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Careers in Hospitality

Understanding the Building Blocks of Hospitality

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The hospitality industry is facing rapid changes as technology advances and the modern consumer demands more. Michigan State University’s Karthik Namasivayam offers advice.


Karthik Namasivayam

Director, The School of Hospitality Business, Eli Broad College of Management, Michigan State University

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

Every graduate must understand the two basic building blocks of hospitality: lodging and food & beverage operations. Connecting the operational knowledge with a particular interest area — such as finance, marketing, technology, or sales — will help build a strong career. Spend time gaining a thorough understanding of how a hotel and/or a food and beverage establishment makes a profit. Understanding the business of hospitality will help your career growth.

Can you debunk one myth about a career in hospitality?

Managing a hospitality business is not simple. There are multiple different activities that must be seamlessly and flawlessly coordinated to ensure your hotel check-in or your menu offerings are of the quality you desire. Jan Carlzon, ex-CEO of SAS Airlines, described each occasion when a guest interacts with the hotel or restaurant as “moments of truth.” Each is a point at which the organization can fail and cause irreparable damage to its reputation. These interactions occur with different people with different personalities, and the service person must ensure that each guest is happy. Managing such complex and dynamic service organizations is challenging but a lot of fun!

In your opinion, what is the main challenge the hospitality industry faces in the coming years?

Hospitality organizations must be nimble and agile to respond to multiple changes the industry faces. Change is the only constant in business. Only now, change is happening in multiple organizational domains simultaneously. Technology, climate, sensitivity to health concerns, customer preferences, and employee attitudes all contribute to a dynamic environment for hospitality businesses. However, the changes in the business environment present opportunities for organizations and individuals that are quick to anticipate future changes and prepare for them.

What is one of the most significant technological developments in hospitality since the start of the pandemic?

Touchless service is a significant advancement in the hospitality industry. QR menu cards, keyless entry into hotel rooms, biometric and face recognition systems at hotel check-ins, and significant other technologies have influenced how hospitality organizations operate and organize service. Organizations must prepare to adopt and implement such technologies to stay competitive. 

What is the best way that businesses in the industry can keep up with advancements in technology?

In the hospitality industry, organizations such as the Hospitality Finance and Technology Professionals (HFTP) help to introduce and disseminate technology best practices. It is important that industry and academic work closely to determine how and what technologies will work best to support different processes. At MSU, for example, we have world-class engineering, design, technology, and hospitality schools, so we can bring different pieces of knowledge together to provide the best solutions. Such collaboration will benefit hospitality students and the industry since the industry’s future employees will understand and be prepared to work with the latest technologies.

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