Revenue Optimization in the “New Abnormal”

By Juli Jones, CAE, Vice President, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board members spent time recently updating their dashboard of the top issues facing hotels and the professionals leading revenue optimization efforts. Surprisingly, the issues themselves haven’t changed dramatically since their last “scouting” exercise conducted in December 2019, but the context has certainly shifted in the “new abnormal.”

It is sort of a “same story, different tune” situation.

Tim Wiersma, CRME, chair of the advisory board and President & CEO of Revenue Generation, Inc., summed it up. “Any remaining silos that exist between sales, marketing and revenue will fall,” he said. “New industry standard KPIs will become more prominent in the industry. Technology will play an even bigger role in the future.”

TECH, TECH, TECH

Even in December, the advisory board talked about the need to make better use of the technology that was in place. In addition to making the most of the technology we have, today the conversation has shifted more toward identifying (and developing) better technologies, including automation, that allow us to do more with less (less time, smaller teams, etc.).

Along with the actual tech itself, revenue professionals – and all stakeholders that impact and are impacted by the revenue optimization function – are under increased pressure to improve their collaboration, communication, and productivity.

Now more than ever brands and management companies are looking at tech to create efficiency and perform strategic analysis to increase profitability. Automation will allow revenue management professionals to spend more time on the strategy and less time on the tactics.

KPIs & INCREASED FOCUS ON PROFITABILITY

With our traditional  measures being less relevant today due to the variances in supply and mix of business changes, focus on profitability measures such as ProPAR, channel profitability, and acquisition costs have moved to the forefront.

As you are thinking about your own KPIs, ask yourself a few key questions:

  • With profitability as an increasingly key metric, how strong is your and your team’s business acumen? (If you need a boost here, check out HSMAI’s highly-acclaimed Certified Hospitality Business Acumen program).
  • What metrics will help you price where you should?
  • What metrics will help you know if what you’re doing is working?
  • What new data can provide more relevant insights during the recovery than in a typical environment?

“Revenue leaders are becoming commercial strategists as they work with and understand the key measures that will drive the entire strategy across all commercial disciplines,” according to Tim Wiersma.

NEVER LET A GOOD CRISIS GO TO WASTE

Winston Churchill first said, “Never let a good crisis go to waste.” While it is hard to appreciate the opportunities at hand in the midst of the serious crisis facing hotels, there are a few.

  • Innovation in Optimization: Experiment with new ways to optimize function space, restaurants, and ancillary services; Diversify your revenue; Expand revenue optimization principles and techniques into non-room revenue-producing areas
  • Talent Development: Support those on your team who are still working by giving them the tools to build their resilience and take care of their mental health, and help them prioritize and learn to “no” to requests that distract them from their focus on revenue optimization; Build your pipeline by through the next generation of revenue professionals – connect with a university-level hospitality program to speak to classes, offer internships when safe and practical, and provide faculty with special projects to give their students real-world experience

And most of all, thinking creatively, break down silos, and better position yourself, you team, and your company to thrive post-Covid.

To discuss these and more of the latest issues facing sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals, join the HSMAI Recovery Connections sessions on HSMAI’s Road to Recovery 2020.

Safety, Flexibility, and Empathy: Top Priorities for Hospitality Marketing Leaders

By Juli Jones, CAE, Vice President, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board met on a call this summer to discuss the top issues for the discipline, which have rapidly changed since February. Here are what MAB members identified as the most important issues to focus on for the rest of the year, along with comments from several MAB members.

HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board recently conducted their annual “scouting” of the top issues facing hospitality marketers. Unsurprisingly, the umbrella over all of the topics is the new world in which we are marketing.

“Clearly the number one issue is how to operate in the new environment,” said Dan Wacksman, CHDM, CRME, principal at Sassato LLC and outgoing chair of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board. “Essentially, everything has changed: market mix, feeder markets, booking windows, peak, and need periods have all changed as have customer expectations. Add to this reduced manpower and budget, and nearly everything has shifted, so we need to shift as well. We need to look at the world differently, at least until we see a much broader recovery.”

HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board is developing approaches and resources to better help marketers in this new environment. The advisory board is focusing on messaging (flexibility, safety & transparency), and marketing and attribution. And, as we look to “reset” the workforce, what better time to focus on fostering diversity and inclusion?

All of these topics will be explored in more depth through the Marketing track of HSMAI Recovery Connections throughout Fall 2020.

