Taking Commercial Strategy To The Next Level

This report and accompanying Commercial Effectiveness Organizational Assessment was created by the HSMAI Commercial Strategy Workgroup. HSMAI’s Commercial Effectiveness Organizational Assessment allows a hotel organization (individual hotel, management company, ownership group, or brand) to assess and score their implementation of the 11 key drivers of commercial excellence:**

1. Cross Functional Organizational Design and Alignment
2. Commercial Operations
3. Go-To-Market Model Design
4. Market Insight
5. Segmentation & Growth Priorities
6. Offerings & Value Propositions
7. Lead Generation & Management
8. Commercial Team Effectiveness
9. Channel Partner Programs & Management
10. Pricing Strategy & Execution
11. Customer Service Effectiveness

The assessment provides a structured framework for assessing and improving the effectiveness of various commercial functions within a hotel organization’s operations. It will help a hotel organization identify where its commercial structure is strong and where improvements are needed.

The report and assessment are HSMAI member benefits. Non-Members can purchase them for $399. To join visit: https://global.hsmai.org/join/

Access The Report and Assessment


** These drivers are adapted with permission from ZS’s work on B2B Commercial Effectiveness Drivers and its SFE Navigator initiative. https://www.zs.com/

HSMAI Customer Insight: Millions of Travelers Planning Trips to See Eclipse | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, 14% of them plan to travel at least 50 miles from home to view the solar eclipse on April 8th.  “For those destinations which will experience a total solar eclipse, they should expect a significant boost in visitation around the eclipse,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International.

The outlook for travel in 2024 remains strong, with 93% of travelers planning trips during the next six months, the highest level in a year. On their next trips, 64% plan to travel by car to a U.S. destination, while 25% plan to travel by air in the U.S.  For 7% of travelers, their next trip is to a foreign destination. Additional insights for HSMAI from Amir Eylon:


Read the full report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 83: Millions of Travelers Planning Trips to See Eclipse

HSMAI Perspective: Unlocking Talent Trends – Insights from the State of Talent Report

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

The hospitality industry is continually reshaped by transformative trends and innovations. The HSMAI Foundation Special Report: The State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent 2023-2024, a cornerstone resource for sales, marketing, and revenue optimization leaders, offers a roadmap for navigating these changes. This year’s report is more than findings and forecasts. It offers best practices, case studies, and suggested actions to improve talent outcomes across the commercial functions.  

The report is made possible with the support of the HSMAI Foundation’s corporate talent partners and is authored by Dorothy Dowling, Managing Director, Horwath HTL, and a special advisor to the HSMAI Foundation board. 

Key Insights  

This year’s report unveils nine crucial trends: 

  1. Meeting the Needs of Multigenerational Workforces 
  2. The Rise of The Gig Economy and Fractional Staffing Models 
  3. Retention Through Upskilling, Reskilling and Upward Mobility 
  4. Transforming Employee Engagement 
  5. Leadership Defines Culture and Organizational Purpose 
  6. Return to Office and Hybrid Work Models 
  7. Cross Functional Teamwork and the Evolution of Commercial 
  8. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence 
  9. Prioritizing Emotional Wellness 

Dive Deeper 

The State of Talent Report is an invitation to be a talent leader, championing models that thrive on research, inclusivity, and forward-thinking leadership.  

“Each of the 9 trends represents a piece of our industry’s talent puzzle,” said Lori Kiel, CHDM, HSMAI Foundation Chair and Chief Commercial Officer, The Boca Raton Resort and Club. “The State of Talent Report highlights the industry’s positive trends while honoring the adaptability and innovation inherent in hospitality.” 

Explore the full report and join the conversation on how we can collectively elevate the people at the heart of hospitality. 

The HSMAI Foundation is funded solely by individual and corporate donations. If you are interested in being a 2024 Corporate Talent Partner, click here.  The Foundation is also focused on building a bridge to the future of talent via individual, tax deductible gifts to the Century Campaign.  You can learn more and donate here. 

HSMAI Customer Insight: Travelers Use of Chat GPT for Trip Planning Stalls | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, only 14% of them have used Chat GPT to plan a trip in the past six months. And only 31% of them report that it is likely they will use Chat GPT to plan their next trip, statistically unchanged from 32% in April of 2023.

