A global competition to tackle COVID 19's impact on the tourism and hospitality sector attracted 29 team entries., with innovative answers.

The University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management, in partnership with Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP®), has challenged students in hospitality programmes across the globe with a Hospitality Hackathon.

The competition asked participants to tackle COVID-19 head-on and address the challenges it has posed to all sectors of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry, and to develop solutions to move it forward.

“The response to our first HC3 Hilton College Hospitality Hackathon from hospitality programmes around the world has been nothing short of remarkable,” said Dr. Dennis Reynolds, dean of the University of Houston Hilton College.

“The creativity, thoughtfulness and innovation demonstrated by both graduate and undergraduate students alike made this a tough task for our distinguished panel of industry judges.

“These hacks can now be used to have an immediate impact on our industry. Based on these entries alone, the future leadership of our industry is in great hands and I am beyond proud that Hilton College is leading the way to help benefit our industry during this unprecedented challenging time.”

The competition drew 29 total entries, and participating students represented 32 undergraduate and graduate programmes from hospitality schools across the globe. The submitted solutions were reviewed by a panel of 15 judges representing various sectors of hospitality. With 10 undergraduate finalists and eight graduate finalists, the winners were announced in a special virtual ceremony on August 8.

The winning team for the undergraduates’ competition presented a product called “QRowd,” a system for tracking users in social spaces and allowing guests to schedule time in public areas. The winning team members – Daria Korneva, Aida Sarinzhipova, Arina Syrdybayeva and Aruzhan Tulegenova – are studying at EHL (Lausanne, Switzerland), George Brown University (Toronto, Canada) and Cornell University (Ithaca, New York). View the winning hack.

The winning hack from the graduate teams was “The Itinerant Buffet,” an option to traditional buffets in hotels that would comply with social distancing and other challenges brought on by COVID-19. The winning team members – Daniele Medici, Aurora de Pinto and Yuri Vecchiato – are from I’Università IULM (Milano MI, Italy). View the winning hack.

 “HFTP is very excited to have been approached by Hilton College to partner in an event like this” said Frank Wolfe, CEO of HFTP and an HC3 judge. “Through our global networks of young minds, we were able to aggregate a plethora of real-time solutions to industry challenges that are of little to no cost and can be implemented immediately. It was fascinating to see the kind of ingenuity that developed from trying to resolve a difficult challenge.”

“The HC3 Hilton College Hackathon has set the tone and pace and created a platform for how the student leaders of tomorrow are solving the issues of today,” said Seán Worker, managing director and principal of T5 Strategies, and an HC3 sponsor and judge. “This hackathon challenge addressed new and existing tourism and hospitality business problems that will enable companies and individual operators to get back on their feet and to thrive in a post-pandemic world. I am honoured to play a small role in this innovative new platform and congratulate UH Hilton College for its ingenuity.” The first-place teams will each receive a $US 3,000 scholarship to be divided equally among members. The winners will also detail their winning solutions via the media.

Walt Disney said, ‘If you can dream it, you can do it.’ We did not have much time to dream it, but I am pleased to say, ‘We did it!’

The University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management was established in 1969 by one of the iconic names in the hospitality industry, Conrad N. Hilton.

One of 16 colleges at the University of Houston, more than 1,000 students are currently pursuing undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees in hotel and restaurant management, hospitality management and hospitality administration.

The College also offers a tripartite master’s degree in global hospitality business, an online executive master’s degree, and a minor in beverage management and marketing. More than 92 percent of its students have jobs lined up upon graduation. The College is located in the Hilton University of Houston, one of more than 5,700 Hilton hotels worldwide, which serves as its primary teaching facility. Hilton College is believed to be the only hospitality programme in the world whose teaching facility is an internationally branded full-service hotel. For more information, visit www.hrm.uh.edu.

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