Cal Poly Pomona Hospitality Team Takes 2nd in National Competition

The Collins College Undergraduate Student Team Takes 2nd Overall in the STR Student Market Study Competition in NYC


Six highly determined undergraduate students from Cal Poly Pomona’s (CPP) Collins College of Hospitality Management (CCHM) took 2nd place in the 2019 Smith Travel Research (STR) Student Market Competition. The team’s 2nd place win among 25 competing colleges and universities was truly impressive, made more so by the fact that this was the first time Cal Poly Pomona had ever competed in this prestigious competition.

The six Hospitality Management students included; team members Emily Fedorchek ‘22, Heather Kingsbury ‘20, Devon Lilley ‘21, Sean Mayor ‘22, Marissa Robledo ‘22, and Natalie Thé ‘20. The team was led by Dr. Linchi Kwok and Dr. Margie Ferree Jones

The challenge for the Cal Poly Pomona team was to analyze the historic trends and give insights into the future well-being of the greater Seattle hotel market.  STR, the sponsor of the student market competition, provides data regarding the historic supply and demand for hotels by season, sub-market, and class of hotel. 

STR also provides estimates of future hotel supply, but it is up to the students to research and consider future demand.  Demand for hotel rooms in Seattle is primarily driven by big name companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, Starbucks, Nordstrom, Costco, Expedia and Boeing.  Many of these companies have been in the news over this past year, which increased the challenge of studying this market.  Demand for hotels rooms is also be driven a convention center, which is doubling in size, many tourist attractions, and major port activities including cruise ships.

The students found that Seattle has been a very dynamic hotel market with significant growth in both lodging supply and demand. Lodging supply growth in the last few years has comprised a variety of hotel types including dozens of high-end boutique hotel as well as the 1,260 room Hyatt Regency (December 2018), now the largest hotel in the Pacific Northwest. Demand growth largely correlates with the exceptional growth in Amazon, Microsoft, and other tech companies.

Over the last year, the increase in hotel supply has overshadowed demand, causing the occupancy of the Seattle market to decline and average rate growth to be weak.  However, the students concluded that hotel investors should not be afraid to put their money into the Seattle hotel market as the recent negative trends would likely reverse with the pipeline of hotel rooms slowing and demand for hotel rooms increasing.  Demand is expected to be driven by the continued expansion of Amazon in downtown Seattle and into Bellevue, the continued popularity of Seattle as a cruise ship port, the expected uptick when Boeing ramps-up airplane production in Renton, and the expansion of the Seattle Convention Center that is to double in size by 2022.

The team was especially bullish on the Bellevue sub-market.  In addition, the team considered the effect of AirBNB on the hotel market and concluded that while it was a concern, it made up a relatively small portion of the Seattle lodging market.  

The team presented their findings to a panel of judges in a 25-minute power point presentation.  After the presentation, the students were required to answer additional questions from the panel, which they did with ease. 

“The students had become quite accustomed to questions and knew the Seattle hotel market inside and out as a number of faculty, staff, members of the school’s Board of Advisors, and alumni volunteered their time to watch and critique the presentation,” said Kwok, a faculty advisor to the team.   “Their success would not have been realized without this outside support.  Everyone shared the same goal and kept an open mind for feedback and suggestions.  It was truly a team effort.”

"The students' second-place win solidifies our position as one of the leading hospitality programs in the nation," said Dean and James A. Collins Distinguished Chair Dr. Lea Dopson. "I couldn't be prouder."

“The challenge of being the first team at Collins to compete meant we had to forge our own path without the benefit of having old PowerPoints or previous teams to guide us,” sophomore team member Sean Mayor said. “We started from square one and built our way up through constant practices, feedback, and revisions.”

 “None of the students had been exposed to a hotel market study prior to joining the team, but each of the team members shared an excitement to learn and take on this challenge; this positive attitude contributed immensely to the team’s success,” senior team member Natalie The´ said. “Additionally, each member being receptive to feedback allowed us to constantly improve the presentation and our performance; we were all very proud of the results.”

Dr. Kwok is especially appreciative of outside support from Hank Jones of Kallenberger Jones & Co., Bruce Baltin of CBRE, Troy Jones of Ernst & Young, and Tiffany Jassel of Seaview Investors.  In addition, several faculty, staff and students at Collins lent their support and input including Carolina Sanchez, Chia-Ju (Kate) Ko, Eric Sepulveda, Drs. Li Ge, Kelly Min, Zhenxing (Eddie) Mao, Don St. Hilaire, Jamie Sun, and Michelle Yoo.

STR is the leading data analytics provider for the lodging industry. Since its debut in 2015, the STR Student Market Competition has received significant attention from the hospitality programs around the world. The competition took place during the HX: Hotel Experience (Trade) Show in New York City in November 2019.


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