HSMAI Perspective: How Is Your Company Tackling These Top 3 Hospitality Talent Issues?

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

When the HSMAI Foundation published its “State of Talent” report earlier this year, we did not anticipate the amount of positive feedback we received from individuals and companies thanking us for summarizing the state of the current landscape. At last week’s Foundation board meeting, we asked the board to rank the 10 themes identified in the report as a pulse check on key challenges still impacting commercial leaders.

The top three rankings were:
1. Development, reskilling, and upskilling team members
2. Corporate cultures and values
3. Dry talent pipeline and new channels need to be developed

The other seven themes are still issues, but these three resonated most with board members, who represent executives from hotel brands and management companies as well as executive recruiters, academics, and key partners. Reskilling and upskilling teams remains a challenge, as associates are managing different functions and market dynamics continue to change. Corporations continue to refine their culture and values by increasing focus on their people. And the methods for recruiting and retaining team members must be driven by innovation and creativity.

The common denominator among these three themes is the stress and burnout it has created among leaders and the associates who are trying to create work-life balance in a VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) world. And while business may be rebounding, another dimension of stress for many has been created by inflation and U.S. stock market fluctuations.

So, what are you doing about retention?
I’m sure you or your company have already focused on what you can do to recognize, reward, or motivate your teams. Some are conducting “stay interviews” to harvest ideas for what personalized benefits may help retain existing talent. Many have increased salaries across the board or modified incentive plans. Make sure you are implementing some elements of fun for your team. Everyone needs a mental break when they’ve been working so hard during a difficult time. Whatever you are doing, do not let your foot off the gas — continue to focus on your commercial team. Retention has never been more critical for the revenue-generating and profit-optimizing functions of sales, marketing, and revenue optimization.

What are you doing about recruitment?
The opportunity cost of an open commercial position can have huge ripple effects. Where are you recruiting? Have you identified successful short-term staffing solutions? Success stories range from creative project management using students, interns, or hospitality school classes, to tactics as simple as redesigning job descriptions. Postings that start with the benefits of being in the hospitality business may help potential applicants see the industry from the point of view of those who understand the implicit rewards and fulfillment of serving guests and creating experiences. Keep trying and testing recruiting methods and channels in the same way you would A/B test a marketing campaign. You are bound to learn some lessons along the way.

Need some examples of why people should join hospitality?
The HSMAI Foundation recently began distributing a series of short videos from hospitality commercial leaders explaining why careers in sales, marketing, and revenue are rewarding and fulfilling. If you need some ideas or even want to share these with potential recruits, take a look at the most recent ones released. They all give different, yet specific reasons as to why hospitality is a rewarding and fulfilling career. Sometimes, we need a little reminder ourselves.

HSMAI Commercial Strategy Week Preview: Economics Beyond the Forecast

For more than two decades, Adam Sacks, president of Tourism Economics, has worked with destinations, industry associations, and companies around the world in the areas of opportunity and risk assessments, policy analysis, and economic impact. During this year’s ROC Americas, taking place during HSMAI Commercial Strategy Week, Sacks will present his general session “Economics Beyond the Forecast” on June 29. The session will share Tourism Economics’ latest views on the economy, the mindset of travelers, and expectations for how and when travel will fully recover. It’ll also explore which are the most important economic principles for hoteliers to watch, what they mean when setting room rates, and more. Here, he gives a glimpse of what else ROC attendees can expect to learn in his session.

HSMAI: What can ROC attendees expect to learn during your general session?

Adam Sacks: The economy should provide a foundation for continued recovery in demand. But this foundation has some notable cracks in it that represent real risks. My presentation will lay out our thinking behind the most recent TE/STR lodging forecast and how the industry can prepare for different scenarios.

What has surprised you most about the industry’s recovery so far?

The strength of rate recovery has exceeded my expectations. While there are reasonable explanations, the recovery of ADR is unprecedented as it has outpaced the recovery in demand.

What do you think has been the biggest misconception about economic recovery during this time?

Talks of a “new normal” in regard to travel were reckless in my view. These were especially prevalent in terms of business travel. But we’ve seen time and again that face-to-face meetings are essential to business operations and the recovery of business travel is bearing out this reality.

What is one key takeaway attendees will obtain after hearing your presentation?