Theo Holloway, CHDM, director of ecommerce at Remington Hotels and incoming chair of HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board shared his thoughts. “Until a vaccine is discovered, marketers have a tremendous responsibility to maintain trust and instill confidence by communicating compassionately about changes and safety protocols with guests, meeting planners, employees, and even competitors,” he said. “We are all in this together so sharing best practices to keep people safe has never been more critical.”

Inspiring Guest Confidence: Flexibility, Safety, & Transparency

  • The New Value Proposition: what guests expect in our new world
  • Instilling confidence in our guests: safety and health procedures, frequent communication about facilities, policy and amenity updates, etc.
  • Communicating empathetically and effectively (with words and imagery) through the crisis and recovery
  • Transparency regarding the guest experience

Marketing & Attribution  

  • Ensuring profitability of advertising spend
  • Creating a roadmap to guide spend and report on results
  • Doing more with less (less funds, fewer staff, fewer travelers)

Fostering Diversity in the Hospitality Industry

  • Developing a perspective and playbook about fostering diversity and inclusion in the hospitality industry
  • Examining talent and marketing practices

For the rest of the year and into 2021, you will continue to see HSMAI’s Marketing Advisory Board focus on how to work in this new world. The current environment has very little to do with rate. It has everything to do with the ability to convey key messages and then deliver on them.

“The key messages as we see them are safety, flexibility, and empathy. And while it is imperative to get the messaging and offers right it is also imperative that promises made are delivered operationally. The hotels that get this right will ensure that revenue, marketing, and ops are working together,” Wacksman said. “We have been talking about getting rid of silos for years, and we believe COVID-19 will accelerate this process.  Most markets will have low demand, but even those that have higher demand will need to focus on these areas to capture whatever demand exists.”

Theo Holloway agreed: “Despite the very real and likely prospect of working with significantly reduced marketing budgets, marketers will need to work together, across various segments of the hospitality industry to maximize voice and returns.”

To discuss these and more of the latest issues facing sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals, sign up to take part in the new HSMAI Recovery Connections sessions as part of the Road to Recovery 2020. 

Top Sales Issues in the Pandemic World

By Juli Jones, CAE, Vice President, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board members recently revised their recommendation on the top issues requiring sales leaders attention. It must come as no surprise that they are focused on much different issues since their last “scouting” exercise conducted in November 2019.

“Just like during the last 6 months, and for the foreseeable future, sales leaders must continue to innovate – not just by developing and adopting new technology platforms, but by also innovating around our processes and eliminating anything that isn’t directly revenue generating,” said Kaaren Hamilton, CMP, vice president of global sales at RLH Corp. and chair of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board. “Now is the time to audit and review all of the work and downstream processes that have encumbered us from driving efficiencies during high demand.”

Melissa Kouvelas, director of worldwide wales, business travel and account development at BWH said she is looking at this as an chance to refocus and strengthen her teams. “I have taken this as an opportunity to blend roles on my teams utilizing the strengths in the individuals that are still here,” she said. “With so many distractions as well as the unknown on a daily basis, emotional intelligence, focus, and the ability to change direction quickly are key areas of influence.”

INNOVATE: Leading Sellers

  • Develop “hunters” on your team who are fearless, aggressive, creative, self-motivated, and curios. This recent article goes into much more depth on this issue. And, take a cue from Kaaren Hamilton who shared that, “We quickly shifted to an aggressive hunting culture with the entire team focused on new account development. We’ve executed more strategic partnerships and commercial agreements in the last 6 months than we had in the previous twelve.”
  • Make sure your sellers are proficient in digital and social media selling techniques. (HSMAI’s Hotel Digital Sales Essentials course is a resource to consider.)
  • Look at technology to create efficiencies and do more with smaller teams and fewer resources. Keep team members motivated by developing KPIs that reflect the new actions that the sales team needs to navigate the crisis. Whether it’s check-in calls, retained bookings, or community partnerships — celebrate new types of wins and capture how sales teams are impacting their coworkers, communities, and longer-term prospects of the property.” (and get more recommendations from the Planning for Hospitality Recovery – Sales resource guide from HSMAI and Amadeus

INNOVATE: Selling

  • Get in tune with changing customer buying behavior and the changing path to purchase (how, when, and why they will buy)…and what it means for the new sales process.
  • Rethink your contracts and contracting processes to align with new expectations from your customers and your internal stakeholders.
  • Drive a sales culture throughout your organization (think: Everyone Sells, Everyone is a Seller), to break down the barriers between sales and other disciplines – from revenue management to marketing to the front desk. We’re all under pressure to do more with less, and everyone now needs to be proficient in multiple areas.

