HB EXCLUSIVE: At Hospitality Hackathon, Students Challenged to Revolutionize the Customer Journey

ITHACA, NY—Hilton and the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship (PIHE) at Cornell University’s School of Hospitality Administration (SHA) joined forces to bring students from across the university together for a two-day hackathon on the Cornell campus in Ithaca. The hackathon focused students on creating personalized digital customer journeys to deliver world-class, differentiated experiences.

Among the students that competed at the event, more than 40% were “hotelies,” students at the Cornell Hotel School, while more than 50% came from other academic disciplines at the university, including computer science, engineering, arts & sciences and the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Steven Longstreet, senior director of data & analytics strategy, Hilton, said, “The power of the Hospitality Hackathon came through connecting students from all schools and majors with top industry and academic talent to create something amazing. Students were challenged to meet new people, build cross-functional teams, ideate with industry experts, and build and pitch their concept in just over a 24-hour period. To a team, the Cornell students exceeded expectations with a range of innovative concepts with fresh perspectives.”

Hotel industry veteran Lee Pillsbury said, “Today, more than ever, the industry is being shaped by young professionals who understand the complex interplay of technology and decision-making as guides for hotel profitability, innovation and a great guest experience. The Pillsbury Institute is a unique laboratory for that discussion, as well as others that are literally shaping the future of the industry. I am delighted to see the engagement between PIHE and Hilton, as they encourage this student leadership—and look forward to supporting many more collaborations in the future.”

Winners of the hackathon received cash prizes and two-night stays at any Hilton-brand hotel around the world. Students representing the group “L’Hospital,” captured first prize. Traditionally, hotels matched guests to room types, but L’Hospital layered on digital data to build in experiential preferences to room selection to both improve the guest experience and optimize the room cleaning order to better align with predicted guest arrivals.

Alongside the technology competition, students participated in workshops conducted by Hilton professionals, with support from Cornell faculty and mentors, including the following:

“Building a Successful Product”

“Accessing, Manipulating and Understanding Data”

“Effective Storytelling – Building a Strong Pitch”

The Pillsbury Institute plans a robust schedule of industry engagement opportunities throughout 2020 through thought leadership roundtables, an entrepreneur in residence program, and Hospitality Pitch Deck and business plan competitions.