Hospitality Education - It's Time for a Sea of Change

By Jeffrey Catrett Dean, Kendall College Les Roches School of Hospitality Management | October 28, 2008

Imagine a world in which five and ten cent stores have faded from the landscape; a world in which Sears is no longer the dominant retailer, a world with no Marshall Field's and no Stern's and no Filene's. Imagine a world in which you can order your car in 256 different colors, yet General Motors struggles to survive against the onslaught of superior Japanese technology and European automotive styling. Imagine IBM selling solutions instead of mainframes. Imagine a world in which ABC, NBC and CBS must compete with 750 offerings including the Food Network and the Weather Channel.

It is not difficult really, for it has all come to pass, even though such a world was utterly unimaginable just thirty years ago. Now imagine a world in which Hilton, and Sheraton, and Marriott join Howard Johnson's, Statler, and Americana as fading icons of a time gone by. What started as product niching, through concept restaurants and boutique hotels supported by internet, is now a sea change in how the buying public is perceiving hospitality. The benefits of yesterday's standardization - reliable cleanliness and reservations - are now simply the expected attributes of any player in the game.

Today's increasingly travelled and savvy mid-scale and high-end customer no longer settles for "no bad surprises," seeking instead to be delighted outright. Increasingly, it is design, lifestyle harmonization, ambience, service style and delivery, creativity, flare and finesse that distinguish the winners from the losers. And it is precisely these very human elements of differentiation and customization, that do not conform to econometric models, defy focus group testing, and can only be measured and "proven" after the fact. Today's hospitality leaders need to be equipped not only with the scientific business skills to manage complex organizations, but also with the creative flare and aesthetic rigor to be able to bring together differentiated and consistent sensory and service experiences for increasingly discerning guests.

Nevertheless, today's hospitality education continues to embrace applied social science as the only source of teachable knowledge to future hospitality leaders. Academic conferences showcase endless streams of "scientific" research papers of questionable rigor and even more questionable relevance, and faculties seem unable to recognize that human knowledge is not only fact-based or scientific but also tradition-based or artistic, that arts are just as teachable and "scholarly" as are sciences.

In a recent discussion with the CEO of a major European hotel company, I asked about the restaurants he was putting back into his hotels. Specifically, I asked if he trusted concept development to his F&B people. He responded, "Oh God, no! I have people from fashion and theatre creating the ideas, and I just hope that the F&B people don't mess them up." Although there are certainly some very creative F&B managers in hotels, overall it is a damning commentary on hospitality education's inability to prepare leaders for the new world in which we find ourselves.

How we got to this juncture is easily traceable. It is the result of the legitimate improvement of hospitality education to face the needs of an evolving industry but also of academic status issues that are unique to university settings and have very little to do with the industry or even students.

Choose a Social Network!

The social network you are looking for is not available.


Hotel Newswire Headlines Feed  

Tina Stehle
Philip Farina
Dianna Vaughan
Prentice Howe
Brandon Edwards
S. Lakshmi Narasimhan
Philia Tounta
Robert O'Halloran
Clara Rose
Holly Zoba
Coming up in May 2019...

Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.