3 Challenges Facing Hospitality Curriculums — and 3 Solutions

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

With more colleges and universities than ever offering degrees in hospitality and hospitality-related fields, the talent pipeline for hotel professionals has never been more robust. But even as hospitality educators work to guide the development of the next generation of industry professionals, there are challenges. International Council on Hotel, Restaurant, and Institutional Education (ICHRIE) provides a forum for them to share their knowledge, research, and resources with each other and connect with industry innovators, strengthening their collective ability to influence and train future hospitality leaders.

According to new research conducted by HSMAI, while marketing is well represented in the curriculum at U.S. hospitality schools, many are lacking in sales and revenue management programs. Indeed, only 27 percent of the 100 largest hospitality programs have a required sales and/or revenue management class, while 52 percent don’t offer any sales classes and 44 percent don’t offer any revenue management classes at all. Contrastingly, 92 percent require marketing classes:

Hospitality Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Management Curriculum at Top 100 U.S. Hospitality Schools Ranked by Enrollment Size
Offer required/core classes 27 92 27
No core classes, but offer elective classes 21 5 29
Offer no classes 52 3 44
TOTAL 100 100 100


With this in mind, HSMAI President and CEO Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, led a meeting of the special-interest group for hospitality sales and marketing educators at the ICHRIE Summer Conference and Marketplace in New Orleans last month. During the meeting, hospitality instructors discussed several common challenges facing their students today and shared some ways of overcoming them.


  1. Misconceptions: One meeting participant sees students come in with the idea that all sales jobs look like that of a used car salesman, and they look down on that. “The image of a career in sales isn’t something people think of,” the participant said. “But once they get through the class, that attitude is completely changed.”
  2. Overload: Another challenge a participant mentioned is narrowing down and prioritizing what to impress upon students. “It’s hard to figure out what students need to know, because of the breadth of what’s involved,” the participant said. “Things change quickly, and we have to keep the updated content and let students know that in marketing, it’s not just what’s in textbooks, it’s what’s happening out there. The breadth and the speed make it challenging.”
  3. Rapid pace: Another participant also stressed that the rapid pace of the marketing and sales world makes it a challenge to teach. “I think things are happening so rapidly, it’s trying to get students to know how they can analyze things and do critical thinking,” the participant said. “By the time they get out [of college], things will be different.” Another participant agreed: “The world moves fast. The students are more tech-savvy than we are. We need to keep up.”


  1. Hands on: One participant said that a hands-on learning style teaches students about the world. “It’s all about the process of doing sales, showing them how to interact with someone, asking questions, doing all the things that professional salespeople do,” the participant said. “And recognizing that sales is a process. Students come out saying, ‘I didn’t know this was what sales was about.’”
  2. Field work: Another participant advocated for helping students experience the realities of a career in hotel sales or marketing. This participant’s classes get to visit businesses in the area and interact with hospitality professionals. “That was eye-opening and did a great job of getting students interested in going into the sales field,” the participant said, “even for those who didn’t think about it before.”
  3. Special guests: Conversely, one participant suggested bringing professionals into the classes. “One of the best things you can do is bring in an asset manager and a revenue manager, and have them talk about the relationships and dialogue that occurs between them,” the participant said. “That is so valuable.”

Gilbert agreed, stressing the importance of introducing students to professionals in the field. “They’ll help you where you may not have the tech skills or lingo the industry does,” he said. “They can be great in the classroom or to have students shadow.”

He also offered advice that he shares with students that he speaks with. “Sales is an important skill. You can use it anywhere,” Gilbert said. “In sales, you are closer to the customer than anyone else. It’s a unique, valuable point of view … in any business.”

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles