Disney background helps Cohort 9 understand Divan

Cohort 9 students visited Divan Hotel Group today in Istanbul.

The Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts background that many of Stetson University Executive MBA program’s Cohort 9 students have came in handy during today’s visit to Divan Hotel Group.

Selin Karaosmanogn, Divan’s director of marketing and communications, greeted the cohort with a sincere smile and some of Divan’s famous pastries. She explained that in 1980, Turkey began to see the increase in tourism because of its unique history, long coastline, and fantastic weather and food. Today, 15% of Turkey’s GDP is tourism.

Divan Hotels, part of Koc Holding (which students visited yesterday) since 2000, set up its first Turkey hotel in Istanbul. The founder couldn’t find an adequate place to stay when in town for business and hence the Divan Hotel Group emerged. Now, with three hotels in Turkey, and with expected growth to 25 hotels in this region before 2016, Divan has a bright future in store. Divan Hotels in Istanbul is known for its “Hospitality School,” its sincere service and its relationship with Koc Holding.

According to Karaosmanogn, the hospitality market is not saturated in Istanbul. She said she believes there will continue to be outstanding growth. In addition to keeping its five-star brands, it will launch Divan Express in fall 2012. The Express version of its hotels will be at a lower price point and accommodate business travelers looking for a safe, friendly, high-quality place to stay that doesn’t have a spa or full restaurant. In addition, Divan Hotels launched its first international hotel in Northern Iraq two months ago. The company will continue to open hotels and/or greet guests at their various locations to cater to the Middle East market based on the unrest in the area.

Karaosmanogn said Divan forecasts growth using various indicators, and it relies on its partners, such as Turkish Airlines and local Preferred Hotel Associations, to drive both tourist and business clients.

Cohort 9 student Joe Chatterjee asked Karaosmanogn what challenges Divan Hotel Group faces in the future. Karaosmanogn answered that rolling out Divan Express while expanding and maintaining Divan’s brand and culture, communicating clearly to the public and keeping investors happy at the same time will be a major challenge. Another challenge is finding just the right partner that will build the hotels in a preferred location with a shared vision. “Those are not always easy to find!” said Karaosmanogn. She said Divan hopes to expand to New York and Prague, for example. She added that social media will be a challenge for Divan Hotel Group as it expands on a more regional and national level with more importance on the messaging that has an international approach.

Students gathered at the end of the presentation for Divan Hotel Group's renowned pastries.

Edwin Alvarado, a Cohort 9 student who is also a guest services manager at Walt Disney World Parks & Resorts, was curious about Divan’s peak periods. Karaosmanogn said that in Istanbul, peak times are mid-March through June with a slow period in the winter months, at which time Divan offers extended-stay incentives.

Cohort 9 student Brian Smith, who works for Disney Vacation Club, asked about Divan’s occupancy. Karaosmanogn shared that Divan has an average of 80% occupancy with a three- to four-night stay in Istanbul, and that it’s made up of 50% tourists and 50% business people.

Cohort 9 student Toshimasa Matsumura, who works at Disney’s Shades of Green, was interested in Divan’s yield management.

Karaosmanogn shared that a new area for Istanbul is “health tourism,” or travelers who come and stay while having medical procedures done at a much reduced cost, such as Lasik’s or plastic surgery. This is a growing trend among Divan’s wealthy clients.

The Spice Market was the next stop for students, for lunch and souvenir shopping.

“After the business visit, we had a wonderful tour,” said Wendy Lowe, program coordinator for the Executive MBA program. “We ended up in the pastry shop where we enjoyed various samples and even made some purchases for our family and friends back home.

”We look forward to monitoring Divan Hotel Groups expansion on the coming months and years.”

Students later went to the Spice Market for lunch, and several bought souvenirs such as spices that are unique to the region. They then went to the Grand Bazaar for additional shopping for scarves, leather, silver and other valuables. After the shopping excursion, some went to the Turkish Dance Show, others went to the Turkish Baths, and some enjoyed a night on the town for free exploration on their last evening in Istanbul.

“Tomorrow, we head to Mercedes Benz and then to Budapest!” said Lowe.

Business intelligence now more valuable to employers

Screenshot of KNIME

Converting raw data into information that managers can use to make decisions is becoming increasingly important. Image via Wikipedia

A shift in the world of marketing has led to a new appreciation for the analysis of data.

A report in The Wall Street Journal, “Business Schools Plan Leap Into Data,” discusses an emerging trend among graduate and undergraduate business schools to add classes, certificates and degrees geared specifically toward business intelligence, or data analytics.

The article says that as the use of analytics grows, companies will need employees who understand the data. The authors cited a study that found that by 2018, the United States will face a shortage of 1.5 million managers who can use data to shape business decisions.

“Analytics is certainly in the Top 5 things [executives] are worried about and investing in actively,” said Scott Gnau, president of Teradata’s Teradata Labs, told The Wall Street Journal. “Industry is going to demand it. Students are going to demand it.”

Kim Ruggiero, a Cohort 7 graduate of the Stetson University Executive MBA program, said she has witnessed firsthand the business world placing more value on the ability to decipher the numbers.

“Data analysis is vital, especially in the social media space, because as a marketer you need to know who to message to, what to message and how much to message,” explained Ruggiero, an associate marketing manager at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “Digital tactics such as online advertising, QR codes, website activity and social media sites are much easier to track than traditional media like radio and TV. It allows us to determine which tactics performed well and what the level of engagement was among our consumers to help influence decisions in the future.”

One of Ruggiero’s classmates, Darcy Clark, agrees. “Data is critical,” said Clark, who works in digital marketing at Walt Disney Parks and Resorts. “I use data on a daily basis, most often as it relates to our social media and Facebook strategies. We can measure the impact of a particular post and tell how many people engaged with the content, how many clicked through to get more information and how many ultimately purchased (if it was tied to an offer).”

Clark added that many people in her organization are tasked solely with data analysis, each working on a different piece of the puzzle. “It’s that important,” she emphasized.

But as much as data analysis is key in the marketing field, both Ruggiero and Clark say they believe most business schools don’t prepare students for the practical uses of data analysis.

“The base knowledge we gained from the Stetson Executive MBA program set the foundation for later learning that can only occur on the job,” said Clark.

Students in the Stetson Executive MBA program take several classes that focus on the subject, including Fundamental Statistical Management Techniques, Marketing Concepts and Analysis, Managerial Decision Analysis and Marketing Decision Making.

“Dr. Ted Surynt’s and Dr. Ram Subramanian’s classes were great in opening up my mind to think creatively about how all the pieces of a puzzle fit together,” added Clark. “That is critical when you’re looking at numbers and data and how those things fit into the larger marketing and overall business picture.”