By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
HSMAI hosted the second in a series of three Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Virtual Executive Roundtables on May 21 that focused on the impact that COVID-19 is having on sales and marketing at HMCs. Phil Burgess, president and CEO of Burgess Crest and former vice president of sales and revenue management for John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts, led a discussion during the roundtable on navigating the post-COVID world and working together as an industry to bring back customers. Attendees listened to Burgess’ thoughts before sharing their own related best practices and priorities for the future.
MORE OR LESS BENCHMARKING?
Burgess brought up the need for benchmarking — comparing numbers such as total spend, salaries, and fees charged to industry and market averages — and said it will be interesting to see if people use that as a tool in the post-COVID world. “Will there still be a need for industry benchmarking?” he asked. “Or could benchmarking be more of a sharing of best practices to help all of us grow our businesses?”
As the industry moves forward, Burgess pondered, what will be required of companies to defend and justify marketing spend and ramp-up to owners? He suggested that new incentive or bonus plans could be a priority, along with changes in sales salaries and sales office deployments.
One roundtable participant said that she sees benchmarking being used by vendors to convince hotels to spend money with them. “That’s what all the vendors are doing,” she said. “They’re using examples of other hotels’ ROI in order to get you to spend money with them, but it’s hard to trust that if you don’t know if the hotels they’re telling you about are in the same market or have the same demands as you.”
Another participant brought up while companies are paying fees for things like website maintenance, but the employees who handle that are furloughed or laid off, so companies are paying fees for nothing. Burgess replied that he sees fee structures changing drastically, which could be something that benchmarking is used for. “There’s going to be a lot of movement in soft brands and fee structures,” Burgess said. “That’s a big question everyone’s going to have and want to know how they compare to the industry in what they are paying.”
Burgess said that when he spoke with another CEO on the topic, the CEO said he would like to see benchmarking based on best practices, because right now it’s about building momentum for the entire industry and giving guests the confidence to return. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” Burgess said, quoting a 1963 John F. Kennedy speech, adding: “What keeps me up at night is wondering if someone else has a great idea that I could use.”
THE CHANGING ROAD AHEAD
Roundtable participants agreed overall with Burgess, saying that the industry needs to stick together. “We need to make people feel comfortable with traveling, but in an honest way, once it is safe in whatever area we’re working in,” one participant said. “I can’t fill the hotels in New York if people can’t come to New York. It would be wonderful to share ideas to put people at ease and make them more excited.”
Participants also shared their own views on how things are changing and will continue to change in the future. “I think that this has presented us as an industry with a reset button,” one participant said. “It’s hard when you’re already in motion, working to change everything, but we emptied our sales department. So, as we’re bringing them back, we’re being very thoughtful on how we deploy them.”
“We’re rewriting the job descriptions,” another participant said. “The old sales manager descriptions where everyone is siloed is gone, at least for the next year. I think the new sales manager of today is a jack of all trades. They can sell, they can do social media, they can put flyers on cars, they can work the front desk. I think when we evaluated the people we were going to save, it wasn’t the person who did the best on their corporate group booking rate last year, it was the person who could be a utility player and jump in anywhere we needed.”
One participant added: “I’m hopeful as we emerge, salespeople realize that revenue is the issue, and they need to work on bringing it in however they can.”
Several other participants are concerned about the budgeting process and think that it needs to change at least for this year. “There’s no way that we can put together a budget for 2021 in the next month or so,” a participant said. “We can’t even predict the rest of 2020.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Resources page.