How I Got Here — Amy Mierzwinski, Horwath HTL

Amy Mierzwinski, CHDM, is a Director at Horwath HTL and a member of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board:

I went to school at Florida State University, studying communications with an emphasis in advertising, and I really wanted to come out of it working at an advertising agency as an account executive or something along those lines. After I finished college, I lived in London for about six months and did an internship at a small advertising agency there, working on all kinds of different accounts, from campaigns for the City of London to consumer goods.

When I got back to the U.S. and started applying for different jobs, I interviewed at a couple local advertising agencies, but I ended up at a hospitality marketing consultancy called Fareed Zapala Koepke. It was just the three partners and myself, so I got a lot of hands-on experience working with the managing director there. I was really excited about working in the travel/hospitality space. After living abroad for a few months and doing some traveling through Europe, I really had a passion for that on a personal level, so then getting to work on it from a career stance seemed to be the best of both worlds.

From there, I decided to go back to school part-time at the University of Central Florida to get my master’s degree. I originally thought I would end up getting an MBA, but I actually got my master’s in hospitality and tourism management, because I liked working in the industry so much. I continued working at the firm as an account manager, and by that time we’d been acquired by Anson-Stoner. I was focusing exclusively on hospitality and travel accounts. It was your traditional agency offering media buying, creative execution, web development, brand marketing services — all of that.

When I finished my master’s, I thought it would be good for me to move over to a hotel management company to gain client-side experience. I moved from Florida to New York and took a job as a marketing and public relations manager with Denihan Hospitality Group. I started out working on the Fifty NYC — at the time it was Affinia Fifty — and also Affinia Manhattan, which is now part of Highgate and is called The Stewart. I took on both of those properties and helped relaunch them following multimillion-dollar renovations — new photo shoots, new brand positioning, new sales and marketing materials.

Then I decided to go back to my agency roots, which I felt was a better fit for me. Some people thrive on property, but my passions lie on the agency side, focusing on strategy and creative execution. I took a position at The Lacek Group, working as an account supervisor with the Starwood Preferred Guest [SPG] program. It meant shifting my gears to a loyalty focus, which is obviously very different as far as what your goals are. It’s not so much driving property revenue, it’s more about driving membership and engagement across a global portfolio.

It was so fun and a job I loved. The only reason I left is because after four years in New York I was ready for a change of pace and location. I reconnected with John Fareed, who really gave me my start in hospitality at Fareed Zapala Koepke. At that point he had started his own consulting practice, now part of Horwath HTL, which is a global consulting firm that consults exclusively in the hotel, tourism, and leisure industries. It’s much broader than sales and marketing or branding — the firm does a lot of financial consulting, such as feasibility evaluation, asset management, development, and all kinds of different practices under the hospitality realm.

I’m a consulting director for Horwath HTL going on three years. It’s interesting, because all of the projects are varied. For one client, I might do a couple-month stint preparing a strategic marketing plan, and then I’ll hand it over and their team will handle the execution. Or we’ll do market research, like a competitive market study for a property that’s either considering going through redevelopment or making a new entry into the marketplace. Or we’ll do development of brand standards for smaller brands that only have a few properties but want to grow, and figure out how they pull that experience through at each hotel and make it their own. Or helping clients go through the RFP process to select a PR, digital, or CRM firm, whatever their specific need might be.

It’s constantly changing and evolving, and working with different teams and seeing how different brands and independents operate. It’s been a good learning experience as well as a new challenge.

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles