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Students Showcase Skills in Market Study Competition

When it comes to showcasing their knowledge in hospitality industry analytics, our students can hold their own! For the first time, two Hilton College teams competed in the 2018 STR Student Market Study Competition, held each year during the HX: The Hotel Experience in New York City – and they made quite the impressive first showing!  

Graduate students Maggie Cai, Arfa Khan, Jeanine Panzica, Laura Resco and Ting-Bin Wu took home fourth place honors, and undergraduates (pictured from left) James Fos, John Hodges, Katherine Zudock, Lam Le and Kevin McCaslin were given honorable mention, placing fifth among 31 teams from around the world.  

This year’s event was held on November 12 at the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, where each team presented their analysis of a major metropolitan market in front of a panel of industry judges. Preparation for the presentation began this past August, after the teams were selected based on their aptitude and interest through faculty recommendations.  

Smith Travel Research (STR), one of the largest data collection and service companies in the hospitality industry provided the students with a comprehensive set of reports and data to research and analyze. The graduate team analyzed the Houston market, while the undergraduate team chose New York. Professor Agnes DeFranco, Assistant Professor Minwoo Lee and Instructional Assistant Professor Arlene Ramirez helped the students with data gathering and financial perspectives.  

“The students spent countless hours on this project, going above and beyond their regular coursework,” Ramirez said. “They did everything on their own, and we were only there to provide guidance. It’s also commendable how well everyone worked together, especially considering that some of them had never met when they were selected for the teams.”

Both teams acknowledged being nervous for their presentations, but they had each other’s backs. Several students from the Hotel Marketing New York Style class, also in NYC for the hotel show, came to show their support at the presentations. During rehearsals, the graduate team met Eric’s Club member Adele Gutman (’84), vice president of Sales, Marketing & Revenue for the Library Hotel Collection. 

"Ms. Gutman was also there to attend the hotel show, and she recognized we were from Hilton College because our team wore red,” Panzica said. “She was very encouraging, giving each of us her business card, and she welcomed us to reach out anytime. She said Hilton College alumni were so supportive of her when she was a student, and she was happy to pay it forward."

For several students on the undergraduate team, the competition opened their eyes to career opportunities in the field of data analytics and revenue management that they didn’t know existed.  

“This experience has definitely broadened my analytical skills. I came to the College determined to work in restaurants, but I’m now leaving with prospects for a job in revenue management,” said Zudock, who will graduate in December.

This competition is HARD. Ramirez said receiving fourth and fifth place honors speaks volumes about the quality and passion of our students, especially given that it was their first time to compete.

“When we returned from the hotel show, we all met to discuss the things we did well and the areas where we need to improve upon so that we can be even more competitive in future STR challenges,” she said. “Now that we know what to expect, we are looking forward to passing the torch – and an even bigger victory – on to next year’s teams!”

To learn more about the STR Competition, and how to apply for next year’s team, contact Professors DeFranco, Lee or Ramirez. And, click here to see more photos from the event.

Congratulations all around!

(Story & Photo: Pearl Cajoles)