INNOVATE:  LOOK AHEAD

  • Be clear on the ROI of sales within your hotel(s) – from the sales team to individual sellers – and be prepared to effectively communicate it to GMs, asset managers, owners, and other stakeholders.
  • Think about how to leverage tech to create efficiencies. Automation can allow sales professionals to spend more time on the strategy and less time on the tactics.
  • Look ahead to the future. What can we do now to design and build more effective sales organizations and salespeople which are better positioned to thrive post-Covid?

To discuss these and more of the latest issues facing sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals, sign up to take part in the new HSMAI Recovery Connections sessions as part of the Road to Recovery 2020. 

HSMAI Customer Insight: Business travel bookings in the US post-Labor Day | Amadeus

Part 1 of a 2-part series for the sales teams

By: Katie Moro, Vice President, Data Partnerships, Hospitality, Amadeus

The individual business traveler has always been a source of demand for hotels.  In fact, there is an entire RFP process, and sales deployment on and above property to pursue and ensure brands/management companies and individual hotels are receiving at least their fair share of the production from this segment.  As with most things this year, the corporate travel landscape has changed. While airline and hotel demand has been impacted by a decline in corporate and group business, we think it’s vital for hoteliers to know that corporate travel still exists.

Recently there was a lot of attention around market performance through the end of summer. Labor Day saw an increase in bookings. It seemed as though remote working and learning would help fuel booking demand as leisure trips extended into the fall season.  But leisure business is not the only available opportunity.  Today we want to dive into the performance related to individual business travelers immediately following Labor Day and looking forward through the end of October.

Are businesses traveling?

The on-the-books total occupancy in the US for the current and upcoming six weeks is 13.8%.  While this is lower than last year’s performance, we must consider the changing dynamics of demand.  Pre-pandemic, the individual business travelers associated with the negotiated market segment contributed approximately 16% of the total occupied rooms.  Considering the forward-looking data in our Demand360® business intelligence solution, we show the current individual business travelers’ business in the negotiated segment is at a 15% contribution.

When we review these percentages, we must consider that the US hotels have just 35% of the rooms occupied compared to the same time last year, so percentages are from a smaller base of business in the current year.  But when things are constantly shifting within our markets, it’s encouraging to see that with the right sales resources and data, we still can influence the performance of our hotels.

Who is traveling?

In April 2020, US markets saw a drop off in booked business.  From that time through the current week, the business sector has been steadily working to move forward into month over month increased room nights.  Peering deeper into the data, we see the healthcare, aerospace & defense, retail, and industrial sectors contributing the highest room night production during this time.

Where are they going?

Looking at the current and upcoming six weeks, we identified the top-performing markets for individual business travelers.  These markets are not achieving the highest overall occupancies for this period but do represent the highest mix of negotiated room nights.  For example, New York City currently has 8.3% of its total capacity committed, with 9.7% of that coming from the negotiated segment.

What can you do next?  

People are still traveling for business. You need to understand who is traveling and where they’re booking.  Review business intelligence booking data for your market and identify account activity in your CRM to target key accounts booking business.  Reach out to these companies to let them know you have availability and outline your COVID-19 safety precautions.  Take some time to share the latest regulations for your market to help them gain confidence that travel to the area can be done safely. Be sure also to consider the channels where these travelers may be booking as current trends are showing shifting booking patterns.

For more best practices on leveraging data to build an effective marketing strategy, please visit our Planning for Hospitality Recovery resource center

Please look for our October publication when we evaluate group business in 2021.

People are still traveling for business. You need to understand who it is and where they’re booking.

HSMAI Customer Insight: Most In-Person Meetings Will Resume, Eventually | Groups360

By Katey Hubbard, CMP, regional sales director, Groups360

At varying points since the pandemic first engulfed the U.S., industry organizations and publications have been checking in with meeting professionals to gauge their level of confidence in planning and producing live events.

In late spring and early summer, most survey respondents remained optimistic about holding in-person meetings in the fourth quarter of 2020, but as the months wear on and COVID-19 remains an ongoing fixture, the optimism about when face-to-face meetings will recover gets pushed further into the future.

As meeting planners have adapted to the current circumstances, virtual or hybrid events have become a mainstay, but whether the event format will continue to play a central role post-pandemic remains to be seen.

According to Groups360’s most recent research into the shopping and buying experiences of part-time meeting planners, however, these administrative professionals stated that nearly all of their meeting types will return to the face-to-face format as soon as it’s safe to do so. They can’t wait for virtual meetings to be a thing of the past, which is good news to hotels who can accommodate their needs.

