HSMAI Customer Insights: Travelers Hopeful the End of Pandemic is Near | Longwoods

New customer sentiment data brings some more silver linings and growing optimism among travelers, Longwoods International President & CEO Amir Eylon reports to HSMAI. Eylon will be leading an exclusive webinar program  February 1 for HSMAI members: The Crystal Ball is Less Cloudy: Using Traveler Sentiment Research as a Guidepost Forward

Here is his personal look at their latest bi-weekly results:

 

  • Despite the Omicron surge, 25% of American Travelers still say the pandemic no longer impacts their travel decisions… Is this an indicator we are perhaps starting to see a shift in the American Traveler’s mindset from pandemic to endemic?
  • 36% of American Travelers expect a high level of service than pre-pandemic during their upcoming travel (45% expect it to be at least the same as before)s…  How does our industry meet or exceed these expectations given the current challenge of filling workforce needs?
  • American Travelers seem to be making a deliberate effort to support local businesses via their dining and shopping activities.
  • Timely health and safety information (25%) and timely information on business operations (20%) top the list of what American Travelers find most helpful to them in shopping local.
  • And we are still seeing record pent up demand for travel with 91% of travelers planning to go in the next six months.
  • Keeping an eye on inflation:  One out of four travelers indicate that their financial situation or the cost of transportation would greatly impact their decision to travel in the next six months.

Bottom Line:  American Travelers appear to be hopeful that the end of the pandemic is near!

Access the full report here:

How Ongoing Education, Training, and Coaching for Sales Staff Can Help Address Challenges

By Pat Kobela, Regional Director of Sales at Chartwell Hotels, HSMAI Sales Advisory Board Member

The HSMAI Sales Advisory Board recently identified the following as some of the top issues facing the sales discipline:

  • Keeping sellers motivated
  • Improving seller business acumen (mining and actioning data points)
  • Managing smaller teams and fewer resources
  • Being more efficient in finding business

All these challenges can be positively impacted by ongoing education, training, and coaching. We dove into this topic through a series of discussions, focusing on exploring three big questions.

1. What are we giving our sales staff — in terms of tools, education, training, and coaching — to help them meet their goals?

The consensus among the group was that yesterday’s best practices are not today’s best practices. Education and training are challenging now, with limited resources and no budget for hiring outside trainers. Plus, we’re in an emotional and challenging time, particularly for those who were furloughed and have returned to work, and for those who worked throughout the worst of the pandemic without a break. Some people have forgotten policies and best practices and need to be reacclimated.

One advisory board member’s company does a training series twice a month. They surveyed their people about training and education needs, then found experts on those topics within the company to conduct the sessions. There is one for sellers and one for catering and servicing each month. Topics include negotiations, overcoming objections, how to deal with sports groups’ commissions, etc.

Holding weekly sales meetings with each team can also be helpful, in addition to using your brands’ educational programs, and keeping up with content in trade journals and on LinkedIn to use those topics as conversation starters.

Another point that arose during the discussion is that it’s important to consider that many salespeople have never worked in a down market before and don’t know how to sell in this environment, specifically to those markets that currently have demand. Getting back to the basics, using roleplaying, and ensuring new hires have ample training time were recommendations that the advisory board put forth.

2. Do sales staff — not just the leaders — have the information and authority they need to make business decisions? If not, what should change?

Autonomy is key as some staffs are still short and others have people who are out sick. Decision-making processes may need to be reconsidered in light of our “new normal.” Also, people are feeling beat up, one advisory board member pointed out. “GMs tend to look only at the bottom line, not considering long-term customer relationships.” The business that hotels are getting now is business from people who we have relationships with.

Another point revealed how salespeople feel revenue management staff questions their decisions on cancellations and bookings. One member suggested putting a cancellation clause in the contract, but “if you need to waive the fee at cancellation to keep a good relationship, do it.” Brands are being flexible with contracts, as one member mentioned, so we should follow their lead at the property level.

3. How much do we encourage salespeople to be better educated about issues in and related to the sales discipline such as revenue management and marketing?

