Meet Sales Professional of the Year Cory Hagopian

Cory Hagopian vice president, entertainment and executive travel, Accor has worked in nearly every market segment in his 30 years in the industry. Hagopian is HSMAI’s 2021 off-property Sales Professional of the Year. Recently he sat down with HSMAI to discuss his unique start in the hospitality industry and what he’s been working on throughout the pandemic.

How did you get into hospitality?

I got into hospitality out of university. I was a marketing manager for Xerox in Canada, so marketing was my background. Then in the following year there was a recession, and they closed my office, and I was looking for work.  I used to work with salespeople at marketing and tradeshows and I loved being at conventions and conferences, so I tried to get into sales that way.

I naively thought I’d see opportunities in sales through hotels, but I learned the only transferrable skill I had was working for Ticket Master in college as a reservation agent, so I worked for hotels in reservations. It was a great experience but not what I wanted long term. One day, I was going to the subway and a woman asked me if I worked at the hotel (Westin) and if I liked it. I said no I wanted to do sales and the next day I got called into HR and she was the director of convention services and catering! They offered me a job and I stayed with them for several years.

How did your career then progress?

After I left Westin, I started on property in convention services & catering and then as a director of sales at Fairmont Royal York. Then I moved between several hotels, including Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in Charlevoix; Fairmont The Queen Elizabeth in Montreal; The Plaza, A Fairmont Managed Hotel, in New York; and Fairmont Copley Plaza in Boston.

Then I went into above-property global sales and oversaw our travel industry sales segment which included travel agencies, leisure and luxury sales.  After leading that team, I moved into a sales operations role as vice president, sales effectiveness, focused on sales performance, incentive plan design, and sales goal setting.

Finally, two years ago, I was tasked to create an entertainment division for Accor focused on both group business and corporate travel.

What was your experience like throughout the pandemic?

It was interesting because at the beginning of the pandemic I was starting a new role to build a platform that didn’t yet exist. It was tough figuring it out as we were hurting as an industry, and we had to rethink everything, but ultimately, we were able to accomplish everything we wanted to do.

The difficult part was trying to engage with clients when you couldn’t be with them and had never met them in person, so we created focus groups and had zoom calls and opportunities to engage virtually with our clients. The benefit of not traveling was that we had more time to build out the platform and get it ready to share with customers. Technology allowed us to stay connected and maintain partnerships and now that I’ve started traveling, I’ve been able to pick up conversations with people I’ve only met virtually as if we’d known each other all along.

There has been a big focus on mental health & wellbeing in our company and on my team. Flexibility was critical in maintaining our own wellness and remaining focused on our own mental and physical wellbeing.  Coming out of the pandemic strong was critical so that we could be ready for the return of business.

What keeps you motivated?

I love people, that’s why I love hospitality. I’m always fascinated to meet people and hear their story, that’s who I am. It is built into my DNA. I also have to say listening to our partners, constantly learning and improving also keeps me motivated.  These past few years we have accomplished so much and we did this by listening and doing.  We have more work to get done and that keeps us all moving forward.   It is great to see business coming back, and targets met and this is very encouraging.  I am definitely looking forward to what 2022 has in store for us.

What do you like to do outside of work?

I’m always staying busy! Outside of work, I’m very fitness oriented, so anything outdoors or physical is great. I have two golden retrievers and hike with them. I live in Ft Lauderdale on the beach so every day after work you’ll find me sitting on the beach and I love being on the water and boating. I’m taking up golf because my friend convinced me to learn. I also like tennis, and I started playing pickleball, which is much more fun than I thought it would be!

I also do volunteer work with my church and sit on our foundation board.

What does this award mean to you?

It’s recognition of my peer group and that means a lot to me as they were involved in the selection process. It’s also the recognition within my company because they nominated me, so that means a lot. It is recognition of the work I have accomplished plus the work I have done with my team, so many of my colleagues internally within Accor and throughout HSMAI. This is truly a collective recognition of the work so many have done, culminating in this award.

I love what I do and the company I work for which is why I’ve been here so long. I love the opportunity to work with HSMAI. I’ve sat on the Sales Advisory Board for two terms now and participated in several committees, studies and white papers. It is such a great opportunity to improve our industry while meeting and collaborating with such great hospitality leaders. I’m very honored for the recognition and look forward to continuing the work with HSMAI and Accor.

Cory Hagopian will be among the honorees recognized at the HSMAI Sales Leader Forum October 26 in Charlotte, NC.

Categories: Sales
Insight Type: Articles