Young leaders present ‘Remote’ concepts to esteemed jury

The Sustainability Hospitality Challenge finals were held on Monday at the Future Hospitality Summit in Madinat Jumeriah, Dubai, with five teams of the brightest minds from the world’s leading hospitality schools competing for first place. The challenge is a Hotelschool The Hague initiative that aims to enhance the evolution of sustainable hospitality, foster innovation driven by the leaders of tomorrow, and nurture talent on a global scale by bringing them close to industry organisations who want to reimagine the future of hospitality.

Wolfgang Neumann, Chair of the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, said:

“Over the past eight years the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge has given bright and hungry students from top universities a platform for innovation. Year on year I have been inspired together with many other senior industry leaders to embrace the unknown and not to get entrenched in the art of the possible.”

Students presented concepts under the theme ‘Remote’, which was inspired by the principal sponsor NEOM, a region in northwest Saudi Arabia being built from the ground up and a development that will be a new model for sustainable living.

The results!

Ultimately, Cornell University impressed the jury with NIMBUS, a luxury hospitality concept comprising of carbon-neutral hotel rooms that soar by way of hot air balloons, delivering guests to the most remote and spectacular destinations across NEOM. The team envisions bespoke luxurious sustainable experiences without the footprint, illustrating the level of ingenuity, sustainability, and out-of-the box thinking that the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge stands for.

The winning team, comprising Devashish Sharma, Eddy Kohlmann, Eden Brachot and Uddhav Prasad, said:

“We feel so honoured and excited to be here at the finals representing Cornell University and our hospitality concept. We have made incredible progress with our concept during our SHC journey, we have worked together with various coaches, received feedback from industry experts, and got the opportunity to present during this event. We believe it is great to think about sustainability, but now is the time to put sustainability into practice.”

Could the concept become a reality?

Looking at today’s presentations one could wonder if they are viable.

Sandeep Walia, COO Middle East at Mariott International is certain about it:

“Today’s presentations were brilliant, engaging and all teams were in sync with what they were presenting. Listening to these fresh ideas, being in the traditional hotel industry, make you think out of the box and what could be done. Some of these definitely have a realistic angle to it.”

NEOM made it possible for all students to attend the event, which was also supported by the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and The Bench. The winning team received a generous prize package from NEOM, including a fully paid trip to the smart city and the opportunity to expand on their concept. As part of its commitment to fostering industry talent, NEOM also offered the winning team Internship programmes within its sustainability department. While industry leaders Marriott, Radisson, Wyndham and Accor offered mentorship sessions, weekend stays, loyalty programme points and the chance to meet their respective group CEOs.

Winning concepts introduced during the qualification rounds in April, and during the Semi-Finals in Amsterdam in June, have been further developed, designed, and fine-tuned to meet the high standards and even higher expectations of the renowned jury members of industry leaders and CEO’s.

In what was described as a highly competitive outing, Colin Abercrombie, Strategy Director at NEOM Hotel Development and member of the jury, commented on the finals saying:

“The innovative, sustainable future of hospitality is being created right here. The Sustainability Hospitality Challenge offers a unique setting for students to connect with their peers and the industry’s leading figures, with a shared goal of making a difference that will not only benefit the sector but hopefully the world as well. It was a pleasure to be a part of the judging process, and I look forward to welcoming the team of Cornell University during their trip to NEOM and working together to further develop their winning proposal.”

As Jonathan Worsley, Chairman & Founder The Bench, states so well:

“The finals of the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge were phenomenal and we were all blown away by the sheer talent of the students that participated. It’s been a great pleasure to host the finals of this important student challenge again this year, and on behalf of all of us at The Bench and the Future Hospitality Summit we would like to congratulate the winning team from Cornell University. Our conference theme for FHS is ‘Lead the Change’ and every single student that participated in this year’s competition has demonstrated how they are leading the change in our industry when it comes to sustainable travel and hospitality.

“This year we introduced a special pass for students pursuing an undergraduate programme within hospitality and related fields to attend the Future Hospitality Summit in Dubai this year as the industry’s hoteliers of the future.”

Expanding the challenge for 2023

Looking forward to next year’s edition, the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge team are eager to extend their invitation to participate in this challenge to design, technology and architecture institutions as well as Ivy League Universities. As the concepts have become more complex, viable, and intricate, merging creative hospitality institution concepts with sound architectural input and great sustainable and innovative design is a must.

Marloes Knippenberg, CEO Kerten Hospitality and SHC Ambassador says it perfectly as she reflects back on her experiences during this year’s Challenge:

“As a mixed-use, ESG and lifestyle operator of Hotels, Branded Residences, Serviced Apartments, Office hubs, and more, we are fully dedicated to bringing to life mixed-use assets combining these elements and connecting with guests, owners, partners, teams and other stakeholders through tailored experiences. The young generation’s integration into our team at all levels is essential to be and stay relevant. We are proud to be part of a future-focused global initiative that connects the young minds with the industry’s leadership and the investment community to ensure these ideas become reality. Today’s pitches by the finalists have proven that we should listen and collaborate together to allow the hospitality to continuously evolve like other industries do.”

In closing another great edition of this Sustainable Hospitality Challenge 2022, a final note from Paul Griep, Founder SHC, Director of Alumni & Industry Relations Hotelschool The Hague:

“The only way to achieve the common goal of sustainability in our industry is if we truly collaborate with each other. That is exactly what the Sustainable Hospitality Challenge entails and as Hotelschool The Hague we are very proud that all industry partners and industry leaders embrace this and have all come together to collectively support the teams and this goal.”

Find out more

To stay informed about The Sustainable Hospitality Challenge and the innovative solutions created by the next generation of hoteliers, visit www.thestudentchallenge.comLinkedIn and Instagram.