December 12, 2019

Course Spotlight: An introduction to the world of hospitality with Professor Hou

Freshman students in the BS in Hotel and Tourism Management take Lodging Industry Structures and Strategies in their first semester, which serves as an introductory course to the hospitality industry. Professor Marissa Hou, one of the instructors of the course, tells us more about it here.

What is your background?

I have been in the hospitality industry for over 11 years with experience in operations, revenue management & sales in branded, franchised and independent hotel environments. I have worked for Hyatt Hotels Corporation, Library Hotel Collection, Hersha Hospitality Management, Chambers Hotel, and Interstate Hotels & Resorts and most recently, Marriott International. I am fluent in four languages and hold a Bachelor's Degree from Sarah Lawrence College and a Master's Degree in Hospitality Industry Studies from NYU's Jonathan M. Tisch Center of Hospitality. 

At the Tisch Center, you teach the Lodging Industry Structures & Strategies course. What are the objectives of the course?

This course is a survey of lodging industry history, practices, and trends through a review of the products, customers, suppliers, operators, and owners in this industry. Simply put, it is an overview of the hospitality industry where topics include: the history of hotels, key figures in the industry, hotel development, managing and franchising models, hotel operations, food and beverage, revenue management, technology, sales and marketing and the role of culture in hospitality.

Why are you interested in this specific topic and why do you think it is important?

I am interested in this topic because it is the most foundational course offered in hospitality in the undergraduate program and it brings me great joy to share my experience with the group of students consisting mostly of freshmen. For many, this course is their first exposure to anything lodging-related and I have a lot of fun with them introducing different aspects of hospitality. This topic is important because many people have misconceptions as to what lodging entails. Many think that lodging consists of only working inside a hotel property -- this is a huge myth and one that I used to believe in before I entered into the Graduate program at Tisch Center of Hospitality many years ago.  I want to expose my students to all the different facets of hospitality including sales and marketing, hotel technology, revenue management, finance, and hotel operations. It is important that my students expand their vision of hospitality within this course and experience their next hotel stay with a fresh set of eyes with new knowledge of the workings of this industry. 

What types of projects will students take on in this course?

In this course, students present on key companies that I feel are important in the industry. I encourage them to use industry terms and present in a professional manner so that they can be prepared beyond the classroom. As I mentioned, many of my students are freshmen, so they don’t have a whole lot of knowledge about hospitality coming into the course. As part of the learning process, I use a lot of real life examples from my work experience to illustrate the concepts. There is role playing, discussions, guest speakers in-class and a high level of engagement to facilitate learning. Another activity we do as a class is to attend a hotel tour where we meet with different departments and industry professionals on property. 

What impact do you hope to have on your students through this course?

I hope my students walk away from this course knowing that anything is possible in this field of hospitality. This is a wonderful time to start out in the industry and especially at NYU where there is an abundance of opportunity to engage with alumni, industry professionals and other faculty members. I hope to convey to my students that a career in hospitality can lead to travel experiences all over the world and that over time, they can form a network consisting of hotel industry colleagues globally that feels like family. Hospitality is really an industry where you can keep growing and evolving; it is limitless. 

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