Published on June 19th, 2019 | by TLV News1
University of Mississippi Hospitality Management Program Embraces Digital Revolution
By Katie Miles Blackmon
New faculty member offers students insights, classes on tech transformations in service industry
It is no secret that technology plays a big role in the global economy; in fact, Forbes estimates that by 2022, one in five workers will rely on artificial intelligence to complete some of the tasks associated with their jobs.
The hospitality industry is embracing technology innovations and adopting new digital trends to improve the customer experience and the bottom line, said Katerina Berezina, an international expert in hospitality information technology who recently joined the University of Mississippi faculty. She teaches students about the technology transforming the service industry and how to capitalize on the benefits of the digital revolution.
Virtual reality is one such emerging trend in hotels and tourism.
“Right now, virtual reality is becoming more and more accessible to everyone,” Berezina said. “For example, say you come to purchase a trip to some destination. The travel agency would give you a virtual reality tour first to allow you to see what the country is like to help you decide if you want to go there.”
Some of Berezina’s research reveals that robots are another tech trend becoming commonplace in the hospitality industry.
“Robots aren’t that new, but in the past they were in the medical field and space or sea exploration,” Berezina said. “So, the interesting shift is that the hospitality industry is the one bringing the robots to people, so everyone now can see these – not just people who are in a specialized field.”
According to a study by Hospitality Technology, 22 percent of hotel executives said that robots have real potential in the industry. The publication also found that hotels, including Hilton Worldwide, have created robot concierges to interact with guests.
Berezina also has researched the rise of Airbnb, a competitor to traditional hotels that is powered by technology.
“What we decided to study was why people would choose Airbnb over hotels, and we looked at the different benefits and risks of Airbnb,” she said.
“Airbnb, with a ‘live like a local’ feel, gives a different experience than a hotel. We made the comparison and found that people were comfortable with the risks, so it confirmed that what Airbnb is doing works.”
For college students wanting to join the hospitality industry, it is crucial to understand the technology that has entered the field, Berezina said.
“For the students majoring in hospitality management, it is important for them to know what technology has to offer, even if they aren’t managing technology directly, as they could be managers or owners and have to make the decisions about technology,” she explained.
“So they need to have an idea of the functions and capabilities and understand the big picture. Technology has opened jobs that weren’t around 10 years ago.”
Lindy Stevenson, a May graduate in hospitality management, appreciates Berezina’s enthusiasm for bringing technology innovations into the curriculum and values what she learned under her instruction.
“Dr. Berezina knows that technology is essential these days, and you can tell she has a passion to teach that knowledge to others,” said Stevenson, who is interning at a bed and breakfast called Maple Leaf Cottage Inn, in Elsah, Illinois. “Dr. Berezina does an excellent job explaining the latest technology trends. That being said, most of (that content) has already helped me in my career.
“I have been able to use the skills from Dr. Berezina’s class by being familiar with using a property management system and ZoomChat. I will be starting my full-time job at Insight Global as a recruiter after I am done with my internship, and I have already used ZoomChat with some of my future employees.”
Fernando Arroyo Lopez, a doctoral student in nutrition and hospitality management from Pachuca, Mexico, said Berezina was inspiring and motivational as a professor, and he learned a lot from her about technological advances that he is exploring in his research.
“I’m applying a lot of the contents of her course on real-life projects, and it is helping me to create better concepts in our industry for real-life customers,” Arroyo said. “I wrote a case study as my course project about food waste management and information technology, and we received today the news that our case study is awarded as one of the three finalists for the 2019 Johnson & Wales Case Study Competition.”
Berezina, who earned a doctorate from University of Florida in health and human performance with a concentration in tourism, is a certified hospitality technology professional. She served as a faculty adviser for a student chapter of Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals at the University of South Florida.
“Just recently, she coordinated development of two university-level curricula for nationwide adoption, has been appointed as the managing editor of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology and serves on the editorial board of Cornell Hospitality Quarterly,” said Yunhee Chang, interim chair of the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management.
Since 2010, Berezina has published 15 hospitality tech-based works as lead author, including “Understanding satisfied and dissatisfied hotel customers: text mining of online hotel reviews” and “The impact of information security breach on hotel guest perception of service quality, satisfaction, revisit intentions and word-of-mouth.”
The School of Applied Sciences, home of the Department of Nutrition and Hospitality Management, offers professional preparation programs that integrate academic study, clinical training, creative research, service-learning and community outreach, leading to the development of leaders whose professional endeavors will improve health and well-being.