Connecting with the Future Leaders in Hospitality

I had the opportunity to meet with students in a NYU hospitality business class this week (virtually), and the level of engagement and enthusiasm via zoom from students all over the world was inspiring. After a very difficult year in the field they’ve chosen to study, it’s great to see the positive outlook and eagerness to learn from our future leaders in our industry.

I was invited to speak during a class topic of EQ (emotional quotient) and its importance in leadership and the workplace. Now more than ever, emotional intelligence and empathy are critical for not only the teams we manage and for our peers, but also for our partners, hotel staff and guests. We get stuck in hitting our numbers or another negative news story, but we can’t forget the people. Everyone is feeling the effects of confinement, distance learning, sickness, loss or unemployment, and we need to directly communicate with and care for those around us. 

This should be something every manager and leader does, despite COVID. But maybe the extra hand washing, social distancing and stricter cleaning will not be the only lessons learned from the past 12+ months.

The purpose of my talk was to share my history in the hospitality industry and the changes of technology over that time (I may have dated myself). They asked smart questions around the impacts of the pandemic on our industry and Angie, good bosses v. bad bosses and the massive increase of voice technology. Two questions that stood out to me included:

Do we use the Blue Ocean strategy? The marketing strategy asserts that “strategic moves create a leap in value for the company, its buyers and its employees while unlocking new demand and making the competition irrelevant.” This stood out because our industry was turned upside down. We focused on building out our products and functionality, investing in our teams and creating new ways to help our partners and customers. One of those changes for Angie is our new subscription pricing. This gives hotels the opportunity to upgrade, differentiate and address the need for a contactless journey, without the upfront costs typically required in the industry. It assists stretched staff and creates a modern, more comfortable guest journey. I love the connection from books to real life situations! 

How do you accommodate market segments that may not be tech savvy? The global voice recognition market size was forecasted to grow from USD $10.7 billion in 2019 to $27.16 billion by 2025. The education and use cases in other industries will transfer into hotels, and many travelers already use voice technology at home. For those who still might struggle, it’s about empathy and the art of hospitality. Front desk agents and other hotel workers are still there to answer questions and fulfill requests, and they can help educate how to use the hotel technology as needed. 

I’m grateful for the opportunity to discuss what’s happening in the industry and am encouraged by these students’ resiliency during this time. Getting into a world-renowned university and patiently logging in from home until it’s safe to return (while staying engaged) must be a challenge. But there is light at the end of the tunnel, and I’m hopeful they will get the true college experience before embarking on their careers. Hopefully our discussion encouraged them to continue pushing forward. We are going to have some smart, gritty, empathetic leaders in the future.