Part-time planners arrange a variety of meetings

“I arrange all our board meetings. I’m tasked with planning a two-day speaking and brainstorming session with 20 people. Our board of directors come from all over the U.S., so we also have to schedule flights and hotel rooms.” —Association planner

“There’s often a need to bring people together for trainings. You can only do so much by phone, and sometimes you just want that face-to-face experience, especially if you’re explaining certain things to them. I’m very big on seeing people’s reactions and being able to give feedback right there.” —Corporate planner

“I do a road show each year with about 12 meetings across the U.S., and they range from 10 to 30 people. And I also do the board meetings. I work very closely with the executives.” —Corporate planner

The administrative professionals interviewed in the Groups360 study included executive assistants, office managers and human resource professionals from associations, small businesses and large corporations. Meeting planning is only one of their responsibilities, and though planning is the least favorite part of their job, the meetings they produce are essential business activities.

The many types of meetings these admin planners put together include board meetings, executive team meetings, training classes, team-building events, committee meetings, and road shows. Others include customer meetings, quarterly vendor meetings and smaller events that complement a larger conference, all of which provide numerous opportunities for your hotel.

Canceling meetings due to COVID

After the pandemic put a halt to meetings and events, the professionals in this cohort either canceled meetings or moved them online. When asked how they decided what events to cancel, their responses depended on either the meeting’s intended audience or the nature of content delivery.

Attendees weren’t tech savvy: “We have canceled some of our smaller events because some of our donor members are not as tech savvy. It’s harder for them to get onto these various platforms. Not everybody is as comfortable in this medium.” —Association planner

Certain types of training needed to happen in person: “The training workshops are all canceled, and I don’t have any immediate plans to reset them because they tend to be the wellness types that are better in person. We also do biometric screenings — it’s one of those things where you have to have access, and I have to book some space with particular needs.” —Corporate planner

Team-building meetings just don’t work online: “Fifty people on a Zoom meeting, you’re talking over each other or just one person is talking. And it’s important for us as a department to have that team interaction. So that meeting is completely off the books until we go back.” —Corporate planner

For similar reasons as listed above, these planners also canceled strategic planning meetings and partner council meetings instead of moving them online.

The (temporary) pivot to virtual

“We plan our annual conference over a year in advance because it is so big, and within the last two months we’ve made that completely virtual. So we’re doing a virtual symposium and retreat. It will be eight to five for four days on Zoom.” —Association planner

“We’ve had a few happy-hour Zoom calls that replace our office happy hours. We just had an associate leave, so we had a send-off for them on Zoom.” —Corporate planner

“The executive team was going to get together to talk about strategy, goals and initiatives for the third quarter, and that is now on Zoom. Ideally, they’d be together in person. They always have much more productive meetings when they’re all together. It’s not that the Zoom isn’t productive, it’s just not the same.” —Corporate planner

The meetings that went virtual included board meetings, executive team meetings, investor meetings, staff meetings, annual conferences, social events and new-hire orientations.

The administrative professionals indicated that almost all of their meetings and events will return to the live format as soon as attendees and hosts feel safe doing so. The exceptions are certain sales meetings and staff meetings, which are easy to host online with few logistical issues or hinderances to productivity.

Ready to return to face-to-face meetings

“There’s something about being on a screen — people are busy looking at themselves on the camera and not reacting to what others are saying. When you’re sitting in a meeting room, you can better read people’s expressions or feel the authenticity.” —Association planner

“My colleagues and I are hating the online meetings, just hating it. I mean, it’s easier in terms of scheduling, but if I’m attending a meeting, I prefer to get away from my desk. My coworkers are the same way. As a meeting attendee, I’ll be looking forward to going back to that.” —Corporate planner

According to Jan Freitag, senior vice president at STR, those who predict that Zoom meetings will replace in-person meetings are “suffering from ‘recency bias.’” The part-time meeting planners in our study seem to agree. One sentiment these professionals shared is that Zoom fatigue has set in and their corporate teams are over “the online thing.”

The question remains as to when meetings will resume. The current sentiment from multiple polls of meeting planners seems to indicate that live meetings and events won’t fully recover until 2022.

What to do in the meantime

Hotels have been devising creative ways to bring in new business. Some hotels have started promoting suites and meeting space as coworking environments for remote workers. The Marina Bay Sands in Singapore launched the first new hybrid event studio to hold up to 50 people and broadcast events to an online audience. And some hotels are live-streaming their views to keep would-be travelers engaged with their destinations.