While sometimes other departments can be territorial, it’s important to understand the challenges and nuances of our colleagues’ work. Some people might take it upon themselves to get educated and then report what they learned to their colleagues, while others may not know what to do with this information. Set up a weekly meeting to discuss this content, as well as team progress and successes. Scheduling a monthly videoconference can help build camaraderie, as more people are working from home.

It’s also important to make sure people know what resources and opportunities are available to them. One sales leader in the group tells her team to block one hour per week to enrich themselves — and it does not have to be directly related to work (e.g., yoga!). She models this, so they know it’s OK to do it. It’s a reminder that when everyone is empowered to better the company, they will do.

7 Predictions for 2022: The Value of Consumer Data, In-Person Meetings and Focus on Talent

While the past two years have been, to say the least, unpredictable, we have begun to see and explore trends and new developments that will impact our profession as we continue moving toward a sense of recovery. HSMAI President and CEO Bob Gilbert shared his insights on important changes that might be on the horizon for 2022.  

1. Research about consumer behavior will be more valuable than ever. Implications of the COVID-19 variants, outbreaks, and vaccination rates will continue to ripple throughout the travel industry. Consumer behavior in leisure and corporate travel as well as meetings and conventions will need to be continually monitored. The resilience of travel will continue to surprise many. 

2. Commercial teams will continue to work closer together and/or integrate or consolidate. The pandemic forced staff reductions in many hotels and hotel companies, and as teams rebuild, they are doing so more efficiently and intelligently. Companies are operationalizing new ideas and efficiencies that will maximize impact and ROI. 

3. Communicating on the small screen will be normalized. As the workplace environment changes, sales professionals will have to adapt to find ways to work with customers, especially any customers who may not be in a physical office. 

4. Face-to-face meetings will become more valuable. Industry professionals and their customers may travel to fewer trade shows and events, but the ones they do will become even more important as the opportunity for buyers and suppliers to meet face to face and for relationships to be developed will be even rarer. In the beginning of the pandemic, we could connect virtually because we had established relationships — that relationship-equity bucket needs to be replenished now. It’s just human nature. The same holds true for the business traveler. There may be fewer trips, but the ones that happen will have a higher value. 

5. Hospitality technology stacks will improve. The pandemic forced the commercial teams to work closer together to find solutions to create or capture demand and communication with consumers.  Consumers are willing to adapt to technology solutions and will become more loyal to brands’ apps and the personalized benefits and timely information that can be communicated via these apps. 

6. The focus on talent and the talent pipeline will be a priority for all hospitality companies. Creative sources tactics will emerge. Hospitality school graduates will be in higher demand, and employee benefits and retention strategies will be enhanced. 

7. Mergers and acquisitions will continue where economies of scale and other synergies can be leveraged. This will impact brands, management companies, ownership groups, and tech vendors. 

Read more about Gilbert’s new year predictions, along with those of other industry insiders, in Hospitality Upgrade. 

HSMAI PERSPECTIVE: Get Your Team Ready for What’s to Come With HSMAI

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

We’re rounding out the first month of this new year, preparing to dive deep into achieving our goals and acting on strategic plans. And while these goals and plans may look different from what we’re used to, I’m optimistic about what they have to offer our industry in terms of innovation and transformation.  

We know that our “new normal” has caused us all to be more nimble, flexible, and creative in how we approach pretty much everything — good or bad — and we’ve accepted the fact that how we operate moving forward won’t be the same. We’re at a point now where we need to double down and tap into the tools within our own community to build and thrive and get good ideas that we can use to drive that innovation and transformation as well as inspire us to address challenges head on. HSMAI is putting on a suite of events for 2022 that will help you do just that. 

Our first in-person event of the year is a must-attend: the reimagined HSMAI Adrian Awards ceremony. As you may have heard, this year’s event will honor 2021 award winners in Florida on March 30 at The Boca Raton. This is an exciting change, as we’ve held the event in New York for the past 25 years, and we’re looking forward to celebrating the industry’s best of the best and reuniting in person. 

