Hospitality Marketing Faculty Share Student Perceptions of the Industry

By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

The HSMAI Foundation continues to explore how the pandemic is affecting the talent pipeline, specifically within hospitality schools, and continued this conversation during its recent Hospitality School Marketing Faculty Forum. Participants included marketing faculty from hospitality schools including Boston University School of Hospitality, Missouri State University, New York University, Northern Arizona University, Purdue University, Red River College Polytech, Temple University, and University of Nevada Las Vegas. The following discussion points were uncovered during this meeting.

What is the lasting impact of the global pandemic on student morale and motivation?

  • There’s uncertainty around the future and the sentiment of “why work for a company if they don’t care about me.”
  • Interest in a hospitality career is fading.
  • Some students are craving in-person interaction, while others are overwhelmed.
  • Some students still prefer the virtual format, and others aren’t performing optimally in the classroom.
  • They have concerns about mental health and wellbeing.
  • The industry will recover, and the demand for graduates should be strong over the next few years.

What are the student perceptions of marketing career opportunities when they start your class?

  • Many are not aware of the diversity of career options. Most are only aware of advertising or social media marketing careers, or only think of marketing as promotion.
  • Many think they’re not going to make a lot of money, but it could be a fun profession.
  • They don’t fully comprehend marketing’s role in a company’s success.
  • Some consider it a creative and dynamic career opportunity.

What do you tell students in your class that excites them about this career path?

  • There’s a mix of creativity with strategy and an opportunity to think like a marketer, act like an owner.
  • Marketing offers many diverse career options and is needed for any career in hospitality.
  • The field offers creativity and project-oriented work.
  • Branding and marketing skill sets have universal applicability.

What recent shifts have you observed in students’ career interests?

  • Marketing analytics
  • Social media
  • Financial
  • Hotel development and real estate
  • Blending events and marketing for brand activations
  • Entrepreneurship

What is a best practice for increasing student interest in marketing classes?

  • Incorporating real-world opportunities, focusing on experiences
  • Industry presentations, guest speakers, and field trips
  • Attractive salaries
  • Creating interest and then letting students know there is a career path
  • Demonstrating a diversity of careers in the introductory marketing courses and connecting students with industry and work on applied projects.

During the forum, marketing faculty leaders also ranked internships, mentorships, and career planning and placement resources as the top ways to encourage students to pursue marketing careers.

Many faculty shared in the frustrations that students have in securing that first job, especially in any of the commercial areas right out of school. This was validated by the fact that internships and mentorships were the top-rated resources for students.

As an industry, we all need to do our part. What is your company doing to actively engage current students in internships at your hotel or company? Can they help fill any gaps you have in your talent needs? Internships are a great way for a student to get to know you and for you to get to know them as a prospective team member. Not only can you share the benefits of being in hospitality, but you can show them the variety of robust career paths that are available by sharing your story.

There is an entire spectrum of what can be defined as “mentorship.” Whether it’s a structured one-on-one program or simply having a conversation with someone who admires you as a role model, you can make a difference by setting an example of what a rewarding career can be like in hospitality.

Make a short-term and long-term impact now by reaching out and engaging with a hospitality student near you. Short term, every business needs talent today. Long term, you may help launch a successful career for someone who will be loyal to hospitality for a lifetime.

Categories: Marketing
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