Tourism Trends

The USFSM College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership (CHTL) focuses on preparing students for careers in Florida’s booming hospitality and tourism industry.

The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee College of Hospitality & Tourism Leadership (CHTL) focuses on preparing students for careers in Florida’s booming hospitality and tourism industry. The college also fosters opportunities for faculty and students through the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation to advance cutting-edge research in the global hospitality industry.

Much of the research explores how emerging technology is shaping the business of hospitality, including former USFSM professor Katerina Berezina’s findings about internet-driven room discounts.

In recent years, research projects have centered on how so-called “flash sales” influence customer spending in the hotel space, how vacationers make decisions about selecting cruise providers and how age and gender factor into guests’ preferences for booking with a particular property.

The work reflects the mission of the M3 Center, allowing USFSM to share with other universities and hospitality students groundbreaking educational technologies and learning tools in hotel accounting, property management systems and business intelligence software.

The M3 Center is home to three academic journals, the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, the Journal of Global Business Insights and the Journal of Global Education and Research.

21st CENTURY HOSPITALITY

When Katerina Berezina, PhD, began working as a travel agent in her native Russia during college, customers browsed vacation options by paging through giant catalogs where room prices and other options were locked in for the year.

“But then we switched to seamless reservation systems, where we will be able to put everything online, and there was no need any more for the catalogs,” said Berezina. “That’s what fascinated me, because the way we worked completely changed.”

The new technology compelled her to pursue a master’s degree in hospitality information management at the University of Delaware and then a doctorate in tourism at the University of Florida. Since then, Berezina has emerged as a leading thinker on methods for applying technology to the hospitality industry.

Two papers that grew out of her doctoral research focused on how customers and hotel managers perceived the benefits and challenges of “flash sale” sites like Groupon. She interviewed 46 hotel managers from all different kinds of properties, from independent hotels to large chains. She also surveyed 358 hotel customers, including 100 patrons of flash sales.

The chief concerns among hotel managers centered on how deeply the rooms were discounted and whether guests who booked through flash sale sites would spend less on other amenities once on the property.

Her research demonstrated that it was advantageous for properties to accept discounted rates rather than allowing rooms to stand empty and that flash sales customers spend as much, if not more, than non-flash sales customers.

Berezina remains affiliated with USFSM’s M3 Center, which partners with its namesake, M3, a leading hotel software company that provides finance and accounting products to nearly 5,000 hotels worldwide. The center has developed training modules for M3 software that provides CHTL students with the opportunity to learn through real-world systems they might use in the industry.

Katerina Berezina, PhD, analyzes data using M3 software in her class at USFSM.

“This partnership is a great contribution to education because it benefits our classes and helps us to enhance the learning experience, and I think it has worked for the company as well,” Berezina said.

Berezina says providing guests with the latest technologies and managing expectations on social media are among the biggest challenges for hotel operators today.

“Being on Facebook, being on Instagram, is pretty much required, and it will also help you on TripAdvisor and other platforms, and you definitely have to address negative comments and acknowledge positive comments,” she said, “so depending on the size of the hotel, they definitely will need people to help them with social media and digital experiences.”

Berezina predicts ongoing advancements in artificial intelligence will continue to shape the hotel industry, including increased implementation of robots to perform repetitive functions. Not only do robots reduce personnel costs, Berezina’s research demonstrates that today’s younger customers are accustomed to dealing with machines.

“When I ask my students if they prefer automation and being able to do things by themselves or interacting with the robots, some say that if they don’t have to talk to someone, they’re happy,” Berezina said.

- Joseph Kays

ALUMNI: CRUISE VACATION DECISION MAKING

The cruise industry sustains more than 1.1 million jobs globally, and according to the Cruise Lines International Association’s most recent state of the industry report, it will cater to nearly 30 million vacationers this year alone.

University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee graduate Frida Bahja’s nearly year-long research into what motivates travelers to pick certain cruises and cruise lines potentially offers members of the growing industry tools vital to increasing their customer base.