In addition to the awards ceremony, get ready for our face-to-face Commercial Strategy Week conferences and roundtables in Orlando. The Marketing Strategy Conference takes place June 28 and HSMAI ROC Americas will be held June 29. Our Sales Leader Forum is happening this fall on Oct. 20 in Frisco, Texas. We’re also hosting a series of invitation-only virtual executive roundtables for chief marketing, chief digital, chief loyalty and chief revenue officers as well as ownership commercial executives in February. 

HSMAI is dedicated to providing its members with the platform and the space to celebrate and learn from each other, share big ideas and best practices, and maybe even have a little fun in the process. Our industry and our people thrive on face-to-face interaction, and we’re looking forward to offering an environment that allows us all to safely reunite and reconnect. 

Where Do Solar and Electric Vehicle Charging Fit Into Your Revenue Strategy?

By Christian Boerger, CRME, CHDM, CHBA, vice president of revenue strategy at Oxford Collection, HSMAI Revenue Optimization Advisory Board member

Last June, MGM Resorts International activated a solar park that will power up to 90% of its 13 Las Vegas properties. According to the Associated Press, the company says the initiative is “the hospitality industry’s largest renewable energy project.”

In April 2021, Reuters reported that 12 U.S. governors called on President Joe Biden to support ceasing sales of new gas-powered vehicles by 2035 — an effort that California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order on for his state in fall 2020. There are currently about 2 million electric vehicles (EVs) on the road and, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance, there will be about 26 million by 2030.

So, what does all this mean for revenue optimization professionals?

HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board recently discussed the potential impact of commercial solar and EV charging on hotels’ revenue and profit strategy. While the demand for solar and EV charging has been on the rise, there’s still uncertainty surrounding how — or if — hotels should tap into this opportunity, and if they do, how to monetize it. For revenue optimization professionals who might have this on their radar, here are some considerations that arose from the advisory board discussion.

On Profitability

  • “[When talking about solar], the first thing I thought was, ‘That’s great for profitability.’ Over the lifecycle of holding an asset, that’s probably a significant amount of profit. But how do you reinvest that? There are probably some structural improvements you could address, but as our industry is grappling with talent and hiring, could you re-allocate any utility savings to human resources initiatives? Recruitment, development, and retention are three focus areas that come to mind. As revenue optimization professionals who are hopefully making that shift toward being overall commercial or business strategy influencers, that’s the conversation we must have — it’s not just about profit maximization; it’s about money that can be reinvested in our human resources.”
  • “To me, [solar] is essentially a no brainer. With rising electricity costs and plenty of federal, state, and utility incentives, the ROI generally pencils out over the short-term with solar. I wish we could address those opportunities at the time we start talking about new hotel building designs because it’s just the right thing to do. Upfront CAPEX investment may seem cost prohibitive, so focusing on the long-term impact is critical. That’s the challenge we need to figure out.”
  • “In the past, [these offerings] were great for marketing purposes. You were able to get so much visibility out of promoting them. Today, it is much more of a revenue play because we’re seeing all these big corporate and group accounts making their decisions to book with you dependent on your sustainability efforts. When renewing negotiated rates for 2022, our sales teams had to answer a full page of sustainability-related questions versus very few only a couple of years ago. A number of those questions are related to solar and EV charging, and if those can’t be answered to satisfaction, you likely won’t be considered as a partner. In the future, that’s going to become even more important. If you want those revenues, then you better get with the program.”

On Sustainability

  • “When, not if, we proceed with expanding our EV charging footprint, we need to be careful with the messaging we give to guests because they’re savvy. Promoting EV charging as part of our sustainability efforts but charging above and beyond our basic costs and expenses isn’t going to work. Guests are going to turn around and say, ‘This isn’t about sustainability and caring about [the environment] — it’s about making more money.’”
  • “We have dismal electricity grids across the nation. Let’s remember the rolling blackouts in California and winter power crisis in Texas in 2021. Additionally, we saw power outages due to wildfires and other extreme weather events. So, at some point, commercial hotel solar becomes not only a topic of sustainability and profitability, but also of building resiliency.”

On Monetization (Amenity vs. Additional Fee)

  • “[With EV charging], we offer it for free to bolster and support our sustainability efforts, but also to provide a lever we can use in marketing to generate demand. In our newest project down in the desert, we have solar panels generating some of the electricity for the property. It’s something we’ve looked at for every project. Right now, the cost of solar panels is still high, but as electricity rates continue to go up, that becomes more of a reality. Not only is it the right thing to do in terms of supporting sustainability efforts, but as revenue professionals, it’s our job to create ideas and work collaboratively with the team to come up with ways to create demand.”
  • “From a behavioral standpoint, I was curious about what customers are doing, and there’s about 40,000 average searches per month [on Google] for electric car charging. But then when you add the term ‘hotel’ to that, there’s no data at this point. And it’s not to say that no one’s searching for it, but I think it does say that consumers are not aware hotels are offering this or they’re not looking for it. From a messaging standpoint, it looks like, at least from the data that Google is showing, there’s opportunity there.”
  • “I think it’s easy to offer EV charging as an amenity, as long as it’s not constrained. And when it does become constrained at some point in the future, it becomes a much more interesting and challenging problem to solve and a potential opportunity.”
  • “It’s like what we’ve seen with Wi-Fi maybe a decade ago, where initially it was this value-add and a major differentiator. Hotels were saying, ‘Hey, we have Wi-Fi,’ and then at some point it became, ‘Hey, we have free Wi-Fi.’ Now customers are saying, ‘You don’t have Wi-Fi? I’m not going to stay with you.’ That trend is something that’s been projected to happen with EV charging capabilities as well.”
  • “To be clear on the monetization piece, it’s not necessarily monetizing the electricity that you’re selling. That’s minuscule. It’s the additional room night you’re getting through it because you are able to competitively differentiate yourself by having a solid setup.”

On Potential Partnerships for EV Charging

  • “It would be interesting to see data or trends on rental car companies moving toward EVs. Between the car, the hotel and the ability to charge that car, it lends itself to a package or bundle type of opportunity, where the revenues could be shared. And maybe there’s an opportunity for third parties to do that.”

This conversation brought up many interesting viewpoints, all driving back to the overarching idea that revenue optimization professionals must stay creative and vigilant in developing new opportunities. As one advisory board member put it, “What other sources of revenue are out there that a traditional revenue rooms-based manager may not be thinking about? What other sources are revenue professionals missing because we’re not thinking outside of the traditional, ‘I have X number of rooms to sell a night’?”

One way to start thinking outside of the traditional is, if you have the bandwidth, to touch base with your design and construction teams for future projects. Think ahead on how your organization might tackle EV charging, commercial solar and energy storage in the future. These are three components to look at that can ultimately generate more revenue and profit.

8 Ways to Improve Communication Between Hotel and Meeting Planning Professionals

HSMAI Rising Sales Leader Council – Sales Tools Work Group

In 2018, we outlined the challenges that hotel professionals and meeting planners face as they aim to work together in an efficient and mutually beneficial way. Much has changed since then, due to the transformation that COVID-19 has brought upon our industry, but one thing has remained the same: To successfully bring people together through events and unique experiences, hotel and meeting professionals must continue to collaborate in a unified and transparent manner. Here are eight ways to maximize the relationship with your key partners in planning.

1. Be upfront from the start. Be honest with how long offers will be valid and space will be held. Review dates for definite bookings with the option to reduce blocks months in advance to help avoid attrition. Also, consider adding a COVID-19 conditions pricing clause to your contracts or using a creative cancellation scale.

2. Conduct post-contract pulse checks with the client on confidence of pick up and/or odds of cancellation. A quick call followed up by an email would be best. Get in front of any changes that may be taking place with the group, so the hotel can prepare and yield revenue properly.