I hope to share a balanced view of market opportunities and risks that will guide attendees through the present uncertainty facing the economy. In terms of revenue management, we’ve learned a lot about price elasticity over the past couple years, which has major implications for rate setting.

What are you looking forward to most about ROC?

Last year, I learned more than I shared at ROC. This helped me serve our clients better. I expect to learn again from attendees who are in the trenches of operations and revenue management.

Insights from the Corporate Marketing Professional of the Year: Sean Dee

Sean Dee, executive vice president and chief commercial officer at Outrigger Hospitality Group, will receive the 2022 HSMAI Corporate Marketing Professional of the Year Award during the HSMAI Marketing Strategy Conference, taking place June 28. “It’s certainly humbling to receive this recognition, but I truly believe that it’s a team award,” Dee said. “I’m extremely proud of the commercial team that we’ve assembled here at Outrigger, and I’m honored to serve them.”

Dee is responsible for developing and deploying global marketing, brand, revenue management, and sales strategies. Working closely with the company’s Hawai‘i and Asia-Pacific/Indian Ocean regions to address market-specific sales and marketing needs, Dee drives integration, collaboration, and consistency across the entire Outrigger global portfolio. He currently serves as board chair for the Hawai‘i Visitors and Convention Bureau and served the state of Hawai‘i as a member of the board of directors for the Hawai‘i Tourism Authority from 2014-2019, chairing numerous committees.

Prior to joining Outrigger, Dee was the executive vice president and chief marketing officer for Anschutz Entertainment Group (AEG) Worldwide and, subsequently, president of global branding. He has also held positions as chief marketing director for Hard Rock International, Inc., and both global marketing director, digital and vice president, marketing at Levi Strauss & Company. Here, Dee talks about how he’s seen hospitality marketing evolve over the years and what it takes to be a leader in this day and age.

HSMAI: How did you get your start in the industry?

Sean Dee: I started my hospitality career in the kitchen at Pearl’s Oyster Bar in Palo Alto, but then spent the next 15 years in advertising and marketing roles at Levi Strauss & Company. I was recruited to Hard Rock International as its first chief marketing officer and was able to leverage my culinary and merchandising background to help reignite the fading iconic brand, but, more importantly, be part of the company’s expansion to the hotel and casino business, which was transformational for the brand and for me. Since then, I’ve been able to collaborate with other passionate leaders at Anschutz Entertainment Group and now Outrigger Hospitality Group to help transform these great companies.

How did you get involved with HSMAI?

I’ve been a long-time member of HSMAI, serving on multiple boards and advisory committees, as well as participating in the CMO Executive Roundtable. HSMAI is a great organization that serves a wide range of constituents with ongoing education, certification, and partnership opportunities that are invaluable to its members.

During your time in the industry, how have you seen the hospitality marketing space evolve?

There has been tremendous evolution in the hospitality marketing space over the years, clearly driven by major changes in technology and distribution systems. These new tools, as well as significant improvements in business intelligence, allow marketers access to better data and insights, which, in turn, lead to better pricing decisions, channel management, and forecasting. And of course, there is enormous pressure in our industry (as well as many others) for brands to truly own their consumer relationship and influence their purchase decisions through loyalty programs, branded websites, personalization, and CRM initiatives.

As the industry moves toward pandemic recovery, what do you think it takes to be an effective leader in today’s challenging times?

I’ve always believed that hiring effectively and retaining great talent always ends up defining what makes a great leader. To be an effective leader, you need to have a collaborative and motivated team of high achievers who believe in the mission. For your team to believe in the mission, it’s critical that the leader communicates consistently in as compelling a manner as possible.

What would you describe as the best moment of your career?

Of course, the HSMAI Corporate Marketing Professional of the Year Award! In all seriousness, I’ve been blessed in my career to have so many great moments and highlights that it’s hard to identify one. That said, being able to live and work, but, more importantly, raise my two daughters with my beautiful wife in Hawaii has to be the highlight of my career. Aloha.

HSMAI Top 25 Profile: Jamieson Asselta

HSMAI recently honored the 2021 Top 25 Extraordinary Minds in Hospitality Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization — recognizing leaders from hospitality, travel, and tourism organizations for their accomplishments in the preceding 18 months. Jamieson Asselta, director of global enterprise sales at IDeaS Revenue Solutions, is one of these honorees.

