Six Trends Transforming Tourism

Succeeding in the hospitality industry means adapting to new technologies and thinking like a business leader. Students at the CSU are already learning these skills and more.


“In California, a hospitality degree can prepare you to manage Michelin-starred restaurants, advise hotels on sustainability practices, run a music festival or oversee Olympic skiing areas. The breadth of opportunities in travel and tourism spans the state north to south, providing an unparalleled foundation for launching a successful career."

— Caroline Beteta, President & CEOVisit California 

You probably don't need us to tell you that tourism in California is big business: Stunning beaches and mountains. Five-star hotels and world-class restaurants and wineries. Disneyland. It's so big in fact that the hospitality industry employs 1.2 million​ Californians. In 2018, the state's tourism industry generated $11.8 billion in state and local tax revenue. That's equivalent to putting $890 in each household's pocket, according to Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California​.

“The more visitors we welcome, the more money we have available to fund jobs and public programs such as education and infrastructure," says Lea Dopson, Ed.D., executive director of the CSU's Hospitality & Tourism Alliance, and dean and James A. Collins Distinguished Chair of The Collins College of Hospitality Management​ at Cal Poly Pomona.

With hospitality and tourism management degree programs at 14 campuses, the CSU is an essential supplier of the skilled employees​ needed to run one of California's most important industries. So we asked six seasoned professionals, all affiliated with the California State University, to share their thoughts on the hottest tourism trends and what they mean for students.


Trend #1:
adapt to emerging Technology

Ed Fuller
Former President and Managing Director, Marriott International and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Advisory Council Member

“The state of California has seen a significant amount of growth in the hospitality industry. And there are huge areas of technological change. You've got new things like hotel room service waiters [that are] are robots in Los Angeles. Guests can now walk into a hotel and check in with their credit card that's also their room key.

“But there's not a 'supervisor robot' being developed; CSU students are needed to fill those management and supervisory positions. And they need to understand how to manage these new technological resources. The industry is changing dramatically and there are opportunities, but you need a university education to manage them. Leadership has to be the driving force of hospitality in the future because that's what it's all about: motivating your workforce. And change is going to continue in this industry as it never has before."

Trend #2:
Create Exceptional Experiences

Bill Hendricks, Ph.D.
Professor & Department Head, Experience Industry Management, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Program Leader


Trend #2:
Creating Exceptional Experiences

Bill Hendricks, Ph.D.
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Professor & Department Head, Experience Industry Management and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Program Leader

“The influence of traveler and visitor expectations on the delivery of services has dramatically changed how we do business in the hospitality and tourism industry. Basic service quality and traditional product marketing no longer meet the threshold of the transformational, memorable and immersive experiences that individuals desire as they visit destinations locally, throughout the U.S. and internationally.

“Hospitality and tourism programs in the CSU are now revitalizing curricula, embracing interdisciplinary collaboration and beginning to incorporate project management, experiential marketing, destination management, design thinking and experience design to address the global experience economy evolution.

CSU programs​ have the opportunity to shape the next generation of hospitality and tourism graduates to meet the challenges and opportunities that will continue to emerge as experiences, rather than products, shape the behavior of visitors and travelers within the hospitality and tourism ecosystem."


Trend #3:
Think Like a Business Leader

Carl Winston
Director of the School of Hospitality & Tourism Management, San Diego State, and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Program Leader

“About a third of my students want to be meeting planners. That trend is not unique to San Diego State​; it's throughout the CSU. The field has gone from party planning—deciding on serving chicken versus beef—to delivering measurable impact as a business event strategist. As a result, at SDSU we created the first master's degree​ in North America in meeting and event management, which launches in August 2019. We immediately filled our first cohort.

“The master's degree is aimed at mid-career professionals who want to get promoted but are lacking the business skills.

“We're teaching our students to design meeting and conference experiences that can help organizations meet their business goals, whether that's increasing sales, reducing turnover or driving organizational change."

“Now more than ever, we need qualified leaders to meet the hospitality industry's growing needs. CSU faculty work hard to connect students with industry and open doors of opportunity."

