Faculty Spotlight: Diana C. Beltran Brings Sustainability and Innovation to Hospitality and Tourism

“People, Planet, Profit” is a strategic approach that Diana C. Beltran adopted in her sustainability and innovation experience working for large hotel chains across the country. Holistically, she believed that necessary efforts and actions would be beneficial and improve not only a company’s operations, but the way of life in the future. While Beltran’s passion for sustainability stems from her childhood in Colombia, she made it her mission to bring about positive change throughout her career. She has experience in numerous aspects of the industry, including hotel and lodging management, travel, social responsibility, and sustainability.

Most recently, Beltran served as a Corporate Training Manager for Global Learning & Delivery at Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. She earned a BS in Hospitality and Tourism from Florida International University with a Minor in Hotel & Lodging and an MS in Sustainability Management from Columbia University.

Below, Beltran discusses her start in the hospitality and tourism industry, the importance of sustainability and innovation, and her desire to inspire future industry leaders.

How did you get started in the hospitality and tourism industry?

While I was still taking classes at FIU up to graduation, I tried different niche areas in the industry to see which one I felt most passionate about. As a junior, I had my first direct experience in travel while working at a Miami-based tour operating company. The job allowed me to see the ins and outs of travel and tourism. My duties as a tour operator included booking airfare, reserving hotels, setting up attractions, planning dining options, managing transportation for each trip, and traveling with student groups. It was an amazing introduction to different areas of this vast industry.

I also worked in different restaurants as a hostess and bartender which truly allowed me to experience firsthand how independent restaurants function in the food and beverage space in a very touristic destination such as Miami. Simultaneously, I began working in a French luxury hotel at the front desk, catering and banquets, there I applied everything I learned at the tour company and in the classroom including sustainability.

What is your expertise in hospitality and tourism?

The Hotel and Lodging sector is where I have thrived, where I’ve been able to flourish, and I attribute my experience to working for companies that believed in holistic training. At the hotel level, I had exposure to all of the job aspects within hotel management including; operations, human resources, sales, marketing, engineering, catering, customer service, and brand loyalty.

Working at a corporate level for the largest global hotel company allowed me to travel the world, meet new people, learn different languages, and realize the diverse roles I could take on. This path and journey have given me the opportunity to grow and develop professionally and personally over the years. I am lucky to say that I have been able to do what I love and love what I do.

You’ve held a number of positions within the industry. What drew you to sustainability and innovation in the industry?

As a young girl from Colombia moving to the United States, I was astonished by the amount of waste I saw produced here. I’ve always been very cautious about waste, both in refuse produced as well as operative efficiencies. This awareness has stayed with me ever since and throughout my career. I perceive sustainability and innovation as a duty and responsibility for an efficient operator and a responsible global citizen.

In the beginning stages of my career, I felt an obligation to voice my concerns about waste in the area of operative labor and natural resources. I used every opportunity to make suggestions that I believed could improve operations to be more efficient and sustainable. I always led with the angle of – People, Planet, Profit. If we continue to do the right thing, we can improve operations, boost positive team culture, help the environment as well as the community and in turn, gain new clients due to increased media exposure.

Why is sustainability and social responsibility important in the hospitality and tourism industry? 

If we want hospitality and tourism to still be around, sustainability and social responsibility have to be integrated into our DNA. The main reason why people travel for leisure to a destination is to experience the nature within that area or an urban city. Knowing this, we need to take responsible actions as an industry to help preserve our natural resources and be part of the community we live in. If we don’t make the necessary changes, we could potentially face a future where it’s difficult to travel because of climate change. I believe the impact our industry had post-pandemic has given us a taste of what the future could be for travel with severe climate change if we don’t take actions of innovation and sustainability to improve operations and gradually mitigate climate change.

The industry has worked to improve in this space up to this point and we continue educating the consumer. There’s a huge responsibility on our shoulders and we can make a significant impact if we all work together. When I say all, it is not just the consumer and companies, it is all the different degrees that touch the industry including government, academic and private organizations as well as all the second, third- and fourth-degree businesses that support it.

You’ll be teaching Managing Service Quality in Hospitality and Tourism. What does this mean to you and why is it so important?

Any business in our field thrives or fails depending on the quality of service they provide. When we talk about service it is twofold- the tangible and intangible. The tangible is what we can see/touch and taste and the intangible is how we feel. The intangible service is also very dependent on training on diversity, culture, and service recovery.

In my experience, the most influential factor for consumer decision making is the intangible service they receive. It’s about how you show guests that you’re listening to their needs while displaying compassion and then taking swift action. As a result, they feel trust and loyalty to your brand. During this time especially, quality service may affect overall profitability, customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

What does it mean to be a mentor to a new generation in the hospitality and tourism industry?

I’ve had mentors whose experience stemmed from theoretical perspectives and those whose experience is from actual experiences. I want my students to have the same type of exposure to knowledge and application. I’ve been able to get to this level by learning and implementing actions from the ground up. For me, it’s not just about educating future generations, it’s about helping them advance at an accelerated speed.

What skillsets would help students succeed in this program?

There is no set of specific rules that guarantee success out there in the field or in any academic program. For me, throughout my career I have been successful by networking, participating in various different forums, and challenging myself to implement new strategies learned in order to develop my expertise.

If I could provide students with 3 points of advice, it would be the following:

1. Take the opportunity to network with other students and faculty in order to build relationships that will flourish in the future.

2. Take advantage of every opportunity in the program to share your expertise and bring new ideas to the table.

3. Stay open-minded and challenge yourself out of your comfort zone by learning or trying new strategies in your place of work, if possible.

These are some things that can help you excel in your career and potentially succeed in the program. There is no cut and paste to get the same results.

Learn more about the MS in Hospitality & Tourism program.

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