Jamieson Asselta is a senior hospitality industry leader with more than 20 years of experience in both sales and revenue management leadership. He has been with IDeaS for six years and leads IDeaS’ Global Enterprise Sales strategy with expertise and passion, enabling large organizations to take their profitability across the enterprise. Prior to joining IDeaS, Jamieson held various sales and marketing leadership responsibilities with Marriott, Omni, and Destination Hotels in New York City, Boston, Orlando, and Washington, D.C. Jamieson has served on the Americas HSMAI Sales Advisory Board and New York HSMAI Chapter and enjoys speaking regularly at industry events and at several hotel schools, including NYU and Johnson & Wales.

Key accomplishment: In 2020, Jamieson completed the largest sale of his career and one of the four largest sales in the 33-year history of IDeaS. At the end of the client’s implementation timeline, IDeaS will have grown the number of hotels using and IDeaS technology by 25% (or about 5,000 hotels). The results of Jamieson’s leadership created a significant expansion for IDeaS’ client base.

What inspired this nomination? “Jamieson is an exceptional friend and colleague. He deserves to be recognized by his industry peers.”

Asselta on what has kept him motivated over the past year: “I’ve always been fueled by a desire to solve client problems. That has been amplified during this pandemic period. This led to a greater excitement to problem-solve and deliver for current and prospective clients.”

Asselta on his silver lining this year: “The strength of long relationships within the industry continued to remind me how critical the time we invest into others is. It lays the foundation for what everything is built upon. This could not have been more evident over the past year.”


Revenue Management Faculty Discuss Outlook on Hospitality Student Engagement

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

During the recent Hospitality School Revenue Management Faculty Forum, hosted by the HSMAI Foundation, participants from hospitality schools CUNY – NYC College of Technology, Missouri State University, Penn State, Red River College Polytech, Ryerson University, and University of Nevada, Las Vegas discussed various topics related to student perceptions of the industry. The following outlines the insights gleaned from this group during the forum.

What is the lasting impact of the global pandemic on student morale and motivation?

  • Students are cautiously optimistic yet nervous about job security.
  • There is concern that the industry is no longer a good fit with their ambitions.
  • Students are less focused on growth in their careers and more focused on job security.
  • There is a sentiment that there aren’t many revenue management opportunities after graduation.

What are the student perceptions of revenue career opportunities when they start your class?

  • They are unclear as to what it really is and what their careers would look like.
  • Students initially think it will be similar to a finance class and that it will only be applicable to hotels.
  • Many haven’t even considered it. They think GM — nothing about revenue management.
  • Once they start to understand it, they can find revenue management in everyday life and feel like they have a unique understanding of the world.

What do you tell students in your class that excites them about this career path?

  • It is a global subject with a lot of opportunities.
  • Based on personal experience, sharing the dynamic roles of revenue managers.
  • The field is challenging, and you can see real impact.
  • It is a fast-paced, energizing field that provides a great opportunity to drive strategy for an organization.

What recent shifts have you observed in students’ career interests?

  • They have more uncertainty, but some understand that the opportunities are coming back.
  • Some are moving toward revenue management as an option after taking the class, as a more stable alternative to operations.
  • There are more students who want to take the entrepreneurial route.

What is a best practice for increasing student interest in revenue classes?

  • Simulations and certifications
  • Teaching it as a skill set and not just as a job
  • Raising awareness of the discipline early in the program
  • Getting involved in HSMAI
  • Using guest speakers in the industry

What resources would help you with curriculum development or enhancement? (Ranked in order of interest.)

  1. Faculty externships
  2. Case studies and supplemental materials
  3. Digital assets (videos, podcasts, etc.)
  4. Faculty development opportunities or certifications
  5. Access to industry professionals as guest speakers
  6. Plug-and-play curriculum

HSMAI Foundation Perspective

During the forum, revenue faculty leaders also ranked internships, mentorship, and career planning and placement resources as the top ways to encourage students to pursue revenue careers. Across revenue, sales, and marketing faculty forums, internships and mentorship were ranked highly in this regard. Because of this, it would be beneficial to industry professionals at hotels and hotel companies to reach out to schools in their region, meet the faculty and find ways to engage students. This can be done by assisting with a class project, volunteering to speak at a class, or setting up a shadow day with your team members. You could also leverage students for short-term or summer projects. Share the message about your career journey and the breadth of career opportunities that exist in the areas that generate the revenue for hotels and the industry.