“While artificial intelligence likely will produce significant changes across the travel industry as it evolves and is deployed, its use as a travel planning tool by consumers thus far remains relatively modest,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International. “It likely will be years before we understand the full impact of AI on all aspects of the visitor economy.”

Additional insights from Eylon for HSMAI:


Read the full report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 82: Travelers Use of Chat GPT for Trip Planning Stalls

HSMAI Customer Insight: Travelers Cautiously Optimistic about 2024 Travel | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, 92% of them plan to travel in the next six months, which is near a record high percentage in the past 12 months.  However, there has been an uptick in concern about both personal finances and travel costs. Exclusive insights for HSMAI from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon:


Read the full report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 81: Travelers Cautiously Optimistic about 2024 Travel

HSMAI Customer Insight: Holiday Travel Outlook Is Positive | Longwoods International

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, 92% of them have travel plans in the next six months, and 33% of them plan to spend more on holiday travel this year compared to a year ago.  Only 16% of travelers plan to spend less on holiday travel this year, while 52% expect their holiday travel spending to be comparable to last year.

“The strong demand for travel continues as we look forward to the holiday travel season,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International.  “Fears of recession, inflation, rising gas prices and a new COVID-19 spike have not slowed consumer desire to travel.”

Twenty percent of travelers say spending time with their immediate family and children is the primary motivation for their leisure trips.  Other leisure travel motivators include 19% of travelers wanting new experiences, 18% looking for fun, 17% seek rest and relaxation, and 16% travel to spend time with friends and relatives.

The survey, supported by Miles Partnership, was fielded September 13, 2023 using a national sample randomly drawn from a consumer panel of 1,000 adults, ages 18 and over.  Quotas were used to match Census targets for age, gender, and region to make the survey representative of the U. S. population.

More Insight for HSMIA from Eylon:

HSMAI Customer Insight: Inflation’s Impact on Travel Planning Eases | Longwoods International

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, the percentage that say inflation is greatly impacting their travel decisions in the next six months has dropped to 23%, down from a peak of 32% in March and the lowest level is 2023.  Similarly, concern about airfare prices is also declining, with 23% of travelers reporting that the cost of flying is greatly impacting their decision to travel in the next six months, down from 31% in January.

“While the battle against inflation is not yet won, travelers are starting to move on, with less focus on this one economic issue,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International. More insight from Eylon for HSMAI:


Read the full report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 76: Inflation’s Impact on Travel Planning Eases

HSMAI Customer Insight: Travelers Use and Support Short Term Rentals | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, 47% of them are likely to stay in a short-term rental (Airbnb, Vrbo, etc.) on their next trip.   A similar 49% of travelers support having short term rentals in their own neighborhoods, with only 18% opposing them.  And among those travelers who use this type of accommodations, that support level jumps to 69%. “The impact of short term rentals on the lodging sector is significant,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International. More Insights from Amir Eylon for HSMAI:


Read the full report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 74 Travelers Use and Support Short Term Rentals

Corporate Culture and Values Matter

Talent issues continue to dominate headlines and high-level corporate discussions. The need to restore trust in hospitality companies is essential to attract and retain qualified professionals. 

Environmental, Social, and Governance 

CSR, particularly in the areas of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) issues have been the focus of numerous conference panels. Organizations perceived as socially responsible benefit with increased loyalty, engagement, and brand image. 58% of U.S. employees consider ESG issues when choosing a place to work. Sustainability initiatives and environmentally responsible practices are also increasingly important to guests and meeting planners.  

This has encouraged hotels to market their offerings – sustainable, regenerative, and locally immersive travel experiences – as consistent with their corporate values. Transparency is expected from organizations on how they address their roles within the communities in which they do business. Talent-facing culture and values initiatives have become more significant as hotels face labor shortages that disrupt business operations. Employee engagement increases when people feel their values match those of their company. 

Diversity and Equity  

A hotel’s diversity, equity, and inclusion and belonging (DEI&B) policies are also guest considerations, especially impacting business travel and conference venue choices. In addition, inequity in pay and promotions have been shown to increase turnover and lower engagement. 62% of U.S. workers say they consider DEI initiatives when considering a job offer. 

Inclusion and Belonging There is increasing evidence that diversity and equity efforts can fail when the culture of the organization is not inclusive. Hiring people from historically underrepresented communities is not enough to make an inclusive and equitable environment. True inclusion and belonging takes a culture that celebrates and values differences and works to identify and address inequity and biases. 

