Spartans were everywhere at the recent Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism at the Grand Traverse Resort & Spa, March 9-11.

Hosted by the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association (MLTA), the Conference drew over 1,000 participants.  It included numerous educational sessions, one of which featured the research of two MSU professors.  Sara Nicholls and Dan McCole teach and research in the Department of Community Sustainability in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Their presentation on “MSU’s Tourism Outlook” indicated that the State’s tourism industry had a banner year in 2013, “buoyed by record hotel occupancy rates in some areas,” according to a report about the presentation in USA Today on March 11.  The professors predict increased growth again this year as the State advertises more in Canada, Europe, and China.

The MLTA “Stars of the Industry” dinner also highlighted Spartans. Acting as co-Masters of Ceremony for the 20th year in a row were Dr. Ron Cichy, director and professor in the School of Hospitality Business at MSU, and “adopted” Spartan and Honorary Faculty Member Cindy Bowen, general manager of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Lansing.

The dinner honored a number of award winners selected by the MLTA and Travel Michigan.  Several MSU alumni from The School serve on the MLTA Board and helped present various awards at the dinner, as well.  Bob Pierce (BA Hospitality Business ’83), general manager of the Dearborn Inn, and Mike Rice (BA Hospitality Business ’91), general manager of the Quality Suites Lansing (and 2013 Hotelier of the Year), both presented.  Judy Zehnder Keller (BA Hospitality Business ’67, MA Hospitality Business ’73), president and owner of Frankenmuth Bavarian Inn Lodge, is also an active board member and was an award presenter.

Three honorees were MSU students: Cara Laginess (BA Hospitality Business ’14), from The School of Hospitality Business, was named the Musser Family Grand Hotel Scholar; Amy Paruk (BA Hospitality Business ’15), who works as a banquet captain at Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center and majors in Human Development and Family Studies, was Student Star of the Year; and Zac Malewitz (BA Hospitality Business ’15), from Community Sustainability, was awarded a scholarship from the MLTA Foundation.

Another Spartan, School Alumnus Gary Hernbroth (BA Hospitality Business ’79), presented two sessions on Tuesday, March 11.  In “What? Me, A Brand?” Gary, the president of Training for Winners, said that “your brand can make or break you in terms of your ability to sell, persuade, manage, lead, find a new job, and create results.”  Facilitating a “Meeting Planner Panel & Idea Exchange, Gary enabled the audience to interact with an experienced meeting planner panel to discuss the issues facing buyers and sellers every day.

The relationship between MSU and the Michigan Lodging & Tourism Association is a long and fruitful one.  In fact, it was at the urging of the Education Committee of what was then known as the Michigan Hotel Association that the original “Hotel Training Course” was founded in 1927 at MSU – which later became the School of Hospitality Business.

“We owe a debt of gratitude to those early proponents of hospitality business education at the nation’s oldest land-grant university,” says Dr. Ron Cichy.  “These pioneers’ vision is clear today.  We are proud to continue to partner with MLTA in this conference and in many other ways.”