Executive board members of the Real Estate Investment Club in The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State University travelled to Los Angeles January 25-27 to attend the Americas Lodging Investment Conference (ALIS).
President Jake Beachum (BA ’16), VP of Communication Jennifer Digiovanni (BA ’16), VP of Finance Christy Wells (BA ’16), and VP of Industry Relations Cameron Armstrong (BA ’16) all volunteered at the conference, which this year drew over 3,000 participants, the largest in ALIS’s 15-year history, now the largest hotel investment conference in the world. The students were accompanied by their advisor, Dr. A.J. Singh, Hilton Hotels fellow and director of The School’s Real Estate Investment Management minor.
ALIS was co-hosted by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) and Burba Hotel Network (BHN), which is led by School Alumni Association Hall of Fame member Jim Burba (BA ’77). The Summit attracted the lodging industry’s leading hotel executives, investors, lenders, developers, and professional advisory community. According to ALIS organizers, “delegates attended panel discussions led by CEOs and C-Suite executives, seminars on hot development markets and investment prospects,” and had “countless networking opportunities, and roundtable discussions where industry leaders provided insight as to where the industry stands today, and more importantly, where the industry is headed.”
The students attended an orientation session when they arrived, learning about the history, purpose, and operation of ALIS, whose theme this year was “Where’s the Peak?”
While their duties at the conference kept them busy, each was able to attend a full educational session and networking event every day. In addition, School Alumni Association 2010 Industry Leader of the Year John Belden (BA ‘85) hosted the alumni/student reception on Tuesday evening, drawing a crowd of industry influentials. John is president and CEO of Davidson Hotels and Resorts. Alumni Association Hall of Fame member Richard Farrar (BA ’73) organized the event and assured that alumni connected with the students and with School Director Dr. Michael McCall, who traveled to ALIS along with Dr. Bonnie Knutson, professor in The School.
“It is so gratifying to see the energy and enthusiasm of these students, and to know that our alumni want to help and support them,” says Richard, himself an alumnus who gives back to his alma mater in significant ways.
Cameron says he attended a session titled “Unique Hospitality Business Opportunities” which he says “addressed everything from hostels to Airbnb.” Particularly fascinating was “hearing executives from hospitality companies address the integration of room sharing into America, especially given how much upheaval has surrounded the topic.”
Cameron also describes the evening when Hilton Worldwide set up a model lobby and guest room for their new brand, Tru Hotels. Almost an exact replica of the “real thing,” the prototype was “amazing.” Another session that impressed the students was titled, “Connecting with the Brand that is the Right Deal for You.” Cameron says that “developers and franchisees spent 15 minutes with a representative from each brand, hearing their case for why their brands have the most clout and lead to great success. It was very interesting to hear the types of questions a franchisee or developer asks in such a brief time period. It helped me understand the core selling points.”
President Jake Beachum spoke for the entire group when he said, “It was an honor to be able to serve as a student volunteer at this year’s ALIS, and an opportunity not many students are afforded. This was an excellent learning experience and we are very proud to have been able to represent The School.”