New faculty member at USF Sarasota-Manatee hopes to take hospitality in Southwest Florida to new technological heights

Imagine going on vacation and deciding that you didn’t like the color of the walls in your hotel room.  What if you could change it?

Or what if while staying at the Ritz Carlton Sarasota, you went to snooze your alarm clock in the morning and it hopped off the nightstand before you could reach it?

Electronic paint, which can be changed based on guest preference in hotels, and robotic alarm clocks are just two of the hot topics in hospitality that Dr. Cihan Cobanoglu, new Associate Professor at The University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee, has been researching. 

Dr. Cobanoglu’s “Hotel of the Future” project at the University of Delaware is called the Experimental Guest Room, and he is currently in talks with the Ritz Carlton Sarasota to host the program.  Travelers who love having the latest in high tech gizmos will stay in rooms with Nintendo Wii Gaming Systems, lights and air conditioning systems that turn off when the guest leaves the room, digital peepholes complete with a video camera to see who is at the door, and many other modern conveniences.  At the end of each stay, guests will survey the experience and the results will be used to create more personalized guest experiences for hotels.

Unique, personalized service is especially appealing in upscale tourist areas common in Southwest Florida, and Cobanoglu is excited about the opportunity to contribute to research done in the Sarasota/Manatee area.  The School of Hotel and Restaurant Management seems the obvious choice for the hospitality expert, especially with the state of Florida’s economy relying heavily on the tourism industry. 

As the head of The Technology and E-Business Committee for the American Hotel and Lodging Association (AHLA), Cobanoglu is somewhat of a “big shot” in the hospitality technology industry, and currently works with President Obama as a member his Advisory Board for the National Strategy for Secure Online Transactions.  His expertise in several areas of hospitality technology made him the perfect addition to the School of Hotel & Restaurant Management at USF Sarasota-Manatee.  He will soon be teaching classes in Hospitality Technology and Management and preparing to help form a graduate program in Hospitality & Tourism Management at the university. 

“The School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at USF Sarasota-Manatee impressed me right from the start,” he said.  “The entire team was so friendly, focused, and passionate about the programming.  The appeal of the tourism aspect of Sarasota and Manatee counties combined with the proximity to big tourist areas like Tampa, Orlando, and Miami made accepting the position a no-brainer.”

Cobanoglu’s expertise extends far beyond the classroom.  He is the founding editor of the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology, a visionary board member of Hospitality Technology magazine and editorial board member of several other hospitality publications.  His work has been featured in national and international media outlets such as BBC, NBC, ABC, CN8, Futurist Magazine, the New York Times, the Boston Globe and Lodging Magazine.  His most recent work as an associate professor at the University of Delaware earned him the University of Delaware’s Excellence in Teaching Award in 2009 and an Innovation in Teaching Award in 2009. He also received 13 best paper awards from International conferences.

“Cihan Cobanoglu is the top technology person in the hospitality industry and we’re very fortunate to have him come here,” said Dr. Jay Schrock, dean of the School of Hotel and Restaurant Management at USF Sarasota-Manatee.  “His work here will be vital to our mission to continue our outstanding program and push us to new heights.”

The School of Hotel & Restaurant Management is planning a fundraising campaign for several initiatives, including a master’s level program in the Fall of 2011, two endowed professorships, a new building on the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, and accreditation by the Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration- (the program is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools).


By combining a broad educational foundation with real-world experiences, the School equips students and community professionals with the expertise needed to rise to the top as leaders in their profession of hospitality and service.  Because of this, the USF School of Hotel & Restaurant Management has over 85 percent of its graduates working in southwest Florida and a graduation rate of over 90 percent.

Cobanoglu hopes to continue that success rate when he starts his new position this Fall.  He hopes that his work with the Experimental Guest Room with the Ritz Carlton Sarasota will make a big impact on our area. 

 “The School of Hotel & Restaurant Management at USF Sarasota-Manatee has had a strong impact on this area and the world, and has become one of the most influential and well-respected programs of its kind in the nation.   I look forward to being a part of that.”