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We, the MBA students of the second semester, had the opportunity to experience Chicago’s hospitality industry during a two-week educational field trip. During the trip, we visited a vast variety of hotels ranging from boutique to large chains as well as from traditional to unconventional.
First, we were hosted at the Trump Hotel, where we enjoyed a tour through the property and talked with the senior management team of Human Resources and Catering. We were also lucky enough to savor some Trump Tower delicacies (Avocado Mini Flat Breads, among others), and this really set the tone for the exemplary Chicago hospitality to come.
Next, we experienced the unconventional business model of the famous Soho House, which functions primarily as a members-only club with only a few spaces accessible to the public. We were welcomed in the private cinema lounge with a presentation of the brand and concept, followed by a tour through the house. Soho House plans to expand across America, Europe and Asia. An interesting note for foodies is that the brand also has a concept known as the Ice Cream Man, where a cart is taken around to guests and their dessert is prepared live in their room. But the lunch we enjoyed at the Soho House was especially breathtaking, from the presentation, quality of the ingredients to the friendliness of the associates — it was amazing!
We then visited the Langham Hotel, the first of two Hong Kong-based hotel chains on our itinerary. There, we were fortunate enough to spend an afternoon with the Hotel Manager, who provided us with valuable insights into the luxury customer experience and shared his passion for the empowerment given by the brand. The brand has a focus on catering and events as well as weddings, often featuring their signature pink Langham car — which looks like a black cab, but in pink.
The second week of our trip started by visiting the Four Seasons Hotel, where we shared an open discussion with the General Manager and HR Manager and tried a few delicious bites. The Four Seasons as a brand promotes creativity within its team, and one of the engineers helped to create creative cut-outs for the annual family and children gala event.
One highlight of our trip was visiting Hyatt Headquarters, a very special moment for all of us. The Vice Presidents of Hyatt’s different brands took the time to brief us on the driving forces that shape the industry, keenly listened to our thoughts and answered all our questions. In addition, we toured two of their properties in Chicago: the Hyatt Regency and the Park Hyatt.
We also greatly appreciated our tour of the Hilton Chicago. The General Manager himself accompanied us during our visit, sharing the hotel’s long-lasting history and facts and inspiring us with his numerous life stories.
Our hotel itinerary ended with a very memorable experience at the Peninsula Hotel, the second Hong Kong-based hotel of our trip. The visit started with a hotel tour and a panel discussion with the Executive Board, which was extended into a delicious lunch in their restaurant, Shanghai Terrace. We then had the rare opportunity of presenting our applied class project “Capturing the Chinese Millennials” to the HR and Front Office Senior Management Team, for which we are very grateful.
Naturally, we made sure to see the Windy City itself during our trip. We spent a fantastic weekend adoring Chicago’s architecture from the Skydeck at Willis Tower, the city’s tallest building, tasting Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza at the renowned restaurant Giordano’s and admiring fabulous paintings in the Art Institute.
The trip not only included visits to hotels but also a visit to the Tourism Board of Illinois, where we learned about their strategy on how to make this Midwestern state more popular among international tourists, with a focus on Chinese and Indian markets as well as British and German. It was interesting to see the importance they place on engaging key partnerships as well as social media influencers to help boost state tourism.
Our Chicago journey would have been incomplete without visiting the Les Roches Chicago campus, where we were always welcomed with the utmost hospitality and enjoyed delicious lunch and dinner arranged by the students and their teachers. It was amazing to see all their dedication and true warmth, which they showered on us all. Meanwhile, the campus served as our preparation and briefing point for each hotel visit.
Les Roches Chicago was also where we met Booking.com, represented by two Les Roches alumni. They discussed their experiences with us and gave us a thorough understanding of the challenges and upcoming trends in the online travel industry, while also sharing details of their exceptional career paths.
All in all, the trip was an amazing experience. We met with impressive leaders of the hospitality industry, who all inspired us in their own way, influenced us with their passion and openly shared experiences from their diverse career paths. The trip contributed greatly towards our learning as we also explored the latest trends, best practices and challenges of the industry.
We especially liked the fact that we met Les Roches alumni, even unexpectedly, throughout our visits to hospitality properties, which highlights the global connectedness of our school.
Lastly, we would like to thank Dr. Diamantis and Mr. Avila for organizing this fabulous trip for us.
Giulia Marie Perry Kunetz, Anna Katharina Resch & Ravi Dhruv Sharma
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