— Doane Liu, Executive Director, Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development

Trend #4:
EmbracE the Power of Green

Jeff Senior
VP, Marketing, KSL Resorts and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Advisory Council Member


Trend #4:
Embracing the Power of Green

Jeff Senior
VP, Marketing, KSL Resorts and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Advisory Council Member

“The existential threat that global warming represents highlights for me the importance of sustainability and an eco-friendly approach to business. What makes things different now are the evolving expectations of today's consumers; Millennials and Gen Z are demanding authenticity from businesses with whom they transact. Today's hospitality students reside squarely in the middle of this important cohort.

“Millennials and Gen Z are putting their proverbial money where their mouth is. They're making it a point of buying from partners whose demonstrated values mirror their own. The most successful travel businesses will be those who demonstrate in a tangible manner practices that pay attention to environmental, social and economic sustainability and even eco-tourism, which involves responsible travel specifically to natural areas.

“CSU hospitality students are receiving the benefit of a program that understands the importance of a relevant curriculum, including preparation to support greener travel in the future."


Trend #5:
Become a Disruptor

Alycia Harshfield
Executive Director, California Restaurant Association Foundation and Hospitality & Tourism Alliance Advisory Council Member

“It's not just about being a hard worker or being a great chef or being hospitable. It requires even more today to be on the forefront. Disruptors in the industry such as mobile delivery and point-of-sale systems that don't just take your order have forced restaurant operators and companies to think differently about how they're going to incorporate those innovations into their businesses. For students, the importance is to be trained and also follow the trends so they can be the solution innovators.

“Having industry partners as part of the Hospitality & Tourism Alliance is very helpful because the academic community can tap into some of the trends, systems and ideas that are generated in the business world and then figure out how to teach those things to CSU students. We also have partners out in the community where students can go and have internships or do 'discovery days' and be exposed to some of these innovations and thoughts.

“Being exposed to multiple avenues and having access to all that information gives students a chance to expand their horizons and be more forward-thinking so they can be the innovators who are going to lead our industry into the future."

Trend #6:
LEverage the power of Social Media

Jason Zhang
Lecturer, The Collins College of Hospitality Management, Cal Poly Pomona


Trend #6:
Increasing Impact of Social Media

Jason Zhang
Lecturer at The Collins College of Hospitality Management at Cal Poly Pomona

“Social media is the fastest-growing marketing platform in the hospitality industry. About 3.4 billion users are obtaining a plethora of information with just a few clicks. Guests increasingly long for a wanderlust lifestyle and want to share it with their followers through popular social media platforms. Guests are looking for 'Instagram-able moments' to share as they enjoy their travels. Hospitality marketers are capitalizing on this by creating experiences that guests want to share, which helps draw in new customers.

Social media offers companies valuable user data that was nearly impossible to obtain a decade ago. A public post may contain searchable keywords, geographic tagging and picture archives that can reveal the user’s purchase patterns. These data are pivotal for hospitality operators to formulate successful marketing strategies.​

“At The Collins College of Hospitality Management​, students learn effective utilization of social media throughout their curriculum in a hands-on, polytechnic learning environment. They also learn about user privacy, ethics and user-data analytics, which help them apply these platforms responsibly and profitably.”

What is the CSU Hospitality & Tourism Alliance?

“The Hospitality & Tourism Alliance​ is a consortium of CSU hospitality programs across the state," explains Jodi Braverman, director of programs and industry relations for the alliance. “We create additional opportunities for learning and engagement by connecting our students to industry. We're fortunate to have some of the most well-respected and knowledgeable leaders serve on our Advisory Council, representing multiple segments of the hospitality industry. 

"These industry leaders meet with our Program Leaders [faculty] to discuss trends and real-time changes occurring in the workplace. Faculty are able to share these conversations with their programs and students and incorporate changes into their own curriculum. Program Leaders at each of the 14 campuses send the alliance communication and opportunities to students. All faculty members are able to benefit by collaborating with each other and sharing best practices, research advancements and curricular trends." Here are some of the benefits offered by the alliance:

  • Engagement with industry professionals
  • Student industry mentorship program
  • Career services, including a regional career expo and newsletter with career and industry opportunities
  • Speaker series
  • Regional workshops
  • Annual summit

“The CSU provides the management-level experience and skills necessary for success in the ever-evolving hospitality industry," adds Lea Dopson, executive director of the alliance. “By ensuring a pipeline of managers with a bachelor's or master's degree, California can continue to provide the high-level guest experiences that drive visitors and tourism dollars."

Explore hospitality and tourism degrees in event management, food and beverage, lodging, recreation and other fields at the CSU.