Ryerson Students Host Inaugural Hospitality & Tourism Conference

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TORONTO — The Ryerson Hospitality and Tourism Students’ Society (RHTSS) hosted its inaugural Ryerson Hospitality & Tourism Conference (RHTC) last week at the Chelsea Hotel, Toronto. The student–organized event targeted students in hospitality and tourism disciplines attending colleges and universities across North America, bringing them together for a full day of networking and learning.

As Karim Mohammadi, president of RHTSS and chair of the RHTC, explained, the goal of the event is to give students who will soon be joining the workforce a chance to make connections and gain a better understanding of the current state of the hospitality industry.

Mohammadi, kicked off the conference with an opening address and a message from Minister of Small Business and Tourism, Bardish Chagger.

The day’s guest speakers covered topics from all facets of the hospitality and tourism industry, including tourism trends, trends in the restaurant industry, the sharing economy, event management and theme parks and entertainment. Beth Potter, president and CEO of the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) was first to take the stage, discussing the key factors impacting Ontario’s tourism industry. Unsurprisingly, the sharing economy made the top of the list. “From our perspective, the conversation with the home-sharing or the private hotel room is not a bad thing; it is a good thing, especially when you get outside of the urban centres and there aren’t as many choices for hotels and other accommodations,” said Potter. “But, we are concerned about customer safety and a level playing field for businesses.”

Potter also pointed to Indigenous Tourism, cycle tourism and U.S. travellers as key growth areas for Ontario tourism.

Donna Dooher, owner/chef of Mildred’s Temple Kitchen also took the stage to offer insight into the restaurant industry. Dooher highlighted the changing nature of foodservice businesses in today’s market and the many challenges that these pose. “The landscape is changing and it’s changing very fast,” she said. “I think, for restaurants, [the key disruptor] is going to be pop-ups…I don’t see young entrepreneurs wanting to sit down with landlords and crack a ten-year lease with another ten-year option. This is where I think you guys are going to innovate and change things.”

Dooher also pointed to “grocerants” and food delivery as trends that will shape the future of foodservice. “I [also] think you will change the business model itself,” Dooher told the students, suggesting that bringing equality to the front- and back-of-house staff is a challenge she predicts they will conquer.

Other key features of the event included a sharing economy panel discussion featuring Kiran Samra, founder of Lokafy, and Maeve Gallagher, Public Policy, Airbnb, along with sessions on leadership and design thinking. John Riggleman, director of Global Standards and Procedures for Universal Parks & Resorts, also took to the stage to discuss the entertainment and attractions side of the industry.

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