A year after COVID-19 pumped the brakes on tourism worldwide, the hospitality industry is moving toward a rebound. But the road to recovery has been especially complicated for major tourist destinations like Las Vegas.
Luckily, UNLV hospitality professors like Amanda Belarmino are using their expertise to help the industry, students, and the general public understand shifting customer expectations and industry practices in the post-pandemic world.
Belarmino recently was featured in dozens of local and national interviews, commenting on subjects ranging from buffets to mask protocols, industry innovation to the hiring boom. Her media presence demonstrates how both the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality and UNLV are shaping the world’s understanding of the coronavirus’ impact on tourism while at the same time helping the industry move forward.
Tell us about your research.
I research how cultural and social changes impact strategic management and pricing. I put a lot of focus on revenue management and what influences consumers’ willingness to pay. I like fun things, so I look at things like Airbnb and literary tourism. One of my doctorate students did his dissertation on what impacts people’s willingness to pay for casino buffets, and because of that, I got a lot of media interviews. I think it helped save buffets during this pandemic – I don’t take all the credit, but I think the research showed the importance of buffets to the city’s identity.
What impact do you hope your research has?
Part of the goal with research is to bring information into the classroom for students. I also look for trends that are not only interesting for publication but are also helpful for the industry to use to move forward.
How did you transition from industry to academia?
When I trained new employees, I enjoyed watching their reactions when they understood a concept, and I wanted to do more of that. I never thought I would be teaching, but I'm really glad I am. When you work in the industry, sometimes people are great, but they’re not well-suited for the job they’re in. Working with students, you can always find a way to reach them and help them find their way.
What is something that surprised you about UNLV?
Being able to teach in a state-of-the-art facility is amazing. We sometimes underestimate the impact that architecture and lighting have, but it can really invigorate your students. There’s an energy in Hospitality Hall that you don’t feel anywhere else on campus.
What have you missed about being on campus?
I miss being with students. I miss in-person teaching and seeing the look when students get it. The pandemic has been isolating for the students, but it has also been isolating for professors. You feel like you’re just sending things out into the abyss.
Tell us a surprising fact about yourself.
I was on “Jeopardy!” in 2006. I came in third, but I was still on “Jeopardy!”
They had a whole category on religion in corporations. Who prepares for that? They also had some biology questions, and one of the other contestants was a biology teacher. Then they wanted us all to be the same height, so they made me stand on a box, and I was so afraid I was going to fall off. I didn't though.
What is some advice you’d give to hospitality students?
The future of our industry is bright, and we’re going to have a great recovery, but take full advantage of this time to be flexible. Perhaps you don’t end up in your first career choice, but you can still have a very rewarding and successful career by being open to new ideas and opportunities.