Insights From HSMAI Marketing Professional of the Year Jessie Burns

Jessie Burns, senior director of brand and public relations strategy for Terranea Resort, will receive the 2022 Single/Multi-Unit Marketing Professional of the Year Award during the HSMAI Marketing Strategy Conference, taking place June 28. “Receiving this award is an incredible honor, and I am truly humbled to be recognized among the outstanding leaders nominated within this group,” Burns said. “This award is only possible because of the talented, world-class team of marketing and revenue leaders I am fortunate to work with and learn from each day. It is shared and celebrated with each of them.”

In her role, Burns oversees communications to support revenue generation, brand awareness, and reputation management, and has helped position Terranea as a top resort destination. She specializes in brand strategy, media relations, crisis communications, content marketing, strategic partnerships, and internal communications. Burns has more than 15 years of experience in marketing communications and has worked with several brands within the luxury hospitality segment. In addition, she is an HSMAI Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer and a member of Visit California’s PR Advisory Committee, American Hotel & Lodging’s Communications Cabinet and ForWard Ambassador Program, and Terranea’s Green Team. Here, she discusses how she’s seen the industry evolve as well as what makes a strong brand and PR strategy.

HSMAI: How did you get your start in the industry?

Jessie Burns: Growing up, I was fortunate to live abroad and travel extensively with my family. Those experiences made me fall in love with exploring new destinations and sparked my passion for travel, which continues today. I was drawn to hospitality because it allows me to collaborate and create memorable experiences, help inspire travel, and be involved in different areas I enjoy such as wellness, epicurean, sustainability, entertainment, and adventure. I began my career working in marketing and public relations as a storyteller for various luxury hospitality clients on the agency side. After several years, I transitioned in-house on the independent brand side and love the endless possibility of growing, shaping, and evolving what sets a destination apart.

How did you get involved with HSMAI?

My mentor Agnelo Fernandes, immediate past chair of the HSMAI Foundation and CSO and EVP of Terranea Resort, introduced me to HSMAI through the membership opportunities and industry awards and accolade recognition. In 2012, I became a member, joining my local Los Angeles chapter, and we have been participating in the Adrian Awards for more than 10 years. I also achieved my certification as a hospitality digital marketer (CHDM) in 2020.

During your time in the industry, how have you seen the hospitality marketing space evolve?

The hospitality marketing space continues to rapidly evolve, as does our industry. The greatest shift and driver for success has been developing an integrated approach across revenue and marketing thought leadership, allowing us to use data and analytics in establishing our strategies and driving impactful results. Technology has also played a significant role in the evolution, allowing us to connect with the right audience at the right time, with meaningful and engaging content. One constant that remains, however, is the need to create an emotive connection with guests — that becomes the differentiator in transitioning beyond a client to an ambassador.

What do you think is critical in developing effective brand and PR strategy in hospitality?

Developing an effective strategy begins with defining the objective and establishing a clear path to achieve your desired results. A brand is defined by its ambassadors; listening is paramount to understanding the needs, wants, and service opportunities of your guests and employees. If the past two years have taught us anything, the need for flexibility and the ability to pivot are also important. It is critical to understand the value proposition and architecture of your brand to achieve success.

What would you describe as the best moment of your career?

One of the best moments of my career was following the Adrian Awards in 2020 before the pandemic began. Our team was fortunate to attend the conference and awards dinner in New York, and it was a wonderful achievement to be recognized for the awards we garnered. When I arrived home, I was greeted by my three young daughters and husband who had made congratulatory signs celebrating the big win. It was a proud moment for me professionally, and personally, to see the joy of my career success reflected by my family.

The Hospitality Faculty Perspective on the Sales Career Path

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

In continuing the conversation on the challenges in hospitality talent and the talent pipeline, the HSMAI Foundation held its Hospitality School Sales Faculty Forum to discuss the student perspective when it comes to the sales career path. Faculty members from hospitality schools Johnson & Wales University, New York University, Northern Arizona University, Red River College Polytech, and Virginia Tech participated in the forum and offered the following sentiments on how students view the discipline and necessary resources to improve engagement.

What is the lasting impact of the global pandemic on student morale and motivation?

  • Students are cautiously optimistic.
  • Since most hospitality jobs are not remote, some don’t want to have a job they can’t do from home.
  • Students are worried that the labor shortage is permanent, making management jobs more stressful.
  • They’re aware that salespeople in the industry were laid off or overworked with extra duties.
  • Some students are disconnected, less engaged, and having a hard time with structure and deadlines.

