Developing the Next Generation of Hospitality Professionals in Global Distribution

By Mike Kistner President, Chief Executive Officer & Chairman of the Board, Pegasus Solutions | May 05, 2010

What if there was an easier way? What if we could bring up the next generation of travel distribution professionals with an accelerated education plan that helped them circumvent the traditional 25-year plan? Of course, there's nothing that can replace real-world experience, but can't we try to replicate our industry understanding in a classroom environment or through mentoring?

Too often, we graduate, leave the classroom and stop learning for good. Some, in a down economy, will return to earn new degrees or certifications. But, for the most part, we enter the real world, and so begins the long, tedious process of on-the-job training. In the first year of our professional lives we say, "I wish they had taught me this or that," but we rarely call our professors and give the suggestion a chance at life in the classroom. Instead, we share it down the road as a supervisor to the new junior employee, when that helpful tidbit becomes a bullet in a list of new items to assimilate with client demands and day-to-day headaches. The chance to turn that "wish they had" into an actual item on a curriculum is past, and yet another class of young professionals is set on the 25-year plan.

Some industry organizations actually harness the "wish they had" mentality to address hospitality technology issues, including distribution. For example, Hotel Technology Next Generation (HTNG) features workgroups that bring industry constituencies together - hoteliers, vendors, consultants, and others - to address pressing needs. By including both large and small member companies in various workgroups, from the technology buyers at the hotel level to the technology sellers at the vendor level, they allow the creation of industry standards that can incorporate lessons learned from the perspective of new and veteran professionals.

As the industry "experts," we have an obligation to the next generation of hospitality professionals to educate them on the distribution challenges we face as an industry every day. We need to accelerate the learning curve so they can immediately begin offering valuable solutions once they enter the workforce. If their work with central reservations systems (CRSs) was limited to yesterday's green screens instead of today's sophisticated enterprise solutions, then they might as well be confirming reservations with a Telex machine.

Other trade groups offer educational opportunities in terms of online and distance learning, seminars, conferences, textbooks and networking. In 2008, the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) published Demystifying Distribution 2.0, a must read detailing the basics, importance and impact of aligning proper distribution channels to match brand messaging. The American Hotel & Lodging Institute, the educational arm of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, provides materials for all levels of hospitality personnel and professional certifications. Additionally, the Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association (HEDNA) places such a value on education that it actually lists "educating industry members" as one of its primary objectives.

On the vendor side, some next generation learning programs do exist. For example, the University of Delaware School of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management actually provides hands-on global reservation and distribution training to hospitality and e-commerce students using Pegasus' RezView(R) NG CRS. We donated RezView NG and team hours to the school for the sole purpose of better equipping our future workforce. But, for the rest of us who can't be leading in the classroom, we can fulfill our obligation by providing guidance to our young talent through mentoring. Think of it as Tuesdays with Morrie for travel distribution. What would you teach your student "Mitch" to help him understand today's travel distribution landscape and shave a few years off his learning curve? I have a few suggestions.

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