But that’s not to say large events aren’t happening at all. In fact, the Georgia Motor Trucking Association successfully hosted 300 people for their annual meeting in Florida in mid-June without any reported COVID cases. And the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association gathered 450 people live in Colorado at the end of July, reminding their attendees to “keep one cow apart” for the safety of “the herd.”

For these part-time planners, when in-person meetings do resume, they’re likely to start small and stay within driving distance of most of their anticipated attendees. As smaller groups arrive at your hotels, a little creativity and attention to detail will help them feel safe at your property.

These part-time planners may not be your usual clients or the ones soliciting space for the largest events, but they will seek you out according to your brand reputation. They are relying on vetted venues because they don’t shop extensively or use much sourcing technology. This group definitely exemplifies meeting planning as a relationship business that relies on trust and transparency for successful transactions.

HSMAI Customer Insight: Potential Travelers Are Uncertain About Rules of the Road (and Skies) | Google

When the world shut down in March 2020, travel shut down with it. For many people, their ability to travel had never been restricted to such a degree. With international travel limited, interstate travel accompanied by stipulations, and airlines and hotels heeding and implementing social distancing guidelines, travelers are turning to Google Search to understand the new normal and its effect on their plans. We examine below for HSMAI some of the searches that trended well into the end of summer and their implications for travel marketers.

Can I Travel?

As borders have shut down and new guidelines have been put in place, it’s no surprise that people are seeking to understand how this has impacted their ability to travel. Global searches for “can i travel” have grown by over 800% year over year (YoY)[1]. Breakout (meaning the term grew by more than 5000%) search interest trends include: “can i travel during lockdown,” “can i travel during coronavirus,” and “where can i travel during covid.” For many, the decision to travel will be a personal one based on their own circumstances and when they are ready. It’s important then that travel marketers continue to communicate that their businesses are open and prepared to receive customers deciding to travel at this moment.

 

Is It Safe to Fly?

Searches for “safe to fly” have grown globally by over 500% YoY1, indicating uncertainty around the possibility of contracting or spreading COVID-19 on a flight. Many companies have already communicated enhanced safety protocols, but for airlines especially, this search behavior indicates that customers can benefit from continued messaging around cleanliness and social distancing standards on flights.

 

 

What Are the Travel Advisories to be Aware Of?

Searches for “travel advisory” have grown globally by over 60% YoY1, and searches for “travel restrictions by” have experienced breakout growth YoY[2]. More than ever before, people want to understand where they cannot or should not travel. Online travel agencies and other booking platforms can assist travelers by keeping messaging regarding travel advisories and restrictions front and center.

 

 

Looking Forward

Although people are being cautious and are still opting for socially-distanced, nearby outdoor activities, they haven’t stopped dreaming about longer trips. If anything, this down period has inspired consumers to plan even more for their future travel.

In a recent survey, we learned that consumers are honing in on their bucket list trips, and are eager to plan them for 2022. In fact, 72% of US consumers are likely to plan or book a bucket list trip when it is safe to travel again, and nearly 50% said they would definitely book a bucket list trip now, for travel in 2022 or beyond, if possible (34% would consider it)[3].

People are eager to travel. Some may feel confident enough to travel now, but they need to fully understand the situation before they book. As we enter the fall months and continue to live in this new normal, our understanding of what travel looks like will change and bring about new questions. As the travel industry continues to fluctuate throughout the course of the pandemic, paying attention to changing traveler search behavior can help you understand what’s most important to them in the moment and respond accordingly.

[1] Google Data, Global English, Jun 3, 2020 – Aug 1, 2020 vs Jun 3, 2019 – Aug 1, 2019
[2] Google Data, Global English, Jun 17, 2020 – Aug 15, 2020 vs Jun 17, 2019 – Aug 15, 2019
[3] Google survey, August 2020, US, n=1000

The Importance of the Sales Hunter in Today’s Environment

By Bob Anderson, President, Star Performance Inc., and member of HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board

There are two main types of salespeople: farmers who focus on long-term relationships, and hunters who go out and find customers with whom to build those relationships. Right now, hunters are desperately needed, according to HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board (SAB), who on a recent call discussed what makes a good hunter and why this type of salesperson is so valuable right now.

WHAT DEFINES A HUNTER

Fearlessness. Aggressiveness. Creativity. Self-motivation. Curiosity. These are just a few of the traits that SAB members said set hunters apart from other salespeople. But overall, what makes a hunter a hunter is not something that can be taught. “It’s just the way their minds work,” one SAB member said. “The people I have on my team that are hunters were just innately hunters and went that route on their own. Being able to hunt is a skill that can’t be taught. They either have it or they don’t.”