3. Keep planners informed of all changes within your sales office or organization. Keeping them informed of any structural changes builds the relationship and trust with the client and will ensure we are getting important information regarding their group as soon as possible.

4. Ensure constant flexibility on both sides. Planners should be flexible with dates and available space, as we will hopefully see an influx of meetings all at once. The planning process is less cut and dry as previous years. Pricing will vary as availability varies and different dates than usual may be used for groups/events. It also makes budgeting on both ends tricky and a constant moving target.

5. Reach out to 2019 loyal clients to see if they would like their desired dates held for 2023. Eventually, the pandemic will end, and we will want these clients’ continued loyalty. With dates and availability being such a mixed bag, the pandemic leaves an opening for past loyal clients to explore other options (by choice or by lack of availability.) If we can get in front of this, it will better our chances of keeping these clients as we return to post-pandemic times.

6. Communicate how food stations and sanitation are different amid the pandemic, based upon hotel standards and realistic expectations (food shortages, etc.), as the additional cost of food and sanitation products could come with a fee. Also, monthly food menus should be in accordance with food pricing. A disclaimer such as, “This is our current menu, but options and pricing could change” could help prevent any surprises. Suggesting external dinner referrals could also help provide more options.

7. Distribute welcome letters to groups to provide realistic expectations and amenities with attendees. Highlight any amenity changes that are different from the norm, including hotel COVID policies such as masking and local business information (restaurants that are open, whether they are dine-in/takeout only, etc.).

8. Conduct regular funnel scrubbing internally. Create a standard for the number of touch points with clients for prospects and tentatives prior to updating the booking status and stick to the dates and timeline that were provided in the initial proposal. Keep the pipeline as up to date as possible to ensure we are optimizing potential business and protecting the space.

Creating New Opportunities

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and Knowland present The New Sales Team, a white paper that discusses how the evolving tactics of hotel sales teams are in turn changing the dynamic between hotel management companies and owner groups. The new sales team is focused on direct selling, fulfills multiple functions across a tiered organization, and does not rely on inbound leads.

While the white paper focuses on sales teams, the information within it is applicable to hoteliers across the commercial functions, as the dynamics continue to change and disciplines increasingly overlap.

Through interviews with industry leaders, the white paper examines how sales teams are moving from an overreliance on inbound leads to a renewed commitment to hunting and data-driven selling, and how this affects the type of data that sales teams, management companies, and ownership groups need and how they use that data.

Access the full white paper here.

“Indeed, the pandemic has actually created an opportunity for hoteliers to shift revenue strategy and reconfigure their sales teams in a way that may not have been a priority during the previous levels of economic boom and oversupply of RFPs. Making these changes permanent and setting now smaller sales teams up for overall success requires more than an everyone-do-more-with-less ethos. Sales teams need to be equipped with strategies and data tools to pivot from a reactive to a proactive approach as demand returns.”

Partnerships Between Brands and Creators Will Define the Next Generation of Travel Marketing

By Tim Peter, Founder & President, Tim Peter & Associates

Hotel marketers are living through a “new abnormal.” We’re not yet free from the effects of the pandemic that would lead to a true “new normal.” And at the same time, there’s room for optimism. The good news is that guests are starting to travel again. But reaching those guests – and especially new guests – is harder than before. Audiences are more fragmented. And changes in the way we’re able to track marketing activities online make it tougher than ever to know what’s working… and what isn’t. 

How can hospitality marketers find new guests? How can you ensure that your message cuts through the clutter? How can you know that you’re reaching the right audience? And, most importantly, how can you do all of this at a reasonable cost? 

Instead of asking “how,” though, maybe we ought to ask, “who?” Content creators on social media – individuals who’ve built trusted, engaged, and enthusiastic audiences – can be that “who” for your brand. Creators provide an outstanding outlet for reaching new markets and audiences, allowing your message to be seen by guests interested in travel and your destination, and driving measurable demand from new customers. These creators know who your customers are because they talk with travelers every day. And they provide a surprisingly affordable way to reach potential guests that you can’t reach on your own. 

