Forty members of the Real Estate Investment Management Advisory Council for The School of Hospitality Business came to the Michigan State campus on March 30-31 for its annual spring meeting. On the agenda were discussions about the new political climate and how it will affect foreign policy and the global hospitality business.

The Advisory Council is comprised of leaders in the real estate development and asset management segments of the hospitality industry, and assists in The School’s ongoing effort to provide a curriculum to its students that reflects the latest industry thinking on these topics.  Moreover, members of the Council meet with the students enrolled in the Real Estate Investment Management Minor, and with the students who are active in The School’s Real Estate Investment Club.

After a welcome by Drs. A.J. Singh and Ray Schmidgall, who annually host the Advisory Council, the group heard from Dr. Tomas Hult, director of MSU’s International Business Center and Dr. Norm Graham, director of MSU’s Center for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies.  “We wanted to learn from content area experts beyond hospitality,” explains Dr. Singh.  “This broader context is very helpful.”

In his remarks, Dr. Hult noted, “The international business environment that we now live in has seen an almost exponential increase in trade across borders in the last 15 years. We make more today than before but we also trade these products across the world to a much larger extent than ever. So, understanding global supply chains is at a premium in business.”

Dr. Graham provided the audience a global and political science perspective on the seismic shifts which have taken place in international relations over the seven decades after World War II. He presented changes in the world order via the research conducted by several leading authors, helping the group to contextualize the implications of current and future U.S. decisions on foreign relations.

“The members of the Advisory Council deeply appreciated these broader views,” says Dr. Singh.  “The number and caliber of questions for our speakers spoke to the interest in their subjects.”

That afternoon, Editor-at-large for HotelNewsNow Ed Watkins moderated a roundtable discussion centered around “A New Administration: A New Era for the Lodging Industry.”  The broad topic allowed for a wide-ranging conversation about trends in the industry, including the initial “Trump bump” on Wall Street; the Trump stance on immigration and how that might affect the industry; the Marriott/Starwood merger; Airbnb and other sharing economy sites; the possibility of other mergers; the dangers, if any, of overbuilding; whether brand proliferation will continue; the state of hotel financing; online travel agencies and their effect on the industry; travel demographics and how they are changing; and labor in the industry.  An article elaborating details of the discussion is forthcoming in HotelNewsNow.

“Ed does a masterful job facilitating our roundtable discussion each year,” says Dr. Schmidgall.  “He has a deep knowledge of the current state of our industry, as well as an ability to keep the conversation on track and meaningful to the participants.”  Ed was named “Spartan Champion” by The School’s Alumni Association in 2012 for his long-standing support for The School.

Students participated in the Advisory Council sessions, and also had the opportunity to meet in one-on-one mentoring sessions with individual members.  In addition, Dr. Singh reported to the members about the state of the Real Estate Investment Management Minor and subcommittees on curriculum, partnerships, and fundraising met and set goals for the coming months and years.

With so many effective and knowledgeable “dealmakers” all in one place, it is not surprising that time was allotted for networking and informal discussion, again with students included.  “This group of alumni and friends of The School comes to campus each year to help us with our Real Estate Investment Management Minor, to be sure,” says Dr. Singh. “But they come mainly for the students. They share their experiences, their knowledge – and they mentor students and even recruit and hire them.  We are fortunate indeed.”