September 18, 2019

Course spotlight: Design and Development

Design and Development is a concentration course in the MS Hospitality Industry Studies, focusing on the hotel development process. Professor Simon Turner tells us more about it in this story.

What is your background? 

Since graduating with a Hotel Administration degree in 1983, I have spent my career in the hospitality industry, as a senior executive and board member of public and private hospitality enterprises. Over the years I have guest lectured frequently at Cornell University, Columbia University and New York University. Starting in 2015, I began to more actively teach students enrolled in the Tisch Center of Hospitality. Throughout my career, I have had the benefit of great teachers and mentors who generously shared their experiences and wisdom. By teaching, I hope to “pay it forward” to the next generation of leaders in the field of global hospitality.

I served as President of Global Development and a member of the Senior Leadership Team at Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc., one of the largest hotel and leisure companies in the world until its merger with Marriott International Inc. Prior to Starwood, I was a principal at Hotel Capital Advisers, Inc., an international hotel investment advisory and asset management firm where I oversaw asset and corporate hospitality investments and served as a director of both Four Seasons Hotels, Inc. and Fairmont Hotels International. Prior to this, I was an investment banker at Salomon Brothers, focusing exclusively on the hospitality sector and prior to this as a consultant at Pannell Kerr Forster, a hospitality advisory firm. I previously served as a director of ClubCorp Holdings, Inc., a leading owner-operator of private golf and country clubs and private business clubs in North America. I currently serve on the board of Carey Watermark Investors 1, a non-traded hotel investment REIT and my private company advisory board service has companies in hospitality technology, hotel management, alternative/experiential lodging, and real estate securities investment.

At the Tisch Center, you teach the Design and Development. What are the objectives of the course? 

This course examines the phases of a hotel development project from conceptualization to completion. In simple terms, we start with identifying and evaluating a piece of land for hotel development and then review the various steps that need to be completed to take that piece of raw land and create a hotel ready to accept its first guest. Along the way we review such items as: members and roles of the development team, zoning and building codes, market and economic feasibility analysis, design and construction, selecting a hotel brand, construction costs, financing and finally pre-opening planning. We cover a lot of topics with a goal of having students develop an overall level of familiarity with the development and design process.  Throughout the semester, through projects and presentations I build in opportunities for students to focus in on specific areas where they may have a particularly high level of interest.

Why are you interested in this specific topic? 

The role of hotel developer requires having an understanding of almost every aspect of the hotel business and awareness of how these aspects overlap and interrelate. A hotel developer must be well-versed in “left-brain” analytical skills/topics like real estate construction, finance, legal as well as “right-brain” creative aspects like design, marketing, strategy, hiring, etc. It is the need to be able to employ both sides of one’s brain that makes this area of the hotel business so appealing to me.

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

My teaching style is very interactive. I believe that the students are there to learn from me. Additionally, in every class, I learn something from them. In a highly interactive classroom discussion, students can learn from each other. I try to tee up each class with academic materials that introduce each topic and then use the time when we are together in the classroom to bring the material to life with actual examples from my career or current events. My goal is to ensure that students get the essential academic foundation in each topic and apply that foundation to actual examples of projects or actual industry situations.

Each semester we always tour a NYC hotel. Last year that tour was of the Citizen M Bowery which is significant that it was constructed using a modular construction technique, a relatively new technique for high-rise hotels. Having the students see the actual physical product and be able to interact with one of the corporate executives responsible for the project is always impactful. 

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

My background is in the global industry and I’ve had the benefit of working on hotels around the world. My classes are filled with students from every corner of the globe and they each have a “local” perspective on individual markets, hotels, trends, and companies. Being able to have a global perspective in the classroom provided by students enriches the conversation and enhances learning. After all, the business that we are studying is truly a global industry with cross-border flows of people (both guests and employees), brands and capital at the core of what drives the sector.

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