Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu is dean of the College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee and also is editor-in-chief of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology. The USF college has 300 students, 150 of them in the hospitality program; almost 100 percent find jobs in the region immediately after graduating. Cobanoglu says the college’s hospitality curriculum is changing to keep up with global and national trends. Here are seven, he says, that are affecting his students, the industry—and Southwest Florida—right now.
Hospitality and tourism are coming back
Hotel construction is up globally and in Florida. June 2012 was a record month in the lodging industry with 500 million rooms sold around the world. “It’s a good time to be in hospitality education,” says Cobanoglu. “The business is back, and this triggers employment. These establishments—hotels, resorts, casinos—need good-quality people from the entry to management level.”
The airline industry sees clearer skies ahead
New planes like Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, built of lightweight carbon fiber and using 20 percent less fuel, should lead to cost savings for the airlines. Hopefully that will lead to lower—or at least stable—fares for consumers. And although Sarasota Bradenton International Airport lost a discount airline [AirTran] in August, the airport picked up a legacy carrier [United]. “That is unheard of,” says Cobanoglu. “It always used to be the other way, and it tells me that the big airlines have learned how to operate more efficiently, and the small airlines, the discount airlines, are becoming so big that they cannot compete in smaller markets like Sarasota.”
Dining Goes healthy and portable
In the food industry, healthy food, farm-to-table restaurants and food carts are becoming more popular. In particular, says Cobanoglu, food carts have appeal because, instead of the 7 percent profit margin, which is the average in the restaurant business, food carts can operate at a 50 percent margin. Start-up costs are lower, too: A $100,000 investment can get you into the food cart business compared to about $1 million for a regular restaurant.
“Overhead is low and food carts are much cheaper to operate. Food magazines are covering food trucks as the places to go,” he says.
Bed bugs are disappearing
The incidence of infestations is down 90 percent, according to Florida Restaurant Lodging Association magazine. Why? Education. “The lodging association in America took it seriously and did a lot of training. It is very good news,” Cobanoglu says.
Corporations relax tight control on travel to grow their business
“During the recession, a lot of companies in the world turned to technology—web conferences, teleconferences—but nothing replaces face-to-face connections. Nothing,” says Cobanoglu.
Here come the Chinese and Latin Americans
By 2020, China will be the No. 1 market for travel, sending more travelers abroad and receiving more international visitors. Previously 75 percent to 80 percent of all travel was done by travelers in developed countries; now the ratio is 50/50. USF’s College of Hospitality is internationalizing its curriculum to encourage learning a second language, requiring multicultural classes in etiquette and cuisine, and making sure that every graduate has some kind of international experience. “Get ready for the Chinese and Brazilians,” Cobanoglu says.
Hospitals becoming hotel-like
Cobanoglu called this global trend hospitable health. USF Health in Tampa is partnering with the College of Hospitality, and locally, Blake Medical Center in Bradenton has hired four current USF students to help redesign the hospital to look more like a resort hotel, change its food service to one that looks more like a restaurant menu and to teach staff to treat patients and family like guests.
USF’s College of Hospitality and Technology Leadership is hosting a fund raiser Nov. 28
6 p.m., Michael’s On East, to raise money for its programs. The dinner will be prepared and served entirely by USF hospitality students. Go to hospitaBull.com for more information and tickets.