Tampa businessman John McKibbon made a key request in 2013 when he endowed the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation at the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee campus. He asked that it make an impact.
Since then, the center has been doing just that, delivering cutting-edge research, hosting academic conferences and workshops globally and disseminating the latest in hospitality-related advances through traditional and “open-access” journals and other publications.
“Mr. McKibbon is a visionary and he understands the importance of research and technology to the hospitality industry, which is why he wanted to establish the M3 Center as a global resource,” said Professor Cihan Cobanoglu, the center’s director and McKibbon Endowed Chair (pictured above). “He said he wanted the M3 Center to impact as many people as possible.”
The center, named for the hospitality accounting- and analytics-software company founded by McKibbon, reaches close to 100,000 people annually through research papers, articles, journals, books, conferences, online presentations and hospitality software that is made available to more than 1,500 hospitality students worldwide each year.
“People in more than 180 countries are touched by the M3 Center’s products and services,” said Cobanoglu, who has served as the center’s director since its creation. “It’s remarkable when you look at the numbers and consider how many people around the world are affected by the center.”
Its Global Conference on Business and Economics last fall in Istanbul, Turkey, attracted researchers from more than 20 countries. Likewise, the center’s Global Conference on Education and Research last summer in Sarasota drew a sizeable international crowd. Thousands more tune in to its website and YouTube channel for workshops and seminars.
“I have been very impressed with the impact the M3 Center has had on the hospitality and tourism industry,” said Moez Limayem, dean of USF’s Muma College of Business. “The relevance, timeliness, depth and breadth of programs and materials produced by M3 are simply second to none. We are very excited to have this great center as part of the Muma College of Business and will do everything we can to support Dr. Cobanoglu in his effort to take M3 to new heights.”
The center’s articles and papers explore the latest hospitality advances and industry trends, including the long-term effects of COVID-19 on tourism, how online reviews affect customer hotel choices and the impact of robotics on hospitality venues.
One article, about COVID-19’s effects on the tourism industry, was recently featured by “The Conversation,” a popular online magazine of research articles, and subsequently picked up by “Forbes,” The Chicago Tribune” and other media outlets.
“It doesn’t stop there,” Cobanoglu said. “We also publish two open-access journals – “The Journal of Global Business Insights” (JGBI) and “The Journal of Global Education and Research” (JGER) – that are free to anyone so that all stakeholders can read them and not just those who pay the subscription fee.
“To me, this is one of the biggest impacts of the M3 Center, that we disseminate knowledge worldwide to anyone and everyone,” he said. “I believe that open-access publication by universities is the future of academic publishing.”
Thanks to the open-access format, the journals’ articles have been downloaded more than 50,000 times by researchers worldwide, and that trend will likely accelerate with a third open-access journal, “The Journal of Global Hospitality and Tourism,” set to debut this month.
Meanwhile, another publication hosted by the center, “The Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Technology” (JHTT), is sparking interest among academicians globally. Launched 10 years ago, the JHTT is already among the world’s elite hospitality publications. In January, it was added to the Social Sciences Citation Index (SSCI), one of the world’s foremost academic-journal indexes. Of the more than 300 hospitality journals published worldwide, only 18 – including the JHTT – are indexed by the SSCI.
It currently ranks eighth among SSCI-indexed hospitality journals based on its “impact factor.” The impact factor is a measure of the frequency with which the “average article” in a journal has been cited in a particular year or period. The Journal Citation Reports defines the impact factor as a ratio between citations and recent citable items published. Consequently, the impact factor of a journal is calculated by dividing the number of current year citations to the source items published in that journal during the previous two years.
“The JHTT is still a young publication and to be included in the SSCI at this early stage is truly remarkable,” Cobanoglu said.
“The M3 Center and the McKibbon Chair together have put the School of Hospitality and Tourism Management on the world hospitality stage,” said Patrick Moreo, professor and dean of the school at USF Sarasota-Manatee. “The journals, conferences, seminars and think tanks bring the best and the brightest together in one spot. The M3 Center is the living link between the academy and the practitioner. That, in the final analysis, is what a professional school such as ours is all about.”
In addition to Cobanoglu, the center is comprised of Assistant Professor Faizan Ali (Coordinator), Professors Kashif Hussain and Siming Gong (Senior Research Fellows), visiting scholars Seden Dogan, Gozde Turktarhan, Anudari Munkhtuya, Gamze Kaya and Furkan Arasli and team members Katerina Artemyeva, Damla Sonmez and Abraham Terrah.
While its focus rests primarily with research, the center maintains an educational responsibility and frequently welcomes undergraduate and graduate students to conduct research. In addition, universities worldwide access its educational programming online. These and other outreach efforts foster a sense of community and lead to vibrant and dynamic research, Cobanoglu says.
One initiative, he said, teaches Chinese graduate students how to write peer-reviewed academic articles. Another – this one closer to home – involves a USF Sarasota-Manatee undergraduate student, Patrycja Brylska, who is investigating how robots impact guest satisfaction at hotels.
“One of the nice things about these outreach programs is that they connect the center with professors and students worldwide, often in person but also virtually,” Cobanoglu said. “And as we continue to conduct research to support and strengthen hospitality, it’s important to remember how critical young people are to our industry. They are the next generation of scholars and the future of our industry. By supporting them, we support hospitality and tourism for generations to come.”
To learn more about the M3 Center for Hospitality Technology and Innovation, visit https://m3center.org.
For more about the USF Sarasota-Manatee campus, visit https://www.sarasotamanatee.usf.edu.