San Francisco Advantage

HMA Travels to the Heart of where it is happening - New York City!

by Megan Austin, Junior majoring in Hospitality Management

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On November 9-11, 2014, the 99th Annual Hotel Motel and Restaurant Show (IHMRS) drew hospitality management industry professionals from across the world to New York City. Each year, the USF Hospitality Management Association (HMA) selects a group of students to attend this major event for ultimate exposure to industry professionals. This year, I, along with Simone Aguilar, Colette Chaubert, Easton Mayordomo, Marci Nakamura, Brittany Ong, Eleanor Spencer, and Jo Zhou, was fortunate enough to attend. Along with our club Advisor, Michael Collins, Ph.D., we attended keynote panels, information sessions, and visited the trade show floor, which exhibited over 650 hospitality industry vendors.

"Our students are preparing for careers in which they will be responsible for successfully executing meetings, trade shows, and similar events,” states Collins. “Consequently, it is important that they understand the trade show experience from the customer's perspective. For many, attending this trade show is the first time that they get experience as a participant first-hand. This can be quite eye-opening, as they face the challenge of navigating from the airport, to the city's center, getting registered into their hotel room (which may not be ready when they first arrive), catching a shuttle-bus to the convention center, and walking a massive trade-show floor."

Aligned with my personal interests, I attended a session on revenue optimization titled, “Will the New Norm be a DORM (Director of Revenue & Marketing)?” Speakers Calvin Anderson and Max Starkov discussed how to keep occupancy rates high under a strict budget, while planning for unforeseen changes (i.e. harsh weather, time of year, or major events) that may impact your bottom line.

A few of us also attended a keynote panel discussion lead by Vail R. Brown, Warren Marr, Jamie Lane, and Peter C. Yesawich titled, “U.S. Lodging Industry Summit” that discussed growth in the industry - millennials introducing new trends and leadership styles; threats - including Airbnb as a competitor to the hotel industry; and, technology - advancements that could have a huge effect on the industry, such as smart phone check-in and using your phone as a room key. This was my favorite session, as I was able to learn about a wide range of topics in a short amount of time.

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USF Hospitality Management Association
USF Hospitality Management Association

In addition to attending the conference, we took to New York City where we toured three hotels and a Michelin Star restaurant. We visited the Algonquin, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, the Plaza Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, and Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern. We were able to see the ins-and-outs of the different properties and establish connections within. Throughout each of the tours, we were encouraged to ask many questions and in doing so, learned a great deal about the history of these properties. Kathy Piñeda, Sales Executive at the Algonquin, went above and beyond by taking us to the Marriott Marquis and Marriott Renaissance locations in Times Square, in addition to the Algonquin. Her efforts to ensure we had a good experience with the Marriott were amazing! Though the trade show is geared toward industry professionals and business owners, it was exciting to see the many new vendors, businesses, exhibits, and products available today. HMA President Marci Nakamura shared, “I like that the trade show showcased the work of students from various Universities. It was amazing to see the talent they had with carving food and using blown sugar technique to create dramatic presentations of cake decoration and sculptures. What I appreciated most was the great advice provided by industry professionals through the various speaker sessions.”

In addition to attending the conference, we took to New York City where we toured three hotels and a Michelin Star restaurant. We visited the Algonquin, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, the Plaza Hotel, the Mandarin Oriental, and Danny Meyer’s Gramercy Tavern. We were able to see the ins-and-outs of the different properties and establish connections within. Throughout each of the tours, we were encouraged to ask many questions and in doing so, learned a great deal about the history of these properties. Kathy Piñeda, Sales Executive at the Algonquin, went above and beyond by taking us to the Marriott Marquis and Marriott Renaissance locations in Times Square, in addition to the Algonquin. Her efforts to ensure we had a good experience with the Marriott were amazing!

HMA Vice President Eleanor Spencer, a leader in planning the trip, said, "In touring a variety of hotels and restaurants, we gained a heightened understanding of different types of hospitality establishments. We now have a greater sense of the type of company and company culture we’d like to join upon graduation.”

Overall, I’m confident in saying that HMA’s trip to IHMRS was a huge success. As students, it was incredibly valuable to experience the industry firsthand; from expert keynote panels to behind-the-scenes tours to networking with successful professionals, we saw it all! I feel lucky to have represented the University of San Francisco on this incredible trip.

Now I’m considering continuing on to culinary school in New York!