Insights From HSMAI Revenue Educator of the Year Dave Roberts

Dave Roberts, Professor at Cornell, will receive the Revenue Educator of the Year Award during HSMAI Commercial Strategy Week, taking place June 28.  Dave is an award-winning professor, author, and former hospitality executive. He joined Cornell’s faculty in 2020; he teaches courses in Lodging Operations and Channel Distribution. Dave previously taught graduate courses in Business Strategy and Corporate Finance at Virginia Tech. 

In 2022, he published his first book: Hotel Revenue Management – The Post-Pandemic Evolution to Revenue Strategy.  Dave retired from Marriott in 2019, after 23 years with the company. He was the Senior Vice President of Revenue Strategy & Solutions, with global responsibility for Revenue Management, Analytics, and Sales Systems.  He was also on IBM’s Business Analytics Advisory Board.   

Prior to Marriott, Dave was a manager in the Finance Department at American Airlines, and a technical consultant on missile defense for the US Department of Defense.  He has a B.S. and an M.S. in Operations Research from Cornell, and an MBA from Northwestern.  He holds a U.S. patent on a software product and has published several academic papers. 

How did you get your start in the industry?  

I’m an engineer by background; my first job after grad school was in missile defense.  I went back to get an MBA, and then got into the airline business for a few years, and then I got a phone call from Marriott!  I started in hospitality as a data analyst.    

How did you get involved with HSMAI?  

I’m a big fan of HSMAI and seem to get more involved with each passing year.  I have been to several conferences over the years, and even got to be MC at two of them!  I’m now on the Global Distribution Advisory Board too. What a great organization, doing really important work.  

I’d like to give a shoutout to Juli Jones, HSMAI VP,  for being so awesome to work with! 

During your time in the industry, how have you seen the revenue optimization space evolve?  

I’ve seen SO many changes over the years. It is exciting to see how far we’ve come, and yet how much opportunity is still in front of us. I think we’ve made meaningful progress in the level of support from other disciplines, and I think we’ve been more closely partnered with, for example, sales, marketing, and distribution. We’ve advanced our analytics capabilities of course, and certainly our modeling skills.  Going forward, we’ll need to realize much more of the potential of machine learning and figure out the best use of our human talents!  Computers don’t do strategy, so humans will need to focus more on strategy.    

How would you describe your approach to revenue management education?  

I incorporate Revenue Management into the two courses I currently teach at Cornell (though neither is an RM course). In my ‘core’ course, I introduce pricing, customer segments, price sensitivity, and performance metrics. In my elective, the focus is Channel Distribution, though I’m constantly connecting Distribution to Revenue Management and Loyalty. At Cornell, I’ve started a Revenue Management Book Club, where we discuss various Revenue Management topics from forecasting to pricing to analytics, and much more. The book club has been a big hit. I believe in ‘spreading the word’ about Revenue Management and have been fortunate to be a guest speaker at several universities.     

What would you say has been the best moment of your career? 

The best moment of my career?  Wow, there are a lot of candidates for that because I have been so fortunate. I’d say my first day at Marriott (2/5/96)!  The day itself was pretty uneventful, but it set me on a path in hospitality that has become a part of who I am and has had such an impact on me and my family. And I’ve been surrounded by such great people – any moment that I’m connecting with them is also a ‘best moment’.    


Categories: Revenue Management
Insight Type: Articles