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May 27, 2010
No industry is exempt from the need to grow and evolve. The strongest, most vibrant and most enduring American industries are those that not only adapt to changing circumstances, but consistently manage to maintain a position of prominence at the forefront of the national cultural, social and economic landscape; leading the way with bold vision, inspired ideas and trend-setting innovation.

For the hospitality industry, the obligation to maintain its place as one of those cornerstone industries is particularly pressing. The hospitality industry's position at the center of a competitive environment influenced by so many facets of business and society is both a privilege and a burden. The wide range of issues and the complexity of the challenges hoteliers and other industry professionals face every day is staggering: the people, places and programs that populate this unique industry are influenced by developments in everything from design, technology and finance, to social and media trends. And because the sustained economic challenges of recent years industry have had a significant on the industry, the need to work hard today to help build a future generation of hospitality pioneers is more important than ever.

In this economic and sociocultural context, it’s more relevant and vital than ever to focus on educating and training the next generation of hoteliers. In an industry where things can change dramatically from one day to the next, the ability to anticipate, to be flexible, and to approach the future with vigor and inspiration will continue to be the hallmark of sustained success. Fortunately, visionary professionals and experienced educators across the industry and throughout higher education are already looking forward, working to educate and inspire the next generation of hospitality leaders and innovators about the trends and ideas that will shape the future of hospitality. The topics range from new technologies to broadened perspectives and encompass everything from Facebook to face cards, sustenance to sustainability, and from gustatory palette-pleasers to global pilot programs. Here are a few examples:

The growing prominence of recreational gaming in our collective social consciousness has prompted many industry observers to predict gaming will continue to emerge as an integral part of a comprehensive entertainment offering. As a consequence of this trend, a number of higher education institutions that offer hospitality programs and hotel, restaurant and institutional management degrees have begun to address these issues with greater urgency and introduce them into the curriculum. At Penn State University, the school's widely respected School of Hospitality Management recently implemented a specialized Gaming and Casino Management program.

Food research and innovation
As evidenced by the exploding popularity of food networks, cooking shows and culinary superstars, Americans are paying more attention than ever to what goes on their plates and into their bodies. Along with this new appreciation for food preparation and service comes a corresponding awareness of the importance of supporting sustainability initiatives and environmentally friendly practices. Forward-thinking universities, including Penn State's Center for Food Innovation, are researching new ideas, encouraging exploration and innovation and emphasizing the importance of continuing to provide the industry with impartial, unparalleled information and products developed to promote nutritious food offerings.

International Programs
Today's dramatically more globalized and diversified workforce is the inevitable byproduct of the blurring of borders and boundaries; both geophysical and cultural. The explosive growth of the Internet and other communication technologies and the corresponding ability to step on a plane and travel to the other side of the globe with relative ease has brought the planet ever closer to the idea of a global marketplace.

The hospitality professionals of tomorrow will need to demonstrate an enhanced degree of cultural fluency, and an understanding of emerging markets in Asia, China, India and South America is likely to be especially important. It is a testament to the value of informed international perspectives that a number of hospitality training and education programs have implemented exchange programs and other structured overseas work and education experiences.

Social Media
One of the most dynamic areas of growth both inside and outside the industry, the explosive popularity of social media is an example of how a seminal cultural trend can spill over into the business world. The best undergraduate and post-grad programs have developed curricula that work to prepare students to professionally engage in these exciting but potentially volatile new technologies and ideas.

The mentorship programs, hands-on personal instruction and real-world experience provided by some of the best universities and graduate programs accentuate these lessons and deliver vital information and experience in a way that resonates with hospitality students.

The bottom line for the next generation of hospitality professionals is that innovation is paramount, and a willingness to keep one finger on the metaphorical pulse of culture and business will continue to be a key ingredient for professional success. Stale ideas and outdated skills will not be able to keep pace; leaders need to be nimble to anticipate change and respond to the twists and turns of this rapidly evolving industry.

There is more information out there than ever before, and ensuring that information is clearly communicated and successfully absorbed is the best way to prepare today's students and tomorrow's hospitality industry professionals for a vibrant and prosperous future.

Lea Ann Kish is an IAHI board member, the chairperson of the Holiday Inn Committee, the chief operating officer of Milestone Hospitality Management, an associate board member of the Penn State Hotel and Restaurant Society and participates in Penn State School of Hospitality Management's Mentorship Program.

About Milestone
Milestone is a leading full-service real estate development company specializing in the ownership and operation of hotel assets. Since 1996, Milestone has acquired 22 hotel properties located in eight states totaling 3,439 rooms. The Milestone Portfolio currently consists of 15 hotels located in seven states totaling 2,552 rooms. For more information about our company, please visit us online at

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