The State of Hospitality Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Talent

By Karen K. Wollard, Ed.D., CHDM, Adviser, HSMAI Foundation Board of Directors

It’s no secret that the pandemic has pushed the hospitality industry into a talent crisis. As the virtual Chief Human Resources Officer Executive Roundtable programs that the HSMAI Foundation co-presented with HSMAI Americas, HSMAI Asia Pacific, HSMAI Europe, and HSMAI Middle East over the last several months revealed, hotel companies are facing an unprecedented range of challenges when it comes to attracting, managing, and retaining employees.

We received more expert insights into that during a recent meeting of the HSMAI Foundation Board of Directors. Because the Foundation’s mission is “to elevate the overall caliber and performance of sales, marketing, and revenue management professionals in the global hospitality industry by driving initiatives that will attract new talent, develop emerging talent, and engage existing talent,” we took the opportunity of the meeting to ask board members to share their thoughts on the ongoing talent crisis. Here are key takeaways from our conversation:


Large reductions in staff have led to crushing workloads for hospitality professionals who are still toiling with reduced staffing levels. Maintaining engagement among both still-employed talent and the many workers who have been given reduced hours or furloughed requires new ways of working and relating. Staying positive and productive is challenging when there is so much unpredictability, absolutely no redundancy, and constantly changing mandates and policies.

Many Foundation board members commented on the amazing abilities of their teams to step up to these challenges despite incredible headwinds — pivoting quickly and adapting with creativity while expanding their scope of work. Collaboration and resiliency have carried teams forward.

The last 10 months have seen diminished loyalty to the hospitality industry, as retained talent opts out and team members remain in opportunistic mode. Repairing the perception of management’s willingness to cut long-term staff will be a hurdle as the industry recovers.


During a presentation at our CHRO Executive Roundtable for the Americas in October, Deloitte’s Danielle Hawkins outlined key opportunity areas for the hospitality workforce. Ranked most important was reskilling — investing in resilience for uncertain futures, with a newly energized effort toward cross-training and leadership development. Ranked next was a focus on fostering belonging and well-being among those who remain, keeping them productive while facing constant pressures and survivor guilt. Virtual teaming has emerged as a viable way of working, with many sales and marketing teams collaborating to explore every possible business source and sales audience.

Along those lines, mobilizing an ecosystem of talent will lead to a breaking down of silos in many aspects of hospitality. Already, sales skills are seen as being important for everyone, not just specialists. Teams are more collaborative, with closer ties between operations and sales, marketing, and revenue optimization.


What changes will continue to reshape hospitality talent? Diversity and inclusion have become more organized efforts; no longer organic, they are focused intentions. In addition, as the pandemic has increased uncertainty, shorter-term projections have led to increased use of technology — in terms of both adding solutions and expanding the ability of people across the organization to work more effectively. One Foundation board member said hospitality teams are adopting an old military lesson: The only easy day was yesterday.

Board members also discussed the need to remember that hospitality has an immersive element that is lost as business is conducted mostly or entirely online. While this is necessary for the moment, there has to be a commitment to bringing people back together — live —in restaurants, lobbies, ballrooms, and conferences spaces across the globe. The human element is essential to hospitality. The future will find a balance that propels hospitality, travel, and tourism to new heights.

Categories: Marketing, Talent and Leadership Development
Insight Type: Articles