Hospitality students and real estate: A perfect match

July 04, 2016 •

4 min reading

Hospitality students and real estate: A perfect match

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The hospitality industry attracts a great deal of enthusiasm and curiosity, and it’s easy to see why. Intertwined with leisure, culture and world discovery, this relatively small industry exudes an air of mystery and exclusivity — the feeling of a members-only club.

For their part, hospitality students closely watch market trends and variations as they consider potential career opportunities. Education plays an important role in molding their interests and choices as they explore the job market. They also influence one another, leading some jobs to appear more fashionable than others.

One area garnering attention lately is hotel real estate. Why are students increasingly venturing into this “alternative” domain, and how can they best capitalize on their education and maximize their opportunities?

Jumping on the Bandwagon

Employers tend to think of hospitality students as operational hotel and restaurant experts and don’t credit them with much in the way of financial or real estate skills and knowledge. But the hotel real estate industry is booming. Global hotel transactions reached $85 billion in 2015 – the second highest year on record. Consequently, firms are growing their teams and earnestly seeking new junior members. Hospitality schools are adapting to meet this growing demand and indeed to stay relevant. This year, schools have tripled the hours and credits offered in classes relating to real estate and finance.

Students know a good thing when they see it, and many now want to jump on the real estate bandwagon. It’s easy to see why — requiring both hotel knowledge and an understanding of finance, it’s an opportunity to break out of the stereotypical hospitality mold. In 2014 and 2015, EHL saw student interest in the area rise significantly, with over 5 percent of industry-related internships.

Playing the cards well

In marketing, it’s common to illustrate a target segment through a persona — an archetypal representation of a specific customer segment. Consider Sara, a typical hospitality student. Sara has been studying hospitality for a couple of years and has a broad understanding of marketing, accounting and strategy. Recently, she‘s become more interested in real estate, seeing the market ripe for growth. She can demonstrate some knowledge in the area, but not to the same extent as a finance major. Sara will fall back on her most valuable assets to even the playing field — her strong social skills and an eagerness to learn.

Each person’s education offers specific advantages. A biology student wouldn’t try to showcase business development skills, just as Sara cannot claim to be skilled at complex financial modeling. It comes down to knowing one’s strengths. But it also means being smart and leveraging opportunities.

By offering relevant courses, hospitality schools help students build their technical skill sets, making them more valuable to employers. Having those hard skills, including an understanding of financial models, gives hospitality students the edge they need when venturing out of their comfort zone.

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Jack of all trades, master of none

The various roles within the real estate and financial industries are closely interrelated, forming an ecosystem of sorts. In this habitat, brokers, advisors, investors, lenders, lawyers and asset managers all play their parts. A hospitality student can break into this ecosystem by becoming a jack of all trades.

Brokers are the most versatile players in this ecosystem. As pivotal players in the investment market, they act as salespeople on behalf of buyers or sellers in asset transactions. Brokers frequently deal with all parties during the sales process, all while leading vigorous due diligence. They are experts as well as moderators; the sale is a symphony and the brokers its conductors.

Being well-versed in several areas offers a strong advantage to hospitality students who want to join the orchestra. Their multidisciplinary background and ability to approach a wide range of assignments enhances their perceived value and makes it easier for them to dive in and do the work.

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What's next?

In a business as variable as hospitality, nobody can accurately predict the future. In 2007, the global economy peaked as worldwide hotel transactions reached an all-time high of $113 billion. The next year, volume dropped by 79 percent. Students are at the mercy of these variations, and the best they can do is prepare themselves well for any possibility.

The current market upswing has created a need for experienced students. Schools have adapted their curricula to prepare students and pique their interest. This means hospitality students are now better prepared than ever. A new breed of industry professionals is in the making, and they’re growing smarter and bolder each day, ready to take on whatever challenges come their way.

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EHL Graduate - 2016