What Do Asset Managers Want From Hospitality Sales, Marketing, and Revenue-Management Professionals?

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

During the many meetings I’ve had with asset managers or with hotel management companies (HMCs), it’s rare that they don’t talk about what they need and expect from each other. “I wish my asset managers did this,” the hotel management companies say. “I wish my hotel management companies did that,” the asset managers say. 

For that reason, every year we invite asset managers to speak to our Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Executive Roundtable. At our most recent HMC roundtable, I moderated a session with two veteran asset managers: Maxine Taylor, senior vice president of CHMWarnick, and president of the Hospitality Asset Managers Association (HAMA); and Dave Johnstone, chief investment officer for McWhinney.

What’s keeping them up at night? “It’s a lot of the same things that are keeping you up at night,” Taylor told roundtable participants. “The amount of disrupters — it feels like whack-a-mole out there,” from competing with HotelTonight and Airbnb, to managing the rising costs of distribution and labor. Johnstone added: “Where I struggle these days is digital marketing versus advertising. Trying to figure out where is the best ROI is really where we spend our time — figuring out, what is the best use of our money?”

What should asset managers be focused on? One roundtable participant asked how involved an asset manager should be in day-to-day business, especially in cases where a hotel’s general manager ends up feeling trapped between the asset manager and the HMC. “To me, asset management is an art,” Johnstone said. “Our goal is to get the operator to perform as best as possible. And if that means to stay out of the way, you stay out of the way. When things are going well, don’t get in the way. If I feel like I’m right about something and I’ve done some math to think that through, I will make it their idea. I will try to lay the day in front of them and say, ‘Think about it like this,’ and then have them come back to me and say, ‘Hey, we should do this.’”

Taylor agreed. “We try to balance it,” she said. “We don’t want to be in your face. But we do think there is value to be added. Whether you want to look at RevPAR or rate, if there’s another way to skin that cat, let’s talk about it. It’s meant to be collaborative. With management and brand often one in the same, alignment with ownership investment objectives can be challenging at times. As the owner responsible for paying all of the expenses associated with management decisions, we’re going to want to have a say in it.”

Is there a difference between a third-party management franchisee and a brand-managed asset? “I look at them all equal,” Taylor said. “I do find that sometimes the brand is maybe a little bit more regimented and the rules are a little less flexible.” Johnstone added: “The plus and minus of a brand is they cost more. Their expenses are higher. With independents, it’s a fact that their expenses are lower, but most of them have a much higher turnover.”

What if you think an asset manager wants to sell? “There are some asset managers where it’s really easy to collaborate,” one roundtable participant said. “Then the other side is, what would you suggest when we’ve got an asset manager who’s asking questions or steering things in a certain way that you know they’re gearing up to sell an asset? They’re never going to tell you that, and therefore your goals are not aligned. I think I’m doing X and really you’re just setting us up for a sale.”

Taylor suggested being candid. “I think it’s always best just to say, are we for sale?” she said, “Are you trying to drive something differently right now that I should be aware of? I think people want to be honest. I don’t think they want to play games. If they’re trying to get to something and you can help them get there, they might as well tell you.”

Johnstone emphasized the importance of building trust. “I’ll take the GM, sales and marketing team, the exec team — we’ll go out for dinner and have a social thing, so you can look at me as a genuine person and I can look at you as a genuine person,” Johnstone said. “Trust is how you get to alignment. I take my group out twice a year for a fun day. We went and did escape rooms, we did ax throwing. Then we had meals together. All of that interaction builds trust. It knocks walls down.”

What makes a good hospitality sales and marketing professional? “They get what my goals are,” Johnstone said. “They understand what I’m trying to accomplish.” Taylor added: “It goes back to the team. They’re ahead of everything. I feel like I don’t really need to be there, because they come up with a plan and they execute on it. And you can see every month or every week, when we talk to them you can see that they’re moving toward that. They do it on their own, but it’s beautiful to watch.”

Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is a global organization of sales, marketing, and revenue-management professionals representing all segments of the hospitality industry. With a strong focus on education, HSMAI leads the way in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry. Operating as a leading voice for both hospitality and the sales, marketing, and revenue-management disciplines, HSMAI connects its members with customers. Founded in the United States in 1927, HSMAI is membership organization comprising 5,000 members from 35 countries and chapters worldwide.

About HSMAI’s Executive Roundtables
HSMAI brings together Chief Marketing Officers, Chief Digital Marketing Officers, Chief Sales Officers, Chief Revenue Officers, and Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing executives for roundtable discussions throughout the year. Companies represented at the Hotel Management Company Sales & Marketing Executive Roundtable included Atlific Hotels & Resorts, Coakley & Williams Hotel Management, CSM Lodging, The Dow Hotel Company, Hospitality Ventures Management Group, HVS Hotel Management Company, Kessler Collection, KSL Resorts, Pineapple Hospitality Company, Prism Hotels & Resorts, Real Hospitality Group, Regency Hotel Management, Sage Hospitality Resources, Sound Hospitality, Spire Hospitality, and Windsor Capital Group, Inc.

Categories: Revenue Management
Insight Type: Articles