How Hotel Chief Digital Officers Are Staying Ahead of the Curve

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

As we start to move into the next phase of the pandemic, things are rapidly changing in the hospitality business, especially for digital marketers. HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for chief digital officers from hotel management companies to share how they’ve kept up. Participating companies included Ambridge Hospitality, Apple Leisure Group, Apple REIT, Concord Hospitality, Crescent Hotels & Resorts, Marcus Hotels & Resorts, Peachtree Hospitality Management, Prism Hotels & Resorts, and Remington. Here are key takeaways from their discussion:


  • One additional quirk we’re seeing is growth in call center volume and mix, particularly with the resorts. We’re finding people wanting to pick up the phone and find out about COVID precautions, and we’ve had to staff our call center up for that reason. So, voice bookings in some hotels are up.”
  • “Once you have brand guidelines, you can change the content on your website, and you’re done. But local market rules and regulations seem to change on a daily basis, so you have to update constantly, and if you don’t then the guests have to reach out on the phone, which is difficult when you’re down to two employees managing the entire hotel. So, for us, that goes to the call centers.”
  • “We actually became our own worst enemies where we force people to pick up a phone because their information wasn’t on the website and that now they don’t necessarily trust the information from our industry, because the website was inaccurate. I think it’s really a challenge that we need to consider and try and find a way to correct.”


  • “If we were entertaining every single idea that’s being thrown at us, that’s all we would do every day. The budget probably should just go into meta-search or paid search or some of these basic performance marketing, lower-funnel tactics. The philosophy we have is making sure that we’re saturating those types of ideas before we entertain any type of outside-the-box or more abstract idea.”
  • “We’ve taken the view that it’s as important to focus on what not to do as what to do. A lot of people have a lot of ideas about what to do with digital marketing from a property level, and a lot of time is spent filtering out the ideas that might sound good on the surface level but then don’t make a lot of strategic sense.”


  • “Honestly, OTAs have helped us keep our hotels open but now they’re starting to plateau, and we have a little bit of a more comfortable mix between OTA and direct.”
  • “From a channel mix perspective, it was a huge shift for us to OTA. It’s night-and-day difference if you look back to 2019. We’re starting to see some direct demand. But we’re business traveler hotels, not in vacation markets, so we aren’t getting our typical traveler, which explains why OTA has been more of a focus the past year. Hopefully, it won’t remain like this forever.”


  • “We want to retain the good people that have been here. So, it’s very, very, very small but incremental appreciations.”
  • “It’s a mixed bag out there. With so many different companies that work with us, everybody’s handling it a bit different. We’ve got groups that are still not even back to 100-percent normal compensation, so they’re not even thinking about bonuses, but you’ve got GMs and sales folks that have been working the front desk for nine months straight, so we’ve got to find some way to keep them motivated, especially as that recovery wave hits.”
  • “We were fortunate to get a cash infusion. Although we haven’t necessarily been able to add bodies back, we were able to pay incentives this year and have it built into the plan for next year. We did take a cut for those who didn’t get furloughed last year and then compensation will get reinstated this month.”

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles