HSMAI Perspective: The Hospitality Commercial Leader Has Finally Emerged

By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) 

Over the last few years, debate has ensued about whether the word “commercial” would appear, or stick, in the titles for roles that traditionally were hospitality sales, marketing, revenue, distribution, or loyalty.  At HSMAI Americas’ recent Commercial Strategy Week in Orlando, many of the 750 hospitality leaders in attendance debated, defined, redefined, and defended the label repeatedly. The social media buzz after the event continued the conversation. I’m proud that HSMAI leads the discussion around the world. The topic was highlighted last month at HSMAI Asia Pacific’s ROC and Commercial Executive Roundtable in Singapore and HSMAI Europe’s Commercial Strategy Week in London. I know the dialogue will continue in November in Dubai at the HSMAI Middle East’s Commercial Strategy Conference and ROC.  

The mix of titles we see now in our membership – particularly those above property – continues to evolve. Over the last two years, the number of hotel members in our database with the word “commercial” in their title has more than doubled. 

What is changing?   

Companies that broke down silos before the pandemic were among the first to add commercial leaders – and titles –  to their teams. The career path to that role may have come from sales, marketing, or revenue. However, the concept of the position and the unique skill set required to fill it encompass a holistic understanding of all these critical disciplines representing every level of the customer funnel journey, and the commercial leader must optimize profit in a complex pricing and distribution landscape. 

Organizations shifted during and coming out of the pandemic, and some positions and functions were consolidated. The “commercial” title became self-evident as more and more positions functioned across roles or teams. 

We thank HSMAI Sales Advisory Board member Lori Kiel, Chief Commercial Officer of the Kessler Collection, who created a LinkedIn blog to advocate for commercial leadership to step forward and reimage their teams with integrated functions.     

In a recent blog article, Lori wrote:   

To own the title of a new combined discipline, we must share the knowledge between the silos. This requires reach and vulnerability. The teams must be willing to allow access to their respective departments, and in return, those entering the new fold must be willing to “seek to understand” first while offering a point-of-view. 

The word “convergence” was probably the second most popular word during HSMAI’s Commercial Strategy Week. For years our industry talked about breaking down silos. Now that it’s happened in most hotel companies, the press at Commercial Strategy Week was eager to report on the how and why.    

Many years ago, Charles Darwin said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives, but the one that is most adaptable to change.” As our industry emerges from one of the greatest shocks it has ever experienced, demand may be resilient, but hotels and hotel companies must adapt their organizational structures to streamline functions that attract, convert, and optimize demand in a holistic manner that is more effective and efficient than ever before. Those that do will not only survive but thrive.   

Mark your calendar to be part of the conversation! The HSMAI Sales Leader Forum is October 20, 2022, in Frisco, TX, and next year’s HSMAI Americas Commercial Strategy Week is in Toronto, June 27-28, 2023. 

Categories: Revenue Management
Insight Type: Articles