“Hunters see the whole picture,” another SAB member said. “They’re not just in it to make the sale. They’re developing and working on building those relationships. It’s almost like a lifestyle. They’re constantly touching base and constantly working.”

Farmers, on the other hand, are good at sales training and keeping long-term business intact. Both positions are valuable but require different skill sets. “The hunter is not the person that’s going to be able to then actually make the phone call and be the warm and fuzzy conversation,” one SAB member said. “They’re the person that’s going to be able to do the entirety of the due diligence. They bridge between the sales and the revenue side of things, and are able to dive into analytics and follow what those trends are saying.

“The hunter is actually not the one that’s going to complete the action,” the SAB member said. “They’re going to then serve it up to our sales professionals that are more of the farmers, who farm the opportunity and see it bear fruit from their efforts. Then the hunter moves on to what they can then serve up to the next person.”

A HUNTER’S CAREER 

“You don’t develop a hunter,” one SAB member said. “That’s how they get out of bed in the morning. It’s more about identifying who the hunters are and then just figuring out if you can structure and manage up enough freedom for that position to do what it needs to do.”

SAB members agreed that hunters have to work in the right position in order to be successful. The most successful path for them doesn’t necessarily head into leadership, one SAB member said. “We sometimes make those hunters directors of sales and they fail,” the member said. “A lot of times, we do a disservice to them and put them in a role that they’re just not meant to be in.” Another member added: “They don’t want to lead, they just want to sell.”

Often hunters turn into farmers if there isn’t a clear process spelled out once they bring in new accounts. “We wind up with some great hunters who wind up getting buried within the accounts that they’ve hunted and they then end up becoming farmers,” an SAB member said. “Because we haven’t thought out the process on what do we do after they find accounts.”

While hunters are typically the salespeople who go out and find business, farmers actually make the sale down the road, once a relationship between the two entities has been established. “I think a really critical piece is figuring out where the handoff is,” one SAB member said. “The misperception is that we’re going to prospect and find business, and they’re going to have a need right away, but it’s a lot different than that. There can be a seven-month span between when you start engaging with the customer and when they book. What point in the buyer-behavior process do you move that business to a different seller? It’s a critical piece to identify.”

HUNTERS IN THE CURRENT ENVIRONMENT

Hunters are more valuable than ever, because new business is so desperately needed as the industry continues to struggle through the pandemic. However, many owners don’t have the cash or the foresight to work on long-term strategy right now, which leads to hunters being cut if they aren’t the ones directly booking business.

“You’ve got the obstacle of getting ownership to understand that, yes, we’re paying this person a salary to go out and hunt this business, and no, this month they didn’t put room nights on the books,” one SAB member said. “But there’s still a value and we’ve got to show them that value.”

Hunters, like the rest of the industry, have to adapt to a virtual environment, one SAB member said. “It’s almost starting a new career,” the member said. “You’re starting almost from scratch, because you’ve got to create some new methods, making everything virtual.”

“Right now, because things are so different, the hunter has to have that creativity,” another member said. “We have to go about business differently, so you have to think, ‘How am I going to get someone that’s not currently traveling? How do I change the landscape? How do I do it all virtually?’”

Another SAB member, who has seen his portfolio’s sales team slashed in half, said that he sees his hunters’ networking skills coming into play strongly right now. “If they get a piece of business, they’re asking, ‘Where else are you going?’” the member said. “Then they’re alerting everybody to the account. They’ve been very successful in that. They’ve also been very successful in tapping into their resources in the community, reaching out, wherever the business is coming. Whether it’s hospitals, retirement facilities, distribution centers, they’ve been just out there thinking and dissecting,”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

HSMAI PERSPECTIVE: Wish You Were Here

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

Just like organizations everywhere, HSMAI is grappling with the decision of where and how to meet. We want to bring our community together in person but understand the time still isn’t right. While we’re committed to presenting our three flagship conferences — the Marketing Strategy Conference, ROC, and the Sales Leader Forum — face-to-face in 2021, in the meantime we’re rolling elements of all three as well as some of our other signature events into HSMAI Road to Recovery 2020.

The hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals who have participated in Road to Recovery, which mixes live and on-demand online programs in a variety of formats, seem eager to be not just with us but with each other. Right now, these virtual offerings are the correct choice for HSMAI, allowing the members of our community to engage at the level and to the extent with which they feel most comfortable. It feels good to be able to continue providing them with valuable content and experiences while still observing the realities of our pandemic economy.