The HSMAI Foundation commissioned research in September 2022 to learn how Black hospitality professionals viewed their experiences. All respondents were in commercial positions at the manager level and above. The research showed that of respondents:  

    • 78% thought their managers were not equipped to manage a culturally diverse workforce.
    • 78% indicated they could not thrive in their current work environment. 
    • 83% stated they did not receive the same compensation packages as their White counterparts. 


Representation matters and several hotel companies and associations have begun to address the fact that women and people of color make up a high percentage of hospitality employees yet are underrepresented in senior leadership and investor or ownership positions. Programs like those at Wyndham Hotels and Resorts, AH&LA’s Castell Project, Women in Travel THRIVE, and Tourism Diversity Matters have a focus on moving women and African Americans into leadership positions.   

“While there is still work to do, we are proud to see the industry making DE&I a priority and look forward to tracking continued progress in 2023 and beyond,” Peggy Berg. – HN, August 3, 2022  

Calls to Action: 

  • Review your CSR and ESG policies and efforts. 
  • Are you effectively communicating them to guests and employees? 
  • Put practices in place that ensure equitable practices for attracting, onboarding, compensating, promoting, and retaining talent.  
  • Audit the diversity of your leadership. Be transparent with results and create pathways for advancement.  
  • Work with experts to assess your inclusivity and accessibility and ensure your space is inclusive and accessible for all.  

To read more about the top talent trends, download  The State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent 2022-23: HSMAI Foundation Special Report. 

Flexible Work is Here to Stay

Flexible work means many different things, including flexible location, hours, time off, earning potential, job sharing options, and more.

“It’s still the Wild West” is how one senior executive described it. “We have an SOP, which gives us a guideline, but we’re flexible on an individual basis, and more so in some departments than others. Building fairness and equity into the policies is crucial.”

Benefits of Flexible Work

  • Companies broaden their talent pools and recruitment quality.
  • Many companies report increased productivity, enhanced retention, and easier recruitment.
  • Sharing employees across multiple properties can result in cost savings.
  • Shared positions can be more easily created and accommodated.
  • Working from home reduces commuting time and cost.
  • Not having to dress for work saves time and money.
  • Women and people from historically underrepresented groups are shown to benefit from work-from-home policies, they report experiencing less discrimination and stress.

Hotels have always had flexibility around hours, time off, and shift patterns due to the 24/7 nature of the on-property hotel environment, which appeals to college students, care-givers, people with second jobs, and increasingly to older workers re-entering the workforce or seeking shorter hours. These employee-friendly policies increase attraction and retention. LinkedIn research shows that across industries, 80% of jobs can have some flex component.

Challenges of Flexibility

Expanding flexibility for above property workers is not as easy due to the shorter hours of operation, space constraints, and the nature of the work. Some managers report that having flexible scheduling and hybrid options allows employees to cover employment gaps caused by attrition or absenteeism, and individuals who work hybrid cause less disruptions when they need to stay home when sick.

Remote work was the norm for some sales, marketing, and revenue optimization positions. Most hoteliers, however, have always been location based, even in corporate environments, where “everyone under one roof” was the way work was organized.

Employees are driving the need for options. Enforced working hours (“face time”) rather than a focus on productivity and work completion can have a detrimental effect. The pandemic has made work-life balance a priority for many people. Just knowing there is flexibility can support both mental health and wellness.

Productivity Monitoring

Managing remote workers requires new management skills and possibly different metrics to judge productivity. It is also challenging to keep remote workers plugged into the day-to-day office conversations and to consider them equally for new projects or positions. A conscious effort to build an informal communication network amongst all workers in a group can ensure that remote workers aren’t excluded from the community.

Staff training is another important consideration for flexible work. Flexibility often requires more discipline and resources than full-time in-office employees need. Setting standards and metrics that are fair without regard to work time and location can be challenging. HSMAI has a multi-year project across sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals to document and define KPIs.

Calls to Action

  • Review the status of your flexible work options.
  • Audit your policies annually as this continues to evolve.
  • Talk to colleagues, review your competition’s website, and ask your team what options they are finding most important, especially for retention.


To read more about the top talent trends, download The State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent 2022-23: HSMAI Foundation Special Report.