Cornell’s Summer School returns to inspire hotel industry’s “young guns”

February 11, 2014

I’m very excited that Tourism Accommodation Australia in partnership with Tourism Training Australia (TTA) has been able to attract the renowned Cornell University School of Hotel Administration to Australia this year to conduct an Executive Development Programme for senior hotel management.

A whole generation of Australian hoteliers was inspired to “reach for the heights” when Cornell’s Summer School came to Australia during the late 1980s, and a new generation of aspiring hotel executives is being sought for its return in May, 2014.

Australia’s hotel sector in the late 1980s was quite different to today’s industry, but many of the strategies concocted by the budding stars nearly 30 years ago still hold sway today. In fact, many of the graduates from those early Summer Schools went on to become industry leaders, such as David Seargeant, Peter Barge and Patrick Imbardelli.

Tourism Training Australia’s Chief Executive, Bill Galvin, was one of the drivers of the Cornell programme back in the 1980s, and TTA is once again behind the Summer School, backed by TAA.

Bill believes it is the ideal time to revive the Sumer School: “The industry may have changed dramatically in the decades since the Cornell Summer School was last in Australia, but the need to inspire good managers to become great leaders is just as relevant today as it was then,” he told me.

“This is all about the future of our industry, creating the young guns of the industry and giving them a global perspective so they can discover new pathways to advance both their own careers and the industry as a whole.”

The Cornell University School of Hotel Administration (pictured above) – the world’s most famous hotel training academy – will offer its Summer School Executive Development programme in Sydney this May. There will be two programmes – a Senior Executive Development Programme aimed at General Managers and Directors, and a Food & Beverage Executive Development Programme targeting senior F&B managers and executive chefs.

The programmes will be practical in nature with the overall emphasis on improving the bottom line of operations, while discovering the latest trends and strategies that have worked in hotels, restaurants and other hospitality venues around the world.

The Senior Executive Development Programme for General Managers and Directors will take place at the Park Hyatt Sydney over two days (28 & 29 May) and will be preceded by the Food & Beverage Executive Development Programme, which will take place on 26 & 27 May at QT Hotel.

Why those two hotels? Bill explains: “We chose those two hotels because they are both outstanding in terms of service delivery, performance and the commitment to training.

“Park Hyatt Sydney is an inspiration for all budding hoteliers, and Hotel QT has revolutionised Design Style F&B delivery, proving that there is still an important place for high quality restaurants and bars in hotels – if they get the product and service correct.”

Bill says that while hotel training programmes had been significantly enhanced since the Cornell Summer School was last in Sydney, with Australia entering a major new hotel development phase, and with hoteliers committed to raising service levels, the return of the Cornell Executive Development Programmes was very timely.

“The industry is far more competitive than it was back in the 1980s, and Australians are now very familiar with service standards in Asia, Europe and the Americas,” he says. “Our industry is truly global now, and the Executive Development Programme will provide delegates with a global perspective that allows them to both raise standards and be at the top of the game in terms of financial management.”

Bill was first exposed to the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration when he went over to New York in the 1970s to view the workings of the School and determine its relevance for hospitality training in Australia. In 2012 I followed in Bill’s footsteps after the TAA Board endorsed our Strategy of bring Cornell programs back to Australia to make these excellent courses accessable and affordable to our members. Forty Years on Cornell is still an exceptional and impressive experience with outstanding support from every major player in the American Hospitality industry and an inspiring leadership team.

A golden era followed for hospitality training in Australia, including the establishment of Ryde TAFE, which surprised even the NSW Labor Government – which had funded its construction – when over 6000 students lined the streets to get a place at the college.

TAFE proved a great training school for trade-based occupations such as food & beverage, housekeeping, accounting, sales & marketing and other operational functions, but when Australia’s hotel industry went into over-drive in the 1980s, there was a need for something extra to elevate the skills base of middle managers, and TAFE introduced a Certificate in Catering Supervision and an Associate Diploma in Hospitality Management.

At the time, Australia was benefiting from a major influx of finance from Japan, with a new generation of 5-star hotels and resorts being developed up and down the east coast. Until then, managers of international hotels were invariably European trained, but with the rapid expansion of the industry, there was a desperate need to elevate local managers to general manager roles.

One budding hotelier, Nick Israel, was in charge of sales and marketing at the at the pace-setting Sydney Hilton, and he was charged with finding a way of filling the hotel during the traditionally ‘dead’ months of January and July.

He got the idea to invite Cornell to operate its Summer School at the Hilton when he attended a HSMA seminar at the Sebel Townhouse in 1984, and was impressed by the visiting professor. Seeing the potential, Hilton flew him to New York to speak to Cornell and entice them down-under for two programmes in January and July.

If filling rooms and function space when the hotel was empty was the initial goal, the project suddenly took on a life of its own, with Tourism Training Australia’s Bill Galvin seeing it as a great opportunity to give hospitality training a higher profile in the industry.

The Summer School ran from 1985 – 1988, and its legacy can be seen in the extensive range of tertiary courses established from the 1990s to train managers in the accommodation industry.

The industry is set for another major evolution over the next five years, with the launch of new hotel projects in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, as well as fundamental changes in distribution, source markets, technology and operations, making it very timely to offer the new Executive Development Programme.

The Senior Executive Development Programme will focus on the application of financial management concepts useful in analysing hospitality operations. Emphasis will be on communicating and interpreting financial data from a General Manager perspective so they can deal more effectively with the business and its owners. The format involves lectures, case studies and problem sets.

The Food and Beverage Executive Development Programme is designed for F&B Managers, Restaurant Managers and Executive Chefs seeking to gain a competitive advantage for their business. The course will develop abilities to innovate,  identify and integrate trends in the industry, using operations based marketing, sales promotion, creating customer value through staff training and motivation strategies, menu development, forecasting, budgeting, labour scheduling and food production.

I fully commend the programme to all those in the industry who aspire to be leaders in the business.

The Cornell programme builds on TAA’s existing Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA) program, which is offered to members in partnership with the American Hotel & Lodging Educational Institute. The TAA Education & Training Program provides members with globally recognised, on-line training programs and qualifications designed for accommodation and hospitality executives, senior and supervisory management and tailored programs for front line staff.

Programs will cost $3000 + GST for Food & Beverage academy and $3500 + GST for the Senior Executive Development Programme. Bookings and further details via