Designed to give our stakeholders a comprehensive and affordable way to engage this fall, Road to Recovery kicked off with Small Screen, Big Impact and CURATE PRESENTS: Resilience Now. These takeaways struck me as particularly resonant:

  • Debra Jasper, Ph.D., founder and CEO of Mindset Digital, our partner on Small Screen, Big Impact, on the importance of building a robust presence on LinkedIn: “Often when people google you, your LinkedIn profile comes up. It’s the first site people will find. Your clients and your colleagues go there. It’s a platform for your thought leadership, and it is a go-to site for journalists. If you haven’t googled yourself lately, the first thing I’d suggest is doing that. Ask yourself: Is this the right impression? Is this the impression I want to be creating in this new virtual space?”
  • Jannell MacAulay, Ph.D., performance and leadership consultant, who is leading us through CURATE PRESENTS: Resilience Now, on the power of mindful awareness: “Are your thoughts, words, and actions in alignments? It all starts with how we think, and then it translates into how we behave and how we act…. If they’re misaligned, then especially when we apply pressure into our lives, it’s going to going to be a struggle…. It’s most important to build psychological flexibility, because what happens inside our brains is, when stress is applied, if we have not built up a psychological toolkit, our brains will go into survival mode.”

Both of these programs speak to the need for all of us to rethink how we conduct ourselves as individual professionals and within organizations. That’s a recurring theme for Road to Recovery, which continues with The Changing Economic & Business Landscape, featuring a hospitality and travel forecast from global economist Bernard Baumohl. From there we’ll have six Executive Roundtables and 12 weekly Recovery Connections sessions — plus ongoing certificate courses and credentialing opportunities.

And, finally, I urge you to spend some time with our HSMAI Hospitality Heroes, whom we’re honoring as part of this year’s Adrian Awards program. These are hospitality professionals whose actions have made a difference to their colleagues, industry, and communities during COVID-19, and who inspire us with their kindness and compassion.

We’ll see you in person when it’s safe to do so. Until then, meet us on the Road to Recovery.

 

Four Revenue Topics in the Forefront

By Jennifer Hill, Vice President of Development, Kalibri Labs, and member of HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board

As part of HSMAI Road to Recovery 2020, throughout the fall HSMAI will host Recovery Connections, a series of live webinars paired with small-group discussions, each focused on a different topic in sales, marketing, or revenue optimization. HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board (ROAB) discussed the program’s four revenue-focused topics on a recent call, with ROAB members offering their input. The topics are:

1. Consolidating RM Organizations: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The pandemic has led to many organizations streamlining their revenue teams to cut costs. “What I’m struggling with is figuring out how much a cluster of revenue managers handle for a number of hotels at a level of accuracy and deliverability that it would be sufficient to garner fees from it,” one ROAB member said. “I think I’ve gotten it wrong both ways where I’ve overloaded people and then ‘’ve also kind of underestimated some of our team members’ capacity to take on.”

Another ROAB member, whose organization already had a consolidated revenue team, said the pandemic has forced them to find the most effective ways to deliver their services to hotels that are now on a budget. “The struggle we’ve had has been trying to find the right fit for all the different scenarios,” the member said.

ROAB members also said they were interested in diving deeper into the role of leadership in a consolidated model. “It’s been a long dialogue about the role of the director of revenue management as being a more significant commercial leader,” one ROAB member said. “Is this consolidated effort at odds with that leadership role? Does it need to adjust its vision in that leadership role in the future with consolidation on the table or shared services?”

2. Recovery Mode Revenue Management: Never Let a Good Crisis Good to Waste

One thing that ROAB members mentioned as being a positive result of the pandemic is the increased interest in technology — in terms of both optimizing existing tech and investing in new tech. “It’s a quandary not having the investment for things,” one ROAB member said. “But we likely have unutilized functions in a lot of the technology we’re using now. Maybe that’s where the focus on technology should go.”

Another ROAB member said that they are taking advantage of dynamic pricing during the pandemic to try to make it stick. “I think there’s an opportunity here because of what’s happened really drive forward the dynamic-pricing model, not just on negotiated accounts, business travel, but even on the group side,” the member said. “I look at it as a chance to really make it more of the norm and not the exception. I think that’s going to help our industry and give more clarity to buyers.”

3. From Revenue Optimization to Profit Optimization: Build Your Business Acumen to Make Your Revenue Strategies and Tactics Optimize Profits

“We need to make sure that as recovery begins to happen, that we don’t lose sight of the value of different pieces of business and the profitability equation,” one ROAB member said.

