Geopolitics, the scientific way of telling how a particular region in the world will react to any given situation. For decades now, the link between geopolitics and hospitality has proven to be complex yet evident. Crystal Cavin, Glion’s very own expert on geopolitics, spoke to us about why hospitality leaders need to understand geopolitical issues.

The cost of a crisis

People tend to underestimate just how long-term and far-reaching the effects of a geopolitical crisis, or a related terrorism attack, can really be.

“According to the Fiscal Times, over $600 billion dollars have been lost over the last decade due to a decrease in international travel following 9/11. Other businesses that were affected by this tragic event included airline companies that lost $7 billion in 2001 alone, $1.4 billion was lost in the four days that followed the attack when the entire USA was on stand-by. The increase of airport security meant that domestic travel plummeted as well. Insurance companies had to face $33 billion in insured losses, a third of which were for property claims,” Crystal said.

The recent attacks around the world and especially in Brussels and Paris underline these global threats to the hospitality industry. In addition to measuring the economic impact of these events, understanding the reasons behind them is critical for future professionals in the global travel industry.

But why do hospitality students need to know all this?

The student body at Glion is a multi-cultural setting. The kind of setting where a Chinese student can share his views on the current economic and political situation to an Italian or Canadian student. While asking both a Ukrainian and Russian student to explain their take on the ongoing situation in Ukraine might make things a bit tense at times, it certainly opens up the opportunity for dialogue and creates understanding. Crystal says, “The refugee crisis in Europe will look different to students from Egypt, Lebanon or Jordan as compared to those from Greece or Poland.”

More than anything, the reason why it’s important for students to understand Geopolitics is because it pushes students to turn their knowledge of other cultures into learning the art of negotiation. It gives them understanding and a more empathetic approach towards world events.

Practical Learning through Mock UN Simulations

Crystal goes on to talk about how in the 7th semester of her “Power, Space and Political Geography” course, she assigns students a country to research and each student is put into a “committee” to prepare for the final assessment, which is a Model UN simulation. Students work on mock UN committees or councils that deal with economic and social development, security, peacekeeping and human rights. Students must choose a current geopolitical crisis or issue and write a resolution that addresses it with clear solutions and suggestions. Students must negotiate with other “delegates” to get them to support their resolutions and in the final sessions, delegates debate each of these mock UN resolutions over a four-hour period. By being assigned a country they are not familiar with, students are forced to research and understand what is at the heart of their assigned country and what challenges and risks that country faces today in 2016. Making them more clued in with problems faced by other countries, in the process.

In the end, everyone’s entitled to their opinion

These practices help push students to critically analyze and process complex information, to compare and contrast past and present crises and to even make predictions for the future. These thought processes encourage them to engage in “deep thinking” and form their own informed decision. The best part is, there is never a right or wrong answer since sometimes it’s just an opinion and/or prediction.

In a time of rampant globalization and an ever-increasing need for people to be aware of the struggles of minorities, (See: US Presidential Election), Crystal’s in-depth approach towards sensitizing students to new cultures provides a welcoming breath of fresh air. After all, these students will eventually be the hospitality leaders of tomorrow.

While we’ve spoken our bit on Geopolitics, we’d like you to chime in on the subject as well. Tell us your take on Geopolitics’ role in the ever-evolving hospitality industry in the comments section below.

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