Hotelies are eager to host the 91st annual Hotel Ezra Cornell conference — an event that all students in the School of Hotel Administration plan for almost a year — this weekend, according to Ben Pilosof ’16, HEC 91 communications director.
The weekend-long business conference is organized and executed entirely by students, Pilosof said.
This year’s theme — ‘The New Normal’ — will explore changes in the hospitality industry that range from the emergence of an ultra-luxury segment in the hotel market to the dangers of cybercrime, according to Pilosof.
“We’re hosting a dynamic panel about evolving consumer behavior … how new market entrants like Airbnb are changing the rules of hospitality,” he said. “Consumers have so many options now and they’re approaching travel in a whole new way.”
The event includes leisure activities and education programs open to the general public, Pilosof said.
Taylor Meadows ’16, managing director of HEC 91, said her visions for this year are “collaboration, engagement, and inclusion.”
“HEC is a reflection of what the students in SHA are passionate about, and as a result, we are constantly innovating and adapting to ensure that all hotelies are engaged and excited to make their HEC ‘the best ever,’” Meadows said. “To me, ‘the best ever’ is a weekend that creates a memorable experience for not only our guests, but also all of our students.”
The history of the conference traces back to the how “HEC is actually the reason why we have a School [of Hotel Administration],” according to Pilosof.
“The first Hotel Ezra Cornell took place in 1925,” he said. “It was just a small little dinner in Risley Hall put on by students in the emerging hospitality program.”
The following year, the dean of the program invited Ellsworth Statler, a leading American hotelier, to be the conference’s guest of honor, Pilosof said.
“He was pretty skeptical about an Ivy League education in hospitality,” Pilosof said. “But the students did such an incredible job that he was converted and decided to pledge his support to the program — he is the namesake of the building and the hotel.”
The program has endured for so long because students gain essential hands-on experience from it, according to Prof. Reneta McCarthy ’84 M.P.S. ’01, hotel administration, who has served as the HEC faculty course instructor for the past 12 years.
“The students are dealing with real guests who pay real money to attend the weekend,” she said. “[They] are responsible for managing their $120,000 budget and for planning and executing all aspects of the conference, from the program to the food and beverage events.”
Pilosof said he appreciates the skills he has gained from working at the conference, calling it “the capstone experience for hotelies for … many years.”
“It really gives students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom and cultivate their talents and passions in a real function setting,” he said.
McCarthy, who will advise students planning the conference for the last time this year, said her previous students agreed with Pilosof.
“They [former student participants] look back fondly on their HEC experience and marvel at the amazing opportunity they were given,” she said. “It’s really special — and it’s also the one thing that all hotelies have in common.”