What is the level of student interest in these areas of concentration before they take your class?

  1. Marketing
  2. Revenue management
  3. Sales

This ranking is the same across the marketing and revenue management disciplines as well.

What are the student perceptions of sales career opportunities when they start your class?

  • They don’t understand the role or fear selling.
  • Sales keeps the doors open and keeps hotel employees working.
  • The network-building potential is great, and there’s the opportunity to make money.
  • They believe knowledge of sales and persuasion are essential skills for upper management.

What do you tell students in your class that excites them about this career path?

  • It’s a good path to take to accelerate their career in hospitality.
  • Sales is a highly developed skill set that is transferable.
  • The path can lead them to a CMO position.
  • It’s not all about cold calling.
  • Everyone sells — you just don’t realize it.
  • Every day is different; it’s never boring.

What is a best practice for increasing student interest in sales classes?

  • Engaging with inspiring industry speakers.
  • Shadowing sales managers on the job.
  • Incorporating lecture topics and activities in the intro course that helps create understanding of the discipline and clearly describes hotel sales careers.

What resources would help you with curriculum development or enhancement? (Ranked in order of interest.)

  1. Case studies and supplemental materials
  2. Digital assets (videos, podcasts, etc.)
  3. Plug-and-play curriculum
  4. Faculty externships
  5. Faculty development opportunities or certifications
  6. Access to industry professionals as guest speakers

What resources would help students pursue careers in sales? (Ranked in order of interest.)

  1. Internships
  2. Access to industry professionals
  3. Mentorships
  4. Student certifications
  5. Career planning and placement resources
  6. Academic scholarships
  7. Scholarships for HSMAI membership
  8. HSMAI collegiate chapters

HSMAI Foundation Perspective

One of the key focus areas of the HSMAI Foundation is understanding the pipeline of students from hospitality schools that can help fill sales, marketing, and revenue positions. Industry practitioners and leaders must continue to engage the faculty who teach sales, marketing, and revenue classes and reach their students with messages that highlight the benefits of a fulfilling career in these ever-important disciplines.

HSMAI Corporate Revenue Optimization Professional of the Year: Christian Boerger

Christian Boerger, CRME, CHBA, CHDM, vice president of revenue strategy at Oxford Collection, will receive the 2022 Corporate Revenue Optimization Professional of the Year Award during HSMAI ROC Americas, taking place June 29. “I feel honored and humbled to receive this award,” he says. “It is a recognition of my revenue optimization journey that started more than a decade ago. At the same time, I thank the many peers, colleagues, and supporters who got me to this point. I couldn’t have done it on my own!”

Boerger has been in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years, taking on a range of operational and strategic leadership roles with companies such as IHG, Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Design Hotels, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, and Pacific Hospitality Group. While devising commercial strategies geared to increase revenues and optimize profit, he also aims to advance the revenue optimization discipline through empowerment, thought leadership, and education in his role as vice chair of HSMAI Americas’ Revenue Optimization Advisory Board. Having lived on three continents and explored more than 60 countries, Boerger is based in Bend, Oregon, where he and his wife enjoy the great outdoors and support disadvantaged communities in rural Guatemala. Here, he discusses how he got his start in the industry as well as how he’s seen it evolve.

How did you get your start in the industry?

I got into hospitality right after my military service in the 1990s, when my original plans to become a law enforcement officer fortunately fell through. My aunt had the fantastic idea of doing an internship at a hotel over the December holiday period. Her thoughts were that if I could get through that stressful time, I would succeed anywhere in hospitality. And what can I say — I am still here after all those years, enjoying it more than ever.

How did you get involved with HSMAI?

I was working for Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group in a regional capacity out of their London office. At the time, I became a member of the European Revenue Optimization Advisory Board before taking on the role of chairman of that same board in early 2014, just before moving from England to the United States.

During your time in the industry, how have you seen the revenue optimization space evolve?

As they say, “In the beginning, there was Excel…” Revenue optimization in hospitality has surely come a long way since I got into it. From focusing on operational hotel rooms revenue management tasks in the early days, revenue optimization has evolved to become much more holistic in scope, more strategic, more impactful, and certainly more complex. Today, successful revenue optimization professionals have to be a storyteller, tech-savvy, communicative, entrepreneurial, collaborative, and business-minded, just to name a few core skills.

