Hope for the Hospitality Industry

Todd Montgomery

Since March, Todd Montgomery, OSU-Cascades’ business and hospitality management program lead, has been an expert source for media outlets throughout the state who are anxious about the pandemic’s impact on Oregon’s critical hospitality industry.

The message he has for them?

Optimism and resilience.

Montgomery, the executive-in-residence and Robin and Curt Baney Professor in Hospitality Management, brings decades of hospitality industry experience to the discussions. He has gauged economic recovery in areas affected by the SARS pandemic, natural disasters, terrorist attacks and other impactful hardships.

Here, Montgomery answers some of our questions about the hospitality industry in Oregon and what we can expect in the coming months.

College of Business: Can you define the hospitality industry for us?

Todd Montgomery: The hospitality industry is large and accounts for over 10% of GDP globally. It includes most service industries like travel, leisure, and food and beverage.

COB: Bend is a quite successful and dynamic area. Are all areas equally able to bounce back from this?

TM: The travel industry recovery will continue to be uneven. Smaller communities who focus on physical distance-appropriate outdoor activities that visitors tend to drive to, like Bend and the Oregon Coast, have an advantage over larger, more densely populated communities.

COB: How do you think Oregon is doing with navigating the space between opening safely and keeping the virus at bay; is there a comparable time that business owners can draw from and take lessons or inspiration?

TM: The SARS epidemic in Asia/Pacific is the closest match. The economic recovery was relatively quick, around eight months, once an area was declared SARS-free. The problem is until an area can be declared COVID-free, it’s really hard to imagine a full recovery. Oregon has focused on data to drive business openings and has benefitted as a result.

COB: You’ve said that this pandemic also offers the opportunity for hospitality businesses to innovate, rethink and try something new. Do you have some examples?

TM: Much of our hospitality program is offered online at OSU-Cascades, and focuses on the future of work in the travel industry. Specifically, how technology and automation are changing the way customers travel and companies provide service. COVID-19 has accelerated this trend. So expect a lot more technology in travel.

However, an equally big development is the tremendous disruption COVID-19 has brought to the travel industry as a whole. Our industry has been around in different forms for thousands of years, and companies, in some cases overnight, have had to reinvent their business models. This has led to innovation and a complete rethinking of how companies serve customers.

COB: Are there opportunities for new businesses?

TM: Usually after significant disruption, great opportunities follow. Our students have the knowledge they will need to lead in a post COVID-19 world.