Travelers are eager for influencer content

It’s no secret that travel is among the world’s favorite activities, with growth next year forecasted above 28%, contributing nearly $2 trillion to the US economy. As eye-popping as those numbers might be, potential guests love exploring travel options online almost as much as they enjoy their trips. According to Morning Consult, almost two-thirds of people engage with travel influencer content more now than they did before the pandemic. While this dynamic isn’t new, almost two years of lockdowns have served to accelerate the trend. 

This behavior also isn’t confined just to young people. Yes, half of all Millennials – who are themselves now rapidly approaching 40 years old and represent the largest share of travelers – follow at least one travel influencer. But, again, according to Morning Consult, 84% of US adults who follow travel influencers say they rely on those creators for recommendations when shopping for travel. These numbers are all the more impressive when you consider that travel consistently places among the top topics shared on Instagram. Creators provide hotels access to engaged audiences eager to browse… and to book. 

Co-creation between brands and creators drives long-term brand building

Who are these influencers? While you’ve probably heard of big-name movie stars or popular athletes, your guests often engage with lesser-known individuals. And that’s OK. It’s not the size of the audience that matters – though larger brands may of course choose to partner with creators who have built larger audiences – it’s who’s in that audience that matters for your brand and your business. Even a “nano-influencer” – someone with fewer than 1,000 followers – can present the right opportunity to reach guests in-market and interested in your property. 

Instead of focusing solely on size, think about what you want to accomplish using social media, then find influencers who can help you achieve those goals. It isn’t “one size fits all;” choose creators who connect with audiences that suit your brand’s objectives. Looking for engagement and advocacy for your property or destination? Consider nano-influencers, those who have significant influence with a narrow, but committed audience. Similarly, micro-influencers, those with somewhere between 1,000 and 100,000 followers, are noted for their authenticity and connection with their community to drive engagement. Want broader awareness and reach? Larger brands can leverage the reach that macro and mega influencers – those with 100,000 to 1M followers or over 1M followers, respectively – provide to put their message in front of audiences unseen outside of traditional broadcast channels. And look to balance reach with action. 

As Creator Nana Agyemang notes, “There are many opportunities for partnerships in travel and tourism, but it’s important to remember these partnerships take planning, a vision and working with an influencer who has a great personality and strong brand.” (IG: @ItsReallyNana)

Of course, it’s not just a matter of finding the “right” person. It’s letting that creator tell stories that their audiences value. You likely wouldn’t poke your head into the cockpit before takeoff to tell the pilot where to set the throttle or the course for your flight. It also makes little sense to demand creators who’ve successfully built diverse, engaged audiences read your standard script. Using them solely as a megaphone for you to shout through ignores their greatest strength. Of course you should guide what you’d like to hear them say, but creators create. They’re at their best as collaborative partners who can help showcase your hotels in a fresh, engaging way to reach new audiences and drive incremental business. 

Adventure traveler and creator Chelsea Yamase says it best, “ My advice would be: Understand your specific goal, be discerning in who you work with, and then give creators the freedom to do what we do best. It’s been immensely important to me that brands which approach me have values that align with my own – that’s when partnership is a win-win and when I’ve found the experience creates the greatest results.” (IG: @ChelseaKauai

Partnership with creators drives business outcomes

Telling great stories is wonderful. But turning those stories into revenue is even better. That’s particularly important in a world where it’s increasingly difficult to track outcomes and attribute business. Creators can help close that gap. They’re able to deliver messages that resonate with guests who are ready to book, in part because they’ve built trusted relationships with their audiences. And part of that trust is something you can’t build on your own. 

Why not let a trusted partner augment all the great work you’re doing to tell your brand’s story? Asking for a booking works with some customers. But getting someone else to tell a potential guest why they should book your hotel can help you reach untapped audiences… and grow your business. As Nana Ageyamang puts it, “The success behind these luxury hotel partnerships and my travels aren’t just a matter of having a good following on Instagram – it’s not just about a number – it’s about the loyal, engaged audience I’ve fostered, my creative vision, and my commitment to plan and execute a successful hotel partnership.”