ROAB members are planning in order to maximize their profits and adjust for different scenarios. “This is a disruption, not a recession,” one ROAB member said. “The difference that I see is that in a disruption, I’m doing things right now that I would never do, but when it gets fixed, I’m going to go back to doing what I used to do. This was different than when I was in a recession, where I had to create strategies that were short, long, and evolving. This is more of thinking about the strategy for today and waiting for the vaccine of tomorrow, so I can get back to business.”

Another ROAB member said that there are still too many unknown variables resulting from the economic recession and the public health crisis. “The conversation is around what do we do now, and in the next quarter, and long term,” another member said. “We want to show our value, so we start focusing on the things that are happening right now, But everybody’s refocusing their effort now in the same direction and paying attention to it. What are we going to miss on the periphery while we’re doing that?”

4. Setting Meaningful Goals When the World Is Wacky

One challenge that ROAB members mentioned is being held to a normal budgeting schedule. “In a lot of ways, we’re having to use budget to satisfy financial institutions,” one ROAB member said. “That is confusing to hotel teams and unfortunate, but we’re held to the version that would satisfy the needs of the financial institutions and in line with our hotel management agreement.”

Another ROAB member said that because there is so much uncertainty, his company is trying to pull in third-party data to use for forecasting and budgeting, but that comes with its own set of issues. “If it came to arbitration, we feel like we could stand behind the fact that we looked at a baseline case for our market and use that appropriately,” the member said. “The other key principle is that the hotel teams on the ground have been eviscerated, so we’re trying to streamline the process for them as much as possible and put out a reasonable guess. But using a set like that means knowing there is a lot of variability.”

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.

Pandemic Experiences: DoubleTree by Hilton Washington DC’s Armand Thelen

By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

Even though the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Washington DC–Silver Spring in Silver Spring, Maryland, hasn’t reopened yet, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing, Armand Thelen, BBA, CHDM, CHSE, has been working harder than ever since the start of the pandemic. He has taken on work supporting property maintenance, managing client engagement, and even doing administrative tasks in addition to his regular duties. Recently, he talked to HSMAI about that experience, including some of the positive developments that have come out of the situation.

What has your work environment looked like since the pandemic hit?

I am fortunate to have been working continuously since the onset of the pandemic, forming part of the commercial team at the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Washington DC–Silver Spring. Hilton provides a flexible and safe work environment, so I choose to spend most days in my hotel-based private office, while working from home on occasion.

What has been the most challenging part of ramping back up?

At the moment, we’re working to determine our reopening date, and this requires a careful review of many factors. We are analyzing market data, keeping an eye on business trends, and staying close to customer feedback, among other considerations — all of which require time and focus. We are committed to fully restoring operations at our hotel and look forward to welcoming guests and team members back as soon as possible.

Have you implemented any new strategies that have been successful?

Speed to market and personal connections remain key winning sales strategies when it comes to managing RFPs and customer relations. As business trends show the transient/leisure market recovering first, we are adapting our strategies to ensure we capture this customer base effectively. Our hotel has implemented Hilton CleanStay — Hilton’s industry-defining standard of cleanliness and disinfection. Our elevated process and team member training have been developed with RB, maker of Lysol, to help our guests enjoy an even cleaner and safer stay from check-in to checkout. Also, value-added amenities such as free parking and complimentary Wi-Fi are a must in order to capture today’s traveler.

What trends have you seen in the customers who are booking now?

The most significant trend I am seeing is the change in how events are being considered and booked. Event clients are rightly interested in our cleaning protocols as well as booking flexibility. We are in a great position to address these requests with Hilton EventReady with CleanStay, our global cleanliness and client service program specific to meetings and events.

Have you seen anything positive come out of all of this?  

Absolutely! The sense of community and support within the hospitality industry and in the local market are bigger and stronger through this challenge that unites us all. As an organization, Hilton’s commercial leadership team has engaged with us regularly, ensuring we have the right support and are focused on the road to recovery. We are also sharing best practices and specific examples of unique success stories, and this creates hope for us all and encourages us to stay focused on the positive!

What do you miss most about the way things used to be?

I miss the opportunity to work with our team and support others to help them be successful. Being able to share ideas and experiences is how we all grow and become better each day.

Do you have any advice for someone who is just being brought back to work?

Know and understand things have changed while you were gone. Be ready to adapt and hit the ground running. Using one my favorite quotes I say: “What got you here today won’t get you there tomorrow.” This is particularly true in the current environment we are all facing.

For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.