Alex spent most of his keynote speech urging us to be inspired and find our passions. As a graduate of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and an ex-Goldman Sachs employee, Alex left his Wall Street job to pursue his hospitality app full-time. He saw a hole in the hospitality industry, and he also recognized his passion, so he took the means to develop a team to help him achieve his goal. Alex even took the time to show the room how his app worked by hooking up his phone to the projector screen. You could hear the “oohs” and “ahhs” accumulate from the room amidst the select “That’s so cool!” comments. The keynote speech was the perfect way to get everyone excited for not only the rest of the conference, but the rest of their careers!
Following the keynote, students from Cornell and BU gave presentations about digital marketing. The students showcased what they learned from their classrooms and how the sales and marketing aspects of hospitality are not so structured; there’s a lot of room and varying positions within both departments that students might not have known about.
One of the Co-Chairs of HSMAI NYU, Kate, moderated the internship success panel. The panel featured Calvin Anderson, Vice President of Managed Services for Duetto Research, Greg Bodenlos, Brand Marketing Manager for The Charles Hotel, Kerry Mack, Executive Vice President of Revenue & Distribution for Highgate Hotels, and Josiah Mackenzie, Leader of Global Business Development at ReviewPro. The panel was full of young, and highly achieved marketing and technology experts, so their humor, excitement, and passion kept all the college students incredibly engaged. Students were raising their hands one after another to have their questions answered, and more often than none, all the panelists wanted to give their response to the questions. The purpose of the panel was to discuss internship success, and the positives and negatives of internships. The general consensus of the panel was that as someone just starting in the hospitality industry, you cannot avoid taking the “grunt work”-tailored jobs, because you will always find aspects of it that helped you learn. Students should find ways to take those experiences they did not really enjoy and use them to their advantage in future job interviews and show how they not only valued the experience, but how much they’ve grown as a person and professional from the experience. Success is not instant, and taking a job just because of the name will not always lead to success. It’s up to the student to be creative in how they take advantage of their internship experience to make themselves successful in the long-run.
The final presentation on Saturday was from Calvin Anderson of Duetto Research. He showed the room his virtual revenue strategy program that can figure out which niches of hotel guests (example: business travelers, group travelers, families, et cetera) are the most frequent of a hotel, at what point in the year, how many, how much revenue do they bring in/lose, and so much more. It was a highly analytical presentation, but you could hear in Calvin’s voice just how much he was proud of his work, and once again, the students of the room were incredibly impressed with his presentation. He’s another example of a professional who found a niche in understanding revenue in the hotel world and thus was a self-motivator to be the one to fill that gap in hospitality research.
On the last day of the conference, Sunday featured hotel tours. The offered hotels were The Baccarat hotel, The New York EDITION, The EVEN Times Square, the Knickerbocker Hotel, The Library Hotel New York, and The Paper Factory Hotel. Students had the option to pick as many hotels as they could logically fit into their schedules. The individuals from the hotel properties who were giving the tours were more than happy, and so incredibly welcoming to hosting students not only from New York City and the surrounding area, but from all over the Northeast region. As for students, they were given a behind-the-scenes look as to how luxury hotels, lifestyle hotels, and more operate. Students who went to multiple hotel tours were thus able to see just how different each and every individual hotel is; uniforms are different, the types of food and beverage options are different, and overall atmospheres are apparently different.
Overall, the 11th Annual Intercollegiate Conference was yet another success. It would not have been possible without the HSMAI chapter executive boards of each college and university in attendance, the HSMAI Greater New York Collegiate Relations Committee, and the students who signed up and took the time out of their busy lives to connect and grow professionally. No one has any doubt that the 12th Annual Intercollegiate Conference will be just as amazing, if not, even better.