Hospitality Students Talk Trends, Challenges and Endless Possibilities in Today’s Industry

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Ariel and Melissa are both college students studying hospitality at the Rochester Institute of Technology, as well as members of their local HFTP student chapter and were volunteers at HITEC 2018 in Houston, Texas this past June. They have provided an inside look into what it is like to study for a career in hospitality, best practices they believe ultimately lead to a successful career, trends and challenges prevalent in today’s industry, and much more.

What made you choose a career in the hospitality industry, and what sector most interests you?

Ariel: I thought that any job that would allow me to travel would be ideal. I quickly learned that the industry is much larger than just traveling. Now, I love doing events. There is no greater joy for me than when all your hard work pours into an event and people deem it successful.

Melissa: For most of my hospitality career thus far, my interest has been in hotels. Working in a hotel allows you to experience many other sectors within, such as: operations, food and beverage, events/catering and sales — while providing a unique insight on how all of these pieces come together to create a full experience.

What are some important trends taking place in the industry today?

Melissa: Technology is obviously a huge trend that is evolving on a daily basis. There has been a lot of discussion on how technology will change our industry, and whether or not hospitality will start to become less about human connection. I believe that if done correctly, technology can help free up some of our time so that we can focus more attention on making sure our guests are happy.

Ariel: One of my favorite trends is in “green hospitality.” It is not news that the earth is polluted or that we waste energy, or even that we do things that are toxic to the environment. I love when I see the hospitality industry embrace the need for change in how we operate and are thinking on a larger scale — for example, the “bamboo everything” trend. It fills a need and is environmentally friendly. That is a fantastic way to think.

Melissa: A major talking point on the [green initiative] subject has been getting rid of plastic straws, and companies like Starbucks and Marriott have been very vocal about implementing that change.

What are some challenges that you think face future hospitality professionals?

Ariel: Technology is a wonderful thing, but the industry is still a people’s industry. You will always have that need to make things easier with the use of technology, but people still love that human interaction aspect. Future professionals should never stop trying to find that balance.

Melissa: It is challenging to be part of a field that is constantly evolving, but I also think that is what draws so many people to hospitality. This year, I attended the Hotel Show in New York City, the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago, and HITEC in Houston — which I believe are all a great way to network and stay up-to-date on trends.

What most excites you about a career in hospitality?

Melissa: The endless opportunities that this industry provides are exciting to me! The more you network and the harder you work, the more doors seem to open for you. The right attitude and passion can take you far, and no two days are ever the same. Also, this industry provides the opportunity to meet such a diverse group of people, hear their stories and make connections like no other industry.

Ariel: People will remember you if you are good at what you do, and you could eventually end up somewhere you never thought you would. Having a career in hospitality is one big adventure, planned or unplanned, and that is the most exciting part for me.

How have your studies prepared you for your future career?

Melissa: A typical hospitality curriculum is pretty diverse. Aside from general education requirements, you typically take hospitality courses in many different sectors. I think this pushes students out of their comfort zone and allows them to experience parts of the industry they may not have otherwise.

Ariel: Each class has helped me in some way, but it does not compare to hands-on experience. I got [my current job] through being involved on campus outside of class hours. You are always networking, even if you are only doing so with your peers.

We have a professor here that I have never taken a class with, but because I am very active with events, she came to me when a job position opened up at a local hotel. When I applied, I did so with the intention of not getting the job (the joke was on me because I ended up getting the job). I would not have even been given this opportunity if not for putting myself out there, and not just focusing on going to class and going to work/home.

What do you find most beneficial about being involved with HFTP and being part of a HFTP student chapter?

Ariel: The student chapter here is great! I have only been a part of it for one semester, but you are given an amazing resource if you join. As soon as I joined, I was given access to a network of established industry professionals that I can reach out to at any time. You are given continuous updates about industry trends, which our officers would thoroughly research further, and then present the information at our meetings.

Melissa: Being involved with HFTP through the Rochester Institute of Technology student chapter has been such a beneficial experience for me. HFTP offers free membership to students, which gives them access to so many great resources. We are able to connect with local chapters, which is a wonderful networking opportunity. HFTP also sends out publications to keep you in the loop on industry trends, as well as upcoming events that you can attend.

This summer, I was fortunate enough to attend the HITEC convention on behalf of HFTP which created networking opportunities I had never imagined. I was meeting CEOs and COOs, entrepreneurs paving the way for the future of hospitality, along with HFTP CEO Frank Wolfe. Each and every one of them was interested in our individual stories and goals, and took the time to introduce us to other industry professionals.


HFTP is Proud to Support Students Studying for the Hospitality Industry

The HFTP General Scholarship Fund assists the next generation of hospitality professionals who are currently studying for their advanced degree. To learn more about how scholarships help advance future professionals to advance the industry, read up on “The Importance of Academic Scholarships: Investing in Future Hospitality Leaders.”

To learn more about how you can support scholarships through the HFTP Helps initiative at the 2018 Annual Convention this fall, read up on “HFTP Partners with NAF to Help High School Students ‘Be Future Ready’ in Hospitality, Finance and Technology.”

Ready to make a contribution to the future of hospitality?
Click Here to Donate to the HFTP General Scholarship Fund Today. >>


Briana Gilmore is the HFTP communications coordinator.
Briana can be reached at Briana.Gilmore@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4017.

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