“Through our sleepless nights, endless analytics, and creative data processing, we drafted a winning presentation,” beamed Harrah Hotel College student Lucas Gazola following his team’s victory at the 2016 STR Student Market Study Competition during November’s HX: The Hotel Experience conference in New York City.
It was a hard-fought battle. The Harrah team, composed of seniors Gazola, Kayla Colbert, and Jeremi Alexander Sitompul, secured an impressive second-place win against 25 undergraduate teams representing top hospitality and tourism schools from around the world.
Prior to the conference, the competing teams were charged with developing a market study focusing on a major metropolitan area, analyzing related industry data provided by the global hotel analytics group, STR, and then presenting results in front of an industry panel.
“Working alongside Jeremi and Kayla on our market study has really exposed us to the depths of analytics possible within the hospitality industry,” said Gazola. “It also provided invaluable experience in presenting to a panel of judges or possible investors, receiving feedback they would generally provide in such a situation, as well as carrying ourselves as representatives of a university.”
Competition organizers—the STR’s SHARE (Supporting Hotel-related Academic Research and Education) Center—supports nearly 550 member schools around the world, providing ongoing access to hotel and tourism-related data as well as resources for research and student projects.
The top spot in the “undergraduate” category went to the team from San Francisco State University. West Virginia University claimed third place. First prize in the “graduate” category was awarded to Texas Tech University. Winners received a plaque from STR’s president and CEO Amanda Hite, and the top teams in both the graduate and undergraduate categories received a $1,000 cash prize.
“By competing at such a high level, we’re demonstrating that our students can be thought leaders in the area of hospitality research,” said Dr. Toni Repetti, who advised the Harrah Hotel College team during the competition. “We’re already planning for next year.”