Image of Frida Bahja

Frida Bahja

“I have always been intrigued by how different factors of tourism products influence the decision of vacationers. This becomes even more complex within the context of cruise vacations with several attributes and decisions to make,” said Bahja, who arrived at USFSM in 2015 from her native Albania with bachelor’s and master’s degrees in environmental engineering. “Hence, my thesis focused on not only evaluating the influencing factors on cruise vacationers, but it also explored the relative importance of these factors in comparison with each other.”

In 2017, Bahja earned her master’s in hospitality management and presented her thesis, “Evaluating the Relative Importance of Influencing Factors on Cruise Vacations: A Conjoint Analysis,” with advisor Cihan Cobanoglu, PhD, and committee members Katerina Berezina, PhD, and Carolin Lusby, PhD, of Florida International University.

The purpose of the study was to identify key influencing factors for vacationers when booking a cruise. Based on a review of literature, the study focused on the importance of six influential factors in cruise customers’ decision-making process:

  • Price
  • Duration
  • Distance from the cruise port
  • Itineraries
  • Environmental friendliness of the cruise line
  • Online reviews

Responses from 450 cruise vacationers were analyzed using choice-based conjoint analysis methodology. The results revealed that online reviews were the most influential factor for cruise customers in their vacation decisions, followed closely by environmental friendliness of the cruise line, duration, distance, itinerary and price. The findings provide valuable insight into the tourism industry in terms of customer-determining values.

Bahja’s research was recognized with a second-place award in the USFSM Student Showcase for Projects, Research and Innovation, and she also received a merit scholarship to collect data for her subsequent research study. The research was featured as part of the journal Tourism Review, and Bahja presented her findings at the Southeastern Travel and Tourism Research Association’s annual conference in Knoxville, Tennessee, in 2017; at the 2017 International Interdisciplinary Business-Economics Advancement Conference in Miami; and at the 15th World Leisure Congress in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in 2018.

She currently is pursuing doctoral studies in hospitality management at the University of Central Florida, focusing her research on sustainable tourism and green practices in the hospitality industry. She also serves as a research assistant in the UCF National Center for Integrated Coastal Research.

- Melanie Bass

ALUMNI: AWARD-WINNING STUDENT RESEARCH

For Vanja Bogicevic, USFSM’s commitment to student research was a deciding factor in where she would attend college in the United States – and, ultimately, it changed her career path.

Image of Vanja Bogicevic, PhD

Vanja Bogicevic, PhD

“Research support is one of the reasons I chose USFSM for my master’s degree,” said Bogicevic, who already held master’s and undergraduate degrees in architecture and urban planning from her native Serbia when she arrived at USFSM in 2012.

In collaboration with faculty advisors Cihan Cobanoglu, PhD, and Wan Yang, PhD, Bogicevic undertook multiple award-winning research projects while at USFSM. Those projects focused on the role of design in hospitality environments such as hotels and airports, as well as service quality in the air transport industry.

“Having the chance to work as a research assistant with USFSM faculty was a game changer for my academic career and personal growth.”

Her 2014 study, “The Moderating Effect of Demographics on the Relationship between Hotel Room Design Characteristics and Purchase Intent,” examined how age and gender affect hotel guests’ preferences and their decision to stay at a particular property. In addition to receiving national media attention, it also earned the “Best Paper Award” at the 19th Annual Graduate Student Research Conference in Hospitality and Tourism in Houston.

While at USFSM, she also published a manuscript and presented five conference papers. After earning her master’s in hospitality management, she presented at national and international conferences and published five more papers in academic journals based on research projects she began while a student at USFSM.

In 2018, she obtained her doctorate in consumer sciences from The Ohio State University, where she is now a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Human Sciences.

“Until I had started my master’s studies at USFSM, I never considered an academic career,” said Bogicevic, who leads the Virtual Reality Laboratory in the OSU Department of Human Sciences. “My experience at USFSM introduced me to academic research, conferences and scholarship. It determined my career path toward pursuing a PhD and becoming a researcher at a U.S. academic institution.”

- Melanie Bass

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