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Hospitality Goes Global - Prologue
(published in 2007, Cornell Hotel Society)

Hospitality Evolves
Service and E.M. Statler

Although Ellsworth Milton Statler quit school at age nine, he had the instincts of a scholar. From his earliest days as a hotel man Statler always carried a small black notebook with him, and he puzzled over the details of running his hotels. When he hit upon a way to improve things, he made a note of it. "Life is service," he once wrote. "The one who progresses is the one who gives his fellow men a little more-a little better service.

Those 22 words would become Statler's credo. He would run his hotels with a passion for personal service, helping to make that attribute the hallmark for an entire industry. He would be of enormous personal service himself, becoming the foremost benefactor of the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, in Ithaca, New York. Under E.M. Statler's leadership, the industry and the Cornell Hotel program would begin an enduring partnership that has produced many advances in both the workplace and the classroom.

In 1950 the hotel industry named Statler "Hotel Man of the Half Century," even though he had died 22 years earlier, barely a quarter of the way through the century. E.M. Statler, it could be said, contributed more than anyone else to the founding of both the modern hospitality industry and hospitality-management education.

At the Cornell Hotel School, now 85 years old, its faculty, students, and alumni still follow Statler's lead, seeking out ways to make hospitality services more efficient, more effective, and more profitable. But the scope of the industry-and the School-could scarcely have been envisioned in Statler's day. Advancements in transportation and information technology have led to profound improvements in how people live. Those gains, combined with greater acceptance worldwide of free-market ideology, have made the world much smaller and the hospitality industry much larger-and more profitable.

Today people, goods, capital, and information move freely around the globe, a luxury hardly imagined a century ago. In most modern societies the standard of living has risen ever higher. People have more disposable income, and they spend it on leisure activities-including travel, accommodations, meals, and entertainment-the very staples of the hospitality industry.

The emergence of hospitality as the world's largest industry has caused profound shifts in the American economy. When the Cornell Hotel program began in 1922 most jobs in the United States were in manufacturing and farming. America was a country that made things; its great businesses produced oil, steel, automobiles, lumber, and wheat. Today only one out of 12 U.S. workers is in manufacturing, and fewer than one in 250 works on a farm. Most jobs in the United States today provide information and services, and about one-fifth of the world's economic activity is generated by travel, lodging, entertainment, and food-service enterprises.

Indeed, the hospitality industry itself has grown and matured and now barely resembles its original form. Roadside inns once dominated the industry, offering a floor to sleep on and a roof overhead. Now hospitality encompasses motels, inns, B&Bs, hotels, restaurants, casinos, convention centers, cruise ships, mega resorts, spas, amusement parks, stadiums, vacation ownership, and managed services.

At first industry growth was measured in units-a new hotel here, a new restaurant there-with each unit owned and operated by a different individual. Now hospitality is led by large, multinational brands and the immense ownership and management responsibilities that come with directing large organizations. The field has become so diverse that it has given rise to highly specialized disciplines ranging across development, design, construction, finance, marketing, law, information technology, and human resources.

Men led the industry in its early days. Few women were given the chance to perform in anything but menial jobs. Today women run large hotel companies, manage five-star properties, and give counsel as high-priced consultants. At the Cornell Hotel School, women students now outnumber their male counterparts. Chapter nine chronicles a few of the women who have become distinctive leaders in the industry.

The hospitality industry touches everyone every day, in some way. The industry represents $4 trillion in annual revenue (10 percent of the world's gross domestic product), and 8 percent of world employment. In the United States alone people can choose from nearly one-million restaurants and five-million guestrooms.

As the industry has evolved so has the educational commitment to it. For the first half of the twentieth century only a small number of institutions offered any formal education in hospitality management. By the end of the century over 600 colleges and universities provided some form of hospitality education. Those programs ring the globe from Europe to the Americas to Asia to Australia. And the pioneering program that started in upstate New York as an obscure experiment in "hotelmen" training has evolved into the world's most important center for hospitality-management education-Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration, (known familiarly as the Cornell Hotel School).

As the first school in the United States to serve the industry, the Cornell Hotel School has held a unique advantage. In its early years the School built and maintained preeminence on the strength of its alumni, who spread their knowledge throughout the hospitality industry worldwide and rose to prominent positions in leading global hospitality businesses.

But as the industry grew ever larger and more diverse, Cornell Hotel School leaders knew that they could no longer expect to maintain preeminence through the graduates alone. Those leaders realized that for the School to maintain its leadership position and remain distinctive they would need to build a deep and sustaining partnership with the hospitality industry. That commitment to be intertwined with industry-to observe, explain, and even influence progress-is among the core themes of this book. Readers will see how this collaborative partnership has helped both the School and the hospitality industry to thrive over nearly a century of dynamic global growth.

"Our interaction with industry is vital to our enterprise," said former Dean David Butler, Ph.D., in 2004. "It is the cornerstone in our ongoing commitment to shape the global knowledge base for hospitality management."

Evidence of this partnership can be seen throughout this book. It is a special bond, cultivated through decades of working together to find ways to make the industry bigger, better, and bolder. It is a bond that both industry executives and school leaders will continue to nurture as both groups seek to make the most of the challenges and opportunities that the twenty-first century presents.

This is the story of how the modern hospitality industry evolved almost from scratch in the early 1900s to become the largest and most important industry in the world. It is also the story of how the Cornell Hotel School became the first education-based hospitality-management program, and how that program has evolved and matured in step with the industry. It is the story of an industry and a school closely linked, one influencing the other, to the benefit of both.

 

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