The following interview was conducted with Dean Graf and written by junior and Tisch Center social media student worker, Haley Park.
Can you provide an overview of the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference? What are some key themes and topics that will be discussed at the conference?
For two and a half days, New York City becomes the center for the hospitality world. This year will be the 41st conference, bringing together key industry leaders at the c-suite level from several Western hotel and travel groups. The key theme for this year will be technology. For example, Google will be discussed, specifically how people are now able to book their travel directly through Google without a travel booking site. The discussion of Marriott and Accor Hotels’ new loyalty program will also be discussed.
Recently, hotels have been striving to come up with a richer loyalty program from an experiential standpoint. Accor Hotels recently signed a multi-year deal with an athletic team in Paris, PSG, which includes preferred seats and VIP treatment. Marriott is driving out a similar program with Manchester United. Companies are expanding their loyalty programs beyond just a complimentary free room. We are expecting a lot of discussion about this topic.
Hilton, the diamond sponsor of reception, will be celebrating its 100th year anniversary. Their CFO, who is also on the advisory board of the Tisch Center, will give a welcome address. Additionally, their CEO will also be honored with the Irefac C. Everett Johnson Award. On the topic of awards, Geoff Ballotti will be receiving the Stephen W. Brenner Silver Plate Award. There will be great keynote speakers, one of whom is Robert De Niro: he will be there with his two business partners, Chef Nobu Matsuhisa and Meir Teper. They will discuss how Nobu initially started as a restaurant brand, now moving into the minimalist hotel concept.
The conference will also focus on two unique case studies, the TWA Hotel at JFK and the destination of Puerto Rico. On the topic of TWA, the financial aspect of the project will be specifically mentioned. In terms of Puerto Rico, the governor of Puerto Rico will be speaking about Hurricane Maria that hit the country in 2017. He will be talking about the strategy that the government has put in place to use tourism as the primary engine for economic and social recovery. The country has created a real strategy to bring investment, talent and travelers to the island. On Monday evening, the evening reception will be Puerto-Rican themed.
Why is this conference important for the industry and is there anything else you’d like to share?
This is important for the industry, faculty, and students for various reasons. It’s specifically important for the Tisch center because it enables faculty and students to be in contact with industry leaders and gain first hand insights into what’s currently happening. It allows students to network with future potential employers, and the conference really serves as a source of inspiration for them.
In terms of the keynote speakers, there is a greater representation of women. This increased diversity is a good sign that the industry is becoming more diverse at the leadership level. The conference also provides significant scholarship money by lowering the cost of education. We are the only hotel investment conference that is non-profit and we are using all of that money to be able to attract the best talent. The industry is making entry level positions more attractive because the cost of education has decreased. It’s also important to recognize the people who make this event possible. This event truly could not happen without the efforts of Jonathan M. Tisch, chair of the conference, Jeffrey Stewart, co-chair of the conference, and Dorothy Jennings, conference coordinator. Lastly, on an exciting note, we will be holding a similar conference in NYU Shanghai next April.