Q&A with Alec Schaefer - 2024 Young Hospitality Summit Competitor

Posted on Monday, March 25th, 2024

The Young Hospitality Summit (YHS) is an annual conference hosted by Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL) in Lausanne, Switzerland, that focuses on the hospitality industry in commerce, entrepreneurship, and social responsibility.male student outdoors with bulding and bushes faded in the background

The March 11th – 13th summit included various activities, from thought-provoking discussions to various networking opportunities, and the YHSChallenge where teams worked to create a solution to the case presented.

With this year's theme, "Bridging Concepts, Beyond Realities", YHS 2024 brought together 26 speakers, 65 delegates from 25 institutions, and guests from around the world to present their vision of the future.

Alec Schaefer, a 4th year Hospitality & Tourism Management (HTM) co-op student from the School of Hospitality, Food and Tourism Management (HFTM) at the University of Guelph was selected to participate in the annual YHS case competition.

In this Q&A session, Alec describes his YHS experience, highlights, presentation and advice for future students interested in the competition.

Describe your YHS experience.

The Young Hospitality Summit was truly a deeply enriching experience for me. I had the absolute pleasure of meeting many motivated, engaged and like-minded students from around the world while listening to some of the top trailblazers in the hospitality industry speak on groundbreaking topics. I also had the opportunity to collaborate with my fellow delegates to present a revolutionary idea to a panel of judges from NEOM.

What was your presentation about?student standing on a stage presenting

My presentation was about how artificial intelligence could be applied to reduce food waste in hotels. The biggest cause of food waste in the industry is excess supply going bad before it reaches the consumer. My group believed that by utilizing machine learning and creating a consumer database we could offer guests a personalized food experience while matching food supply with food demand thus reducing food waste in the operation.

What was the highlight of the Young Hospitality Summit?

The standout from the Young Hospitality Summit for me was the focus on challenging the future of hotels. My whole view of AI was redefined when I got to listen to Tatiana Labaki from NEOM speak regarding the integration of tech into the hotel industry. I learned so much about how artificial intelligence can cooperate with the human touch instead of replacing it. Also, I learned the importance of always questioning every aspect of the operation. Tatiana questioned why hotels had a fixed layout and explained how AI could lead to personalized hotel spaces for each guest. This incredibly cool idea taught me the valuable lesson of challenging my expectations every step of the way.

Do you have any advice for students considering this competition in the future?

My advice for any student considering attending YHS is to do it and take the leap. Go in with an open mind but ensure that you critically think about each idea you hear. As well, step out of your comfort zone and make sure to speak to as many panelists as possible. They won't know you if you're just another face in the crowd, introduce yourself and build your network.


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