Two students from The School of Hospitality Business at Michigan State have again earned the top honor in a research competition conducted by the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA).  They presented their work on Thursday, April 21, at the Westin Copley Place in Boston.

HAMA StudentsCameron Armstrong (BA ’16) and Di Wang (BA ’16) competed against student projects from the University of Denver, Cornell University, and Pennsylvania State.  Students submitted research papers and PowerPoint presentations on a subject chosen from the following topics: social media, OTA’s rising costs, rising minimum wage, room design, and Wi-Fi solutions.   Cameron and Di chose social media, but with a twist, presenting “Hotels’ Social Media Activity for Chinese Millennials.”

The pair was met in Boston by reporters from Hotel News Now (HNN) who asked about the inspiration and research process for the project which impressed the group of over 100 asset managers who gathered for the annual spring HAMA conference.  “We had to be sort of pulled off the stage afterward because there were so many questions,” explains Di.

Their research highlighted the importance of Chinese Millennials to international travel and addressed existing gaps in hotel companies’ social media marketing.  The team brought attention to the fact that social media networks such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and others, have restricted access in China.  The pair conducted a survey of one hundred Millennials from China and America and found that respondents from America experienced a substantially higher amount of hotel advertisements on their preferred social media than those from China.  The research recommendations encouraged asset managers to seek out Chinese social media companies, partner with international marketing and advocacy agencies, and work to integrate their assets into the brand awareness of Chinese Millennials.

Cameron spoke to their findings, saying, “We were surprised to see this trend of affluent Chinese Millennials with little exposure to hotels on social media.  Even with our small sample, we saw a direct correlation between a respondent’s home country, corresponding social media preferences, and the amount of hotel advertisements they had experienced.  The trends showed Chinese Millennials using predominantly WeChat and Weibo, with approximately 45% less advertisements than their American counterparts using Facebook and Instagram.  This was especially concerning when our survey confirmed that over 75% of Chinese Millennials had purchased a product or service through their cell phones.”

Dr. A.J. Singh coordinates the HAMA research projects and their submission from The School and traveled with the students to the conference. “Each year I am proud of the content and presentation of our students’ work,” he says.  “Cameron and Di are among the brightest and most accomplished students we have, and they deserved to win the competition.”  Each of them is enrolled in The School’s Real Estate Investment Management minor (HB-REIM).

They had help from alumni who attended the conference and provided coaching before their presentation.  Rich Niedbala (BA ’82), senior vice president of Lodging Capital Partners, and Michael Erlingis (BA ’12), director with Fulcrum Hospitality, LLC, “helped us rehearse onstage the night before the presentation,” says Cameron.   Spartans Will…help fellow Spartans!

“Overall, I would say it was the most rewarding experience I’ve had as an HB-REIM student,” Cameron says.  After putting in so much time and effort, it’s great to see members of industry genuinely interested in your work product.”

In addition to being a HB-REIM student, during the academic year, Cameron served as president of the international hospitality honor society Eta Sigma Delta, chief financial officer for CAREER EXPO XXXVII, and as vice president of industry relations for The School’s Real Estate Investment Club.  For the past three years he has assisted The School’s coordinator of Alumni Relations and Advancement and The School’s public relations efforts.   He will join Hilton Worldwide upon graduation next month.

Di is an international student from China who has become a very active member of the Real Estate Investment Club.  During this academic year, she worked as a classroom assistant for Dr. Singh during the HB-REIM student workshop focusing on asset management.  She also served as the executive vice president of the Broad China Business Society.  She will join InterContinental Hotels Group for a revenue management internship this summer before returning to MSU for one last Fall semester.