Hilton and Cornell Bring Students Together to ‘Revolutionize the Customer Journey’

Hilton Hospitality Hackathon, Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship, Cornell

ITHACA, N.Y. — Hilton and the Leland C. and Mary M. Pillsbury Institute for Hospitality Entrepreneurship (PIHE) at Cornell University’s School of Hospitality Administration (SHA) joined forces to bring students from across the University together for a two-day Hackathon on Cornell’s campus in Ithaca. The Hackathon focused students on creating personalized digital customer journeys to deliver world-class, differentiated experiences.

Among the students who competed at the event, more than 40 percent were “hotelies,” students at the industry-leading Cornell Hotel School, while more than 50 percent came from other academic disciplines at the University, including computer science, engineering, arts and sciences, and the Johnson Graduate School of Management.

Steven Longstreet, senior director of data and analytics strategy at Hilton, said, “The power of the Hospitality Hackathon came through connecting students from all schools and majors with top industry and academic talent to create something amazing. Students were challenged to meet new people, build cross-functional teams, ideate with industry experts, build and pitch their concept in just over a 24-hour period. To a team, the Cornell students exceeded expectations with a range of innovative concepts with fresh perspectives.”

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Lee Pillsbury said, “Today more than ever, the industry is being shaped by young professionals who understand the complex interplay of technology and decision-making as guides for hotel profitability, innovation, and a great guest experience. The Pillsbury Institute is a unique laboratory for that discussion, as well as others that are literally shaping the future of the industry. I am delighted to see the engagement between PIHE and Hilton, as they encourage this student leadership—and look forward to supporting many more collaborations in the future.”

Winners of the hackathon received cash prizes and two nights’ stay at any Hilton brand hotel around the world. Students representing the group “L’Hospital,” captured the first prize. Traditionally, hotels matched guests to room types, but L’Hospital layered on digital data to build in experiential preferences to room selection to both improve the guest experience and optimize the room cleaning order to better align with predicted guest arrivals.

Alongside the technology competition, students participated in workshops conducted by Hilton professionals, with support from Cornell faculty and mentors, including: “Building a Successful Product,” “Accessing, Manipulating, and Understanding Data,” and “Effective Storytelling—Building a Strong Pitch.”

The Pillsbury Institute plans a schedule of industry engagement opportunities throughout 2020 through thought leadership roundtables, an entrepreneur-in-residence program, and hospitality pitch deck and business plan competitions.