What is one piece of advice you give to young professionals starting a career in hospitality?

AG: I tell them to explore the many different segments of the profession before they get too far into it. Most people associate hospitality with hotels and resorts, but there are so many other paths to consider — food and beverage, travel and tourism, catering and events, corporate environments, health care, even education. Discover the opportunities and skill requirements for each segment. Hospitality is a much bigger world with more career paths than many people realize, so go into it with your eyes wide open, with as much knowledge about it as you can get.

What is one of the most significant developments in your area of focus within the industry over the last several years?

GW: Unequivocally, it’s the industry’s embrace of cloud – not just because it’s new technology, but because it accelerates innovation. With guests’ ever-changing demands and escalating expectations of faster fulfillment and personalized experiences, hoteliers have no choice but to improve their ability to innovate. Cloud centralizes IT infrastructure and applications, eliminates the need for on-premise servers at each property, and makes it simpler to integrate with third parties offering new services. The implications of such change are enormous: Software upgrades and security updates become faster and easier, reducing debilitating down time. And new functionality can be activated at multiple properties simultaneously, meaning guests enjoy innovations sooner. Hoteliers want to focus their time and energy on guests, not technology, and the migration to cloud facilitates that change.

How has the hospitality industry evolved and what lies ahead for the industry as a whole?

AU: There are many challenges, but a significant one is to satisfy the ever-changing customer needs while continuing to stay profitable. To satisfy the customer needs, our product offerings (in hotels, restaurants and food service, for example) have proliferated at an ever-faster rate. The complexity of product offering leads to increase in costs. However, as a business, we have to make sure that our industry is profitable. While there are disruptors and new competitors in the lodging and food spaces, we must retain a level of innovation and creativity to remain relevant.

Where do you see technology playing a role within the hospitality industry over the next five years?

JS: I think over the next 5 years more and more processes in hotels will be automated to ensure guests don't have to deal with the administrative part of check-in and checkout. Hotels will run 100 percent on cloud systems and services, and guest communications to and from guests will be done more and more from a mobile phone. Service will be a great combination of personal and digital.

Can you debunk one myth about a career in hospitality for readers?

GW: I think a common misconception is that if you pursue a career in hospitality, you’re confined to working in either a

hotel or a restaurant and that career paths are limited. But nothing could be farther from the truth. Our industry is incredibly diverse featuring not only a variety of enterprises, from cruise ships to casinos to stadiums, but a vast infrastructure of vendors, partners and suppliers that support it. With the pivotal — and growing — role technology plays in delivering exceptional guest experiences, IT companies are major employers, too.

AG: One myth is the notion that you don’t need an education to get into the field. The truth is, you need a diverse set of skills and tremendous knowledge about everything from strong customer service and food and beverage operations to finance, staff management and facilities operations. It’s an ultra-competitive business, and many companies are looking for expertise. While you may be able to jump right in and get some sort of job, if you want to do great things and be a leader in the hospitality profession, a formal education really is important.