NATHIC puts next-generation hoteliers in friendly fire with CEOs

Hospitality students from Michigan State University, DePaul University and New York University brought their best ideas to the annual hospitality school competition at the sixth annual North America Hotel Investment Conference (NATHIC), held Nov. 19-21 at the Hyatt Magnificent Mile in Chicago, successfully pitching new hotel brand concepts to lodging industry executives.

The competition, "Firing Squad: Where Great Ideas Are Executed," was based, in part, on ABC-TV’s hit reality show "Shark Tank.” Students from the three prestigious hospitality schools faced a “firing squad” of industry executives to present hotel brand ideas complete with development plans, marketing strategies and food and beverage concepts. Following each presentation, teams answered rapid-fire questions from the panel.

The hospitality school teams pitched Roger Bloss, founder and CEO, Vantage Hospitality Group; Jerome F. Cataldo, CEO and president, Hostmark Hospitality Group; Bruce Haase, CEO, Value Place Franchise Services; David Kong, president and CEO, Best Western International; and Mukesh J. Mowji, founder and CEO, Pracrea. The presentation was moderated by David Eisen, managing editor, Hotel Management magazine.

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Michigan State University took top honors for proposing a boutique hotel brand called NOMAD to be built using a modular, cost-effective design. DePaul proposed creating a brand called ALTRU Hotels and promoted their concept through a website and social media hashtag, beALTRU. The NYU team developed a brand called MW Hotels, which would convey the local flavor and culture of each city where it would be introduced. NYU’s feasibility study wowed the judges, as did the Chicago-style waffle donuts the team commissioned from a local bakery with brand logos to provide an example of how local tastes would be implemented in their properties.

Marilyn McHugh, who oversees NATHIC as vice president of global events for Questex Hospitality + Travel, underscored the company’s emphasis on the industry’s up-and-coming leaders: “NATHIC’s truly unique programming, like the Firing Squad, offers a look into innovative hotel concepts from the perspective of younger-generation hoteliers who share their views on topics including technology, marketing, design, consumer preferences and development. It’s groundbreaking programming in the industry and one of the highlights of the event, incredibly popular with both the participating students and CEOs.”

Eisen said the audience was “wowed by the level of creativity and innovation in the student presentations,” adding: “I could not have been more impressed by each team’s performance. All the students came prepared, their presentations were polished and all the judges asked probing questions, making it feel like a real-life pitch. The session was a complete success and we are very proud of all the student competitors.”

Presented by Hotel Management magazine, NATHIC is part of Questex Hospitality + Travel’s International Hotel Investment Forum (IHIF) Summit Series. The event, held at the Hyatt Chicago Magnificent Mile, drew more than 275 hotel owners, developers, operators, lenders, consultants and brand executives who addressed a wide range of critical topics related to hotel development, ownership and management in the Midwest and throughout the United States and Canada. 

For more information on the North America Hotel Investment Conference, visit For details on future IHIF events, visit

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