Pictured at the industry immersion workshop are (from left) Sheryl Kline, chair of the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, John Timmerman of Marriott and Sri Beldona, graduate director of HRIM.

HRIM immersion workshop

Lerner graduate students engage with hospitality industry leaders

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2:41 p.m., Feb. 26, 2013--Students in the Hospitality Business Management (HBM) master of science degree program in the Alfred Lerner College of Business and Economics at the University of Delaware recently participated in an exclusive five-day Industry Immersion Workshop Series to learn about challenging and emerging topics in the hospitality industry.

Held in the Marriott Learning Center at the Courtyard Newark-University of Delaware on campus, the series gave students the chance to engage and connect with business leaders and learn about hotel business analytics, public policy imperatives, revenue management and leadership.

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According to Srikanth Beldona, director of Hospitality Graduate Studies, the series achieved the larger goal of effectively complementing industry perspectives with the HBM curriculum where the focus is on equipping students with analytical tools to solve business problems in the industry.

Steve Hood, senior vice president of research at Smith Travel Research, manages his company’s relationships with the government and educational community and conducts research-related activities. The workshop began with his presentation on hotel business analytics.

Shaniel Bernard, a student in the HBM program, called Hood’s presentation informative and effective, noting he helped students understand “how each player in the industry affects another based on variables like profitability and competitiveness.”

“The session provided an important tool that any manager would need to evaluate their hotel’s performance,” added Nguyen Tran in reference to Hood’s explanation of STAR reports, an industry benchmark used by many national and international hotels to track property performance, including occupancy, ADR (average daily rate) and RevPAR (revenue per available room). 

“I learned about index numbers, percent changes and their meanings and most importantly acquired the skills to interpret numbers and then make suggestions for improvements,” said Tran.

Students also learned about hospitality leadership from Kathy Smith, a 1978 UD graduate and former senior vice president of human resources for the Ritz Carlton Hotel Company, LLC.

Smith conducted interactive exercises with the students to help them understand how to find, hire and engage employees.

“She highlighted the importance of understanding the business culture of organizations and recognizing the need to find aligning talent,” said Reshma Khan, an HBM graduate student. “She conducted interactive and enjoyable exercises to help us analyze the interview process, discern capabilities of individuals and formulate a game plan to refine a particular skill using strategy and application.”

Khan was also grateful for the timing of Smith’s presentation.

“The exercises she gave us were particularly useful for those students who are close to graduating and entering the job stream.” 

Another theme of the workshop included quality and innovation in the hospitality industry, conducted by John Timmerman, chairman of the board at the American Society for Quality and vice president for global guest experience and room operations at Marriott International, Inc.

Timmerman, a 2009 graduate of the Department of Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management, is responsible in his current role for rooms, spa, retail and environmental disciplines for all Marriott brands.

“Mr. Timmerman emphasized the internalization of striving for quality not only as a professional imperative but also as a critical part of personal beliefs,” Khan said. “He also spoke at length about the importance of spotting trends, identifying opportunities and using these prospects strategically. His insight into developing marketing strategies using innovation in real situations offered us an opportunity to experience the business world first hand.”

Khan also said Timmerman stressed the value of focusing not just on the functional needs but also on the emotional engagement of guests as a vital part of hospitality service.

Scott Dahl, vice president of revenue management at Hersha Hospitality, conducted a section on revenue management and related analytics.

With over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry and the former owner of Hotel Revenue Resources Inc. consulting practice, Dahl has worked with clients on strategic revenue management tools and was involved in software development for revenue management in the industry.

Serena Shen, an HBM student, called the session her favorite and noted while she has learned about revenue management from in-class examples Dahl’s presentation afforded the students real-life business scenarios.

“We had the chance to play with real data and figures from Hersha properties,” said Shen. “In one exercise we tried to figure out how we could improve the property’s pricing. It was amazing that all the details in the pricing were actually manually produced and we learned that there are almost always places we can look to improve the numbers.”

Carrie Leishman, president and chief executive officer of Delaware Restaurant Association, the not-for-profit leading trade association for the restaurant industry in the state, presented on public policy imperatives in the hospitality industry.

Leishman placed the students in groups to engage them in discussions on how public policy issues affect the hospitality industry.

Bernard, whose group discussed immigration issues in relation to the industry, said, “I felt strongly about this controversial topic but was rewarded to learn how to discuss the issues in an objective manner. Ms. Leishman was very passionate about public policy and she also gave us useful suggestions to consider for our final research projects.”

All students who successfully participated in the five-day workshop earned certificates of completion.

Article by Kathryn Meier

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