As the industry moves toward pandemic recovery, what do you think it takes to be an effective leader in today’s challenging times?

Being able to relate, listen, and see the bigger picture are core competencies to being successful during these volatile times. How do macroeconomic and geopolitical challenges affect my business? What is the state of our workforce, and how can leaders find creative and sustainable ways to address the severe talent shortage in hospitality? How will my strategies and actions impact others, most notably my team members in operations? How can I stay nimble and effective during times of ever-changing customer behavior? These are just a few of the questions effective leaders should have on their mind as they navigate this prolonged recovery period.

What would you describe as the best moment of your career?

Taking a break to reflect, reassure, and recharge during my gap year in 2019 that took me around the world. Time waits for nobody, so we have to make it count!

How to Communicate with Customers in a Changing Environment

By Katie Davin, Associate Professor, Johnson & Wales University College of Hospitality Management, HSMAI Sales Advisory Board Member

The world that customers are living in has changed. Leisure travel is crowding out business travelers midweek, making corporate rates go up. Inflation is impacting the costs of food and other commodities, and some food products are simply not available. Labor shortages and outsourced labor are influencing both costs and service delivery. How can we talk to customers and educate them about issues that affect them because they are directly affecting hotels? The HSMAI Sales Advisory Board (SAB) recently discussed this question and offered some guidance.

Provide Correct Information

Hotel websites must have correct and current information, and all customer communication must be accurate. It is essential to keep the salespeople informed so they can inform their customers with this information. One SAB member recommended providing sales with a one-page document describing the latest supply-chain challenges so they can be transparent with customers about the possibility that substitutions may be necessary. Some recommended adding a message directly on the banquet event orders, stating that substitutions may be necessary. For BEOs written more than 30 days in advance, provide a statement that prices may increase.

With such transparency comes a need to provide thoughtful messaging, too. Rates may be high and availability may be scarce for groups, especially in a booking window that is less than 12 months out. High prices and sold-out dates can lead to the perception that convention business is not important. It is, and customers need to know that. Customers should also be encouraged to book as early as possible so they can get the dates they need and receive a price they feel is fair.

Say What You Can Deliver, and Deliver What You Promise

The current environment is leading to occasional problems with service delivery, such as running out of food at events. Travelers and meeting planners understand the current problems with supply and labor to a point, but their patience is wearing thin. One SAB member said, “I think people are getting to the point of, ‘Get this fixed, and let’s get on with it.’”

There are some customers who are willing to spend the money and, therefore, expect to get what they pay for. One SAB member advised clearly setting up the expectations upfront, with a direct message such as, “We’re going to charge you $10 more per person, but we are going to have the right amount of food, and we are going to make it a buffet instead of plated because we don’t have enough servers.” The member continued, “I think we’ll find that people will pay for it if we’re actually delivering what we say.”

Another SAB member added, “I haven’t had so many issues on price because I think they do get the price piece. If anything, we’re having more issues with our hotels having the confidence to push price.”

To meet customer expectations, some hotel companies are experimenting with menus. One SAB member explained, “We’re looking at redoing all our menus, providing core menus. You can do it with two cooks versus a chef and five cooks. So, we’re really looking at the efficiencies of our offerings. And then, if we don’t have enough waitstaff, we can add runners.”

Update Contracts

Salespeople are continuing to deal with changes and cancellations, due, in part, to lingering COVID problems. If someone has COVID or has been exposed, or if they have a family member with COVID, they are canceling their trip. These incidents can affect attendance numbers. There is also, as one member said, “the inability to count on the airlines. If a flight gets cancelled and they can’t get you out until two days later, you’re going to change or cancel your hotel reservation.” Therefore, hotels are adapting contract language and requiring earlier deposits. One SAB member said, “The bigger issue is these legal clauses. Our hotels are being more restrictive because the owners are getting more involved … we want more deposits earlier because we were burned for the last two years on some cancellations.”

However, one SAB member advised “not to make it a 20-page contract. We want to protect ourselves, but we want to be easy to do business with. Some of these contracts just get too [outrageous].”

Get Comfortable with Being Direct

The main piece of advice from this discussion was for salespeople to be proactive and direct with customers. For example, one member explained, “There are going to be more normalized issues such as contract labor and outsourced labor, which there was a fair bit of pre-pandemic, but now the buyers have more of a focus on that. We just need to get everybody talking about that.”

