UTRGV MBA Students Place First Nationally at Hotel ROI’s University Competition


Imagine camping under the stars – but in a glamorous way. Roughing it, but in comfort. It’s called “glamping,” and it proved to be a winning hotel concept for the UTRGV MBA student team representing UTRGV Hospitality and Tourism Management in the Hotel ROI Battle of the Universities. UTRGV placed first in the competition, held last month in Chicago. The other competing universities were Florida International University, Lakeland University in Wisconsin, and University of Northwestern Ohio. Teams were required to create a brand new hotel concept, along with a presentation with video, logistics, marketing concepts and expansion opportunities, for a group of hotel industry executives. The four MBA students that made up the winning UTRGV team were under the direction of Dr. A.J. Singh, director of the university’s Hospitality and Tourism Management program:

  • Edelyn Barcena, of McAllen.

  • Ace Palomero, of Mission.

  • Alejandro Mendivil Alcalde, of Durango, Mexico.

  • and Samir Fallad Cortez, of Cd. Victoria, Tamps., Mexico.

The students created a brand extension called “ASTRA” for an existing hotel chain, with the potential extension focusing on “glamping.” The definition of glamping is the idea of camping, but with some lavish amenities – like electricity, private bathrooms and a luxurious bed. The team was tasked with finding information on how many tents they would have, the cost of creating them, profits, revenues and estimated investment numbers. Barcena said they did run into some obstacles getting the numbers they needed – glamping companies were reluctant to share that information – but they were able to find data to help with the research. The overall experience, she said, was insightful and helpful to her, as someone interested in the hospitality field. “Hospitality and tourism are such large industries. It includes food and beverage, hotels, traveling and airlines,” she said. “There are so many different areas to go into, especially with an MBA – like if you’re finance or accounting, you can still enter the hospitality field.” Winning the competition was an accomplishment for the team and reflected how UTRGV business programs can help students prepare. Palomero said the competition gave them a chance to network with professionals and gain experience and an understanding of what the hospitality industry is like. Plus, it helped place a spotlight on the relatively new hospitality and tourism program at UTRGV. “This program is not even a year old and our team won the whole thing,” he said. The MBA students are hoping to participate in more competitions like Battle of the Universities, because the experience helps students utilize what they’re learning. And, Palomero said, it would draw the attention of potential students to learn more about UTRGV. Alcalde agrees that UTRGV’s business programs have a lot to offer. “These types of competitions are really important for the university,” he said. “Students get involved, and they can apply what they learn in classes.” The four students each received an Amazon gift card, and will be featured in Hotel Management magazine. Visit the Robert C. Vackar College of Business and Entrepreneurship to learn more about the business programs offered at UTRGV.

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