Hilton College's First-ever Hospitality Hackathon Challenges Hospitality Students to Help the Industry
The University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, in partnership with Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®), are addressing the immediate need for creative and thoughtful solutions that will assist hospitality companies to put their businesses back on track. To begin this critical dialogue, they are challenging students in hospitality programs across the globe with the first-time Hilton College Hospitality Hackathon. The competition, running the course of the summer (June 1–August 8), asks participants to tackle COVID-19 head-on and address the challenges it has posed to all sectors of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry, and to develop solutions to move it forward.
“Our industry is hurting right now due to the devastating effects of this global pandemic. Without question, we will come back even stronger, but it will take ingenuity, resourcefulness and reinvention to get there,” said Dr. Dennis Reynolds, dean of Hilton College. “To help create cost effective and quickly implementable solutions to this unprecedented issue facing our industry, we are thrilled to partner with HFTP for the first ever HC3 Hilton College Hospitality Hackathon – the brainchild of our faculty.
“To have hospitality students from around the world identify new best practices is a perfect example of the kind of collaboration needed to get our industry back on its feet,” said Reynolds. “It is also a great way to harness the brilliant minds of those who will lead the global hospitality industry in the post-pandemic era.”
Two teams will be awarded first-place (undergrad and graduate) and will each receive a $3,000 USD scholarship to be divided equally among members. Teams placing first, second and third will all have the opportunity to present their winning hacks online at a specially-themed HFTP Global Hangout (virtual Zoom meeting), and will be recognized on social media and in other media and industry coverage.
“HFTP is very excited to have been approached by Hilton College to partner in an event like this” said Frank Wolfe, CAE, FIH, CEO of HFTP. “Through our global networks of young minds, we hope to aggregate a plethora of real-time solutions to industry challenges that are of little to no cost and can be implemented immediately.”
The challenge for participants is to submit innovative operational processes or initiatives to increase top-line revenue for the future viability of the business. The ideal “hack” should consider all of the following:
- Accommodates minimal or no capital investment
- Realizes implementation within 30 days or less
- Repurposes, redeploys or maximizes resources already available (e.g., existing software, staffing, current expenditure levels, amenities, or other assets)
- Provides a way to measure successful outcomes
- Complies with all local regulations
- Involves “lateral thinking” – no tunnel vision allowed – with the potential for use in other sectors
The idea for the HC3 was first proposed by Arlene D. Ramirez, CHAE, CHIA, CAHTA, CHE, Hilton College instructional assistant professor and HFTP Global past president. She floated the idea to hold a virtual student competition during the College’s spring faculty meeting. Dean Reynolds asked, “Are you offering to chair this?” and the job was hers.
"At Hilton College, ‘We Are Hospitality.’ This isn’t just a tagline. It’s how we operate – it’s who we are,” said Ramirez, who serves as the new executive director for HC3. “Part of hospitality is to be of service and to make things better for others. This competition truly represents the culture of community and collaboration that is Hilton College. The opportunity to embrace innovation with our peer programs via this problem-solving platform, as well as to present an exceptional learning opportunity for hospitality students worldwide, exemplifies our passion for the industry and is what HC3 is all about. This hackathon also allows all of us in hospitality education an exceptional forum to remind the industry of all of the great talent our programs produce. I am honored to be part of this inaugural experience.”
Assistant Professor Scott Taylor Jr., whose class was already working on ideas to tackle the effects of COVID-19 on the industry, volunteered to assist. Together, their concept to hold a competition quickly morphed into an international hospitality hackathon.
“Students have an interesting view of the industry,” said Taylor Jr., who serves as director of HC3. “Not only are they studying it, but they are also working in it and engaging as consumers. This affords them the ability to develop creative and novel ideas. We are beyond excited to see what the various teams around the world come up with to support our industry.”
Registration for HC3 is FREE and is now open. The entire Hackathon will be virtual. And there are no travel or related expenses involved, making it logistically simple to assemble teams. Universities are invited to register one undergraduate- and one graduate-level team (master’s and doctoral students). Winners will be announced August 8 via livestream. Visit Hilton College’s HC3 site for details on how to apply. For more information, contact Arlene Ramirez at +1 (713) 743-2445.