Industry Innovator: Eric Orkin Receives Vanguard Award for Achievement in Revenue Optimization

By Frances Moffett, HSMAI Editorial Content Director

Eric Orkin regularly wakes up at 5:15 in the morning to catch the optimal light he needs to take the photos he uses to publish his annual calendar, sell prints, or simply keep for his own collection. An avid nature and landscape photographer, Orkin is passionate about the craft, spending most of his time photographing birds or in his digital darkroom.

“I just love what I do,” he says.

The equipment Orkin wields to pursue his passion today — cameras, lenses, and drones — is a far cry from what he carried with him when he was living his passion in the hospitality revenue management profession. The college professor turned systems developer responsible for the innovative Delphi Management Systems and OPUS 2 Revenue Technologies spent much of his career presenting to hotels or hotel companies on the benefits of revenue management, during a time when the discipline was in its infancy.

“When I would arrive in a city to do a presentation, it took two taxis to get me to my location because of the equipment — a North Star Horizon computer, a TeleVideo monitor, and a huge HP dot-matrix printer,” he says. “I traveled with all of those in boxes, and a single car couldn’t handle it.”

Orkin’s career as a technology entrepreneur ended in 2001 (his days of heavy lifting long behind him), but the impact of his industry-changing work sustains today. Because of this, Orkin will be honored with the HSMAI Vanguard Award for Achievement in Revenue Optimization at HSMAI ROC Americas Wednesday, June 29. Here, he talks more about his pioneering work.

HSMAI: How did you get your start in developing systems for revenue management?

Eric Orkin: I started teaching in the hotel program at the University of New Hampshire in 1972. I was all of 26 years old, and I taught all the different courses, from marketing to financial management. A few years later, in 1978, I developed a program called HOTMAMA, which stood for “hotel, marketing and management.” It taught the fundamentals of yield management, revenue management, and I ran these interactive, computer simulation workshops all over the world.

Initially, I set out to be a professor. Then as a professor, I had consulting opportunities, and through the consulting opportunities, I quickly saw that what the hotels were doing made no sense at all. I never saw myself as being a system developer, but I saw myself as being a consultant who wanted my clients to be successful. I realized the systems had to change.

Why did you start Delphi Management Systems and OPUS 2 Revenue Technologies?

In 1979, I started Delphi Management Systems because I found I was teaching revenue management principles that were well-received — except all the systems within the hotels pushed the professionals back to the traditional way of thinking. I identified the first step toward profit-optimizing decision-making in hotels: automate the sales departments.

There was an inherent tension between group sales and transient sales. The group salespeople were rewarded based on volume — either the revenue or room night volume, or some combination of the two — so they naturally would try to book as many rooms as possible. Whereas transient sales generally achieved a higher average rate, were less disruptive to stay patterns, and they had more continuity over time. If you sell too many group sales, you turn people away, forcing them into your competitors’ hotels. The core systems — the reward systems — hotels used were not encouraging proper revenue optimization behavior.

Delphi was really step one in my plan for putting the entire hotel on a revenue optimization footing. Step two was OPUS 2, which looked directly at revenue management, with the idea that there would be interfaces to Delphi and other sales and reservation systems.

How would you say these technologies changed the industry?

Aside from the group and transient sales element, I think the main thing was the systems provided an integrated, holistic look at revenue management, which, before then, was compartmentalized.

Also, as revenue management began to take hold in a very rudimentary way, there was a lot of resistance. I was selling people on the concept of revenue optimization, not so much the technological product. To go out and tell people, “You’ve got a need that you don’t even know you have,” was not easy. The industry changed dramatically not just with my system, but with the other systems that were out there at the time, too. But the acceptance was slow and hard in the beginning.

As someone who has seen a lot of evolution within this industry, what is your advice for new professionals coming into hospitality?

If you’re going to be in this industry, and you can talk about it with so much enthusiasm that you’re just gushing — you’re in the right place. If not, keep looking. Don’t settle. Your work is going to take the majority of your time. Spend it passionately.

Outside of work, live passionately, too. Develop hobbies. Don’t sacrifice your family for your career. The money you make comes second. Joy comes first. Otherwise, you’ll just be looking at your watch, waiting for the time to go by.