Meta has found that ads and similar content that used “demotainment” – that is, entertainment, surprise, and storytelling in the product demonstration – generally aligned with increased conversion rates. The trust they’ve established with their existing audiences – and with each new story they tell – works to drive measurable, meaningful results for hotels every single day. 

How you can get started

Now that we’ve established “who” can help, here are a few tips for how you can get started:

  • Build a creator strategy into your marketing plan. Content is still king in hospitality marketing. That doesn’t mean it’s your job to create every piece of content about your hotels. Incorporate creative collaborations into your marketing plan and let others tell a positive brand story on your behalf to drive conversions. 
  • Leverage technology to find the right resources. There are lots of options out there among creators. Which ones are the right ones for your business? Check out Meta Brand Collabs Manager to identify, learn more, and connect with creators that align with your brand and your audience. 
  • Consider partnering with an influencer marketing firm. Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Again, “who, not how” is your go-to here. Meta Business Partners offers a number of companies that understand your needs and have built the right relationships with the travel influencers who can help you meet those needs. 
  • Build creative agility into your organization. Finally, remember that this is a creative process. Expect to learn from the creators you work with and to adapt as you put those learnings into practice. Especially as the “new abnormal” becomes “more normal,” what works may change. You’re better off learning to adapt quickly than planning for every possible outcome… and then having to adapt anyway when something new comes along. 

Conclusion 

So, yes, we’re in a “new abnormal.” We’re facing an evolving hospitality marketing landscape with more changes coming, even faster than ever. The best response isn’t just to think “how” we can address those changes, but to ask “who” can help us find and encourage guests to stay with us. Creators offer a trusted messenger to help you reach engaged audiences who are ready to travel. They can tell a positive brand story on your behalf and can convert their audiences into new guests for your business. 

Creators know how to talk to the customers you want to reach. They’ve earned the trust of their audience. And they’re as committed to doing right by that audience as you are. That itself may be “abnormal” compared to what you’re used to. But we’d all love to see others telling great stories about our properties going from being a “new abnormal” to the new normal, a norm we can live with for years to come.

Part 1 of a 2-Part HSMAI Insights series in partnership with Meta.

New Approaches, New Needs

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and Knowland present The New Sales Team, a white paper that discusses how the evolving tactics of hotel sales teams are in turn changing the dynamic between hotel management companies and owner groups. The new sales team is focused on direct selling, fulfills multiple functions across a tiered organization, and does not rely on inbound leads.

Through interviews with industry leaders, the white paper examines how sales teams are moving from an overreliance on inbound leads to a renewed commitment to hunting and data-driven selling, and how this affects the type of data that sales teams, management companies, and ownership groups need and how they use that data.

Access the full white paper here.

NEW APPROACHES, NEW NEEDS

In order to have these meaningful conversations, HMC sales professionals need access to the right type of data about their potential customers. ‘Our belief was always that we’re an outbound direct sales organization,’ said Chris Kenney, senior vice president of sales and marketing for CoralTree Hospitality, which manages 22 branded and independent lifestyle hotels and resorts in the United States. This means that Kenney’s teams must be targeted in their approaches, needing to know ‘who is that customer that will, or will have the propensity to, do business with us and why?’

To create experts, CoralTree’s sales teams — which often include one person selling multiple properties — deploy against vertical industries rather than geographically. They must have access to data to understand details about the groups that are coming to their markets, so they can research each specific industry and its behaviors and inclinations around things like preferred meeting season. This way, teams will be better equipped to proactively approach those groups that have the propensity to do more business in a market than others, or to recognize that the verticals they used to rely on for their business may not be the ones they need to focus on now. ‘Knowing that,” Kenney said, ‘I can deploy against that and be more targeted in a market than others might.

2022 is all about “Radar Love”

Recently, as a pilot, I found myself completely disoriented as we entered adverse weather and lost all visibility outside our aircraft. My initial instinct was to fly by the seat of my pants and try to keep the aircraft straight and level. But I knew that when you lose visibility your body can play tricks on you and you can get into a disoriented state. I needed to look down at the instruments onboard and trust fully in them to give me the information necessary to fly straight and level and on course. Once I did this, I gained situational awareness, was able to analyze the environment, and was able to navigate safely to the destination airport with the assistance of the navigation systems onboard.

Thinking ahead to 2022 we are in a similar situation.  We find ourselves in the clouds not knowing exactly where the industry will head. By now this is nothing new as we have been in the clouds for some time now. We’ve seen breaks in the clouds from time to time and enjoyed some reprieve but we also realize the vulnerability of the situation we are in.

Given the current situation of uncertainty, there are a few things that will assist you as you navigate into the new year and think about the direction needed to optimize revenue and profitability.

Situational Awareness:

Your owner or banker may ask the question: “So, how’s the business going?” You may answer “Fantastic!” but then the next question may be, well how do you know?” This is an important question to ask and cuts to the heart of whether your management team has “situational awareness.”

So, what are those “key” metrics that drive success within your organization. The answer will be different depending on your objectives, markets, and the current situation you are in. The approach needs to be a balanced approach that takes into account key stakeholders and the overall objective. For example, owners/investors will be focused on EBITDA, ROI, etc. Accountants and revenue teams will be focused on net profits, margins, etc. Revenue teams will also be focused on market share indices, conversion, ROAS, sales goals, etc. Other areas need attention on overall guest experience, employee satisfaction, etc. High performing organizations typically have a few shared goals for the whole enterprise, and then functional and subgroups develop specific key metrics that clearly map to the overall goals.

Ensure all systems and KPI’s are working optimally:

Setting systems on autopilot without monitoring is dangerous and likely will result in less-than-optimal results for your organization. I’ve talked to many revenue managers over the last couple years and most will attest to the need to monitor their revenue systems closely because of the volatile state we are in. They did not trust them fully. The same is true with monitoring and adjusting your KPI’s. What you thought at the beginning of the year would be a good goal may fall short of achieving your fullest potential. Monitoring several measures and trends are important to understand your current situation, which then allows you to adjust strategy and be agile in this ever-changing environment.

Challenge yourself to learn something new and learn from others:

Of those that I consider successful over the last two years there is a common theme. They continue to challenge themselves by learning something new, and they are not afraid to reach out to others to understand best practices. This ensures you maintain perspective.

I teach the HSMAI Revenue Optimization Essentials Course. It is refreshing to teach the class because I see individuals from operations, sales, marketing, and revenue management all in the class together with a desire to understand more about how they can become an effective leader in the area of revenue optimization. They also gain viewpoints from their peers that will impact how they view their commercial strategies.

2022 has some promising signs and I continue to believe this year will be a pivotal year in the overall recovery for the industry. The more we are aware the better we, as an industry, can respond and optimize. I truly hope all of you will have a successful 2022.

About Tim Wiersma

Principle, Revenue Generation llc. With more than two decades of experience in the hospitality industry, Tim Wiersma is recognized as a leader in revenue management. His company specializes in property and portfolio revenue management, sales, marketing, distressed-asset turnaround, and asset assessment; his company consistently delivers results for properties around the world.

Before Revenue Generation, Tim was a vice president with Host Hotels and Resorts, a Fortune 500 company and the largest premiere real estate hospitality company in the world. He has also held a vice president position at TPG Hospitality, a private equity firm with over 60 full-service hotels representing all major markets and brands, and he was vice president of Red Roof Group where he oversaw the Revenue Strategy of over 650 economy hotels. He has held other corporate-level positions with Starwood Hotels and Resorts and Canadian Hotel Income Properties and has been a key advisor for Marriott International in sales and revenue management.

He is an active member of HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International).  He is currently serving on the Revenue Optimization Advisory Board and is a past chair. He is also teaching the HSMAI Revenue Optimization Essentials course on a regular basis.