HSMAI Customer Insight: Gas Price Worries Accelerate Among Travelers | Longwoods

Wave 58 of Longwood International’s ongoing tracking study continues to indicate strong pent up demand and most key Travel Sentiment Indicators continuing their positive trends.  However, the issue of rising gas prices is having a growing impact.  This wave, we dig a bit deeper to learn more about how travelers say the rising fuel costs will impact their travels. Insights for HSMAI from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon:

 

Read the full report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 58 Gas Price Worries Accelerate Among Travelers

Authentic, Servant Leadership Key to Navigating Talent Challenges Amid Pandemic

By Karen Wollard, Ed. D., CHDM, HSMAI Research Manager

Authenticity, accountability, and transparency — these characteristics have been most strongly associated with leaders who are successfully navigating the pandemic’s challenges, according to the HSMAI Foundation’s State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent: 2020-2021 special report. As marketing, sales, and revenue optimization teams work toward being fully staffed again, hospitality talent expects these characteristics — and more — of their leaders at every level.

When the pandemic started, good leaders listened and adjusted, allowing the difference between what was and was not within their control to dictate the right actions to move forward. Hospitality leaders agree that the humanity of leadership is critical, along with humility and leading with a servant mentality.

Compassion and curiosity are key elements in leading organizations with strong manager/employee relationships. Leaders who embraced this acknowledged that their people were human first and addressed the physical, mental, and emotional aspects of the crisis. They also admitted they, too, were feeling the strains. Servant leaders look to make their team’s lives easier.

Authentic leadership was personified by the late Arne Sorenson, who was president and CEO of Marriott International, when he took to video in March 2020 to deliver the unwelcome news “face-to-face” with Marriott’s employees, stakeholders, and customers: “I can tell you that I have never had a more difficult moment than this one. There is simply nothing worse than telling highly valued associates — people who are the very heart of this company — that their roles are being impacted by events completely outside of their control.”

Before his passing in January 2021, Sheldon Adelson, CEO and chairman of Las Vegas Sands, called on corporate executives to maximize the number of employees and families they could help. He paid his 10,000 employees as though they were still working, even as the resorts were shuttered. Many large organizations raised funds to support furloughed workers and extended benefits. Others shared food, resources, job leads, support for unemployment applications, and more.

Managing Challenges at Every Level

Leaders at every level had to become comfortable with the uncomfortable and expect the unexpected, while moving decisively and empathetically. They had to keep a steady direction, while managing major crises, to help teams focus on priorities and find efficiencies wherever they could. Additionally, flexibility and resilience in the face of reduced bookings and mounting costs led some teams to creative solutions, including taking on new tasks such as stripping beds or helping prep food. One leader said this also brought out strengths in people that may have otherwise gone unnoticed.

As change became a constant, leaders had to make decisions without full data and then constantly reevaluate as new information changed the landscape. Managers had to be flexible as their employees struggled with homeschooling their children, caring for sick relatives, and learning new technologies and techniques to do their jobs. Inflexible managers who tried to stick to the rules or enforce one rule on many created stress and burnout.

With their data and insights, as well as experience representing their brands, chief marketing officers were invaluable strategists during the pandemic, determining the profile of the “new” guest, devising plans on increasing occupancy, and crafting unique messaging to address those who were still traveling. In addition, chief human resources officers and chief commercial officers had to collaborate to determine how to move forward. While some organizations chose to furlough sales, marketing, and revenue staffers because there was no business, others combined the teams, encouraging them to work together to figure out how to fill rooms at a profit. These early decisions continue to reverberate as the industry rebounds. General managers are still working to determine the balance as they employ new workers and continue to deploy existing staff across multiple roles.

Broader Leadership Issues

Along with the pandemic came additional crises that demanded leadership attention:

  • Stockholder demands for bold strategies and aggressive measures. Investors and owners, especially hotel owners, have seen nearly two years of losses, and many markets are still slow to rebound.
  • Stakeholder capitalism — the idea that business serves not only shareholders but consumers, suppliers, workers and the greater society — has gained prominence as the COVID-19 crisis demonstrated the interconnections between business and society, according to McKinsey.
  • New focuses on social justice and sustainability, and environmental challenges from wildfires, floods, tornadoes, and hurricanes. From George Floyd’s death sparking social unrest to record-breaking weather and climate challenges, the pandemic was just one disaster on top of others.

There have been extensive changes in the C-suites of many hotel companies, as leadership continues to grapple with enormous business pressures. These issues will be part of what marketers and revenue managers will be adding to their environmental scanning as they view the post-COVID landscape.

This is an excerpt from the HSMAI Foundation’s State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent: 2020-2021 special report. To learn more about the HSMAI Foundation and its mission, visit the Foundation website.

The Importance of Corporate Culture and Values in Finding New Talent

By Karen Wollard, Ed. D., CHDM, HSMAI Research Manager

As we look toward post-pandemic recovery, corporate culture will dictate how teams can function and thrive. This is even more important now that four generations are in the workforce for the first time ever.

Human resources issues moved to the forefront in March 2020 when the world shut down. HSMAI held global chief human resources executive roundtables in Asia Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, and North America in summer and fall 2020, finding that experiences were eerily similar around the world: People were doing more with less, managing low team morale, quickly implementing new technology for virtual communication and more. One of the bright spots was the way HR leaders were quickly elevated to C-suite levels as the pandemic unfolded. The quick handling by capable HR teams who had the support of senior management was a huge differentiating factor in the outcomes of massive furloughs and layoffs.

As corporate commercial teams shrank and began remote work, they had the monumental tasks of maintaining communication, enhancing teamwork, and ensuring wellness. For those associates who remained, flattened decision-making hierarchies made quick and nimble responses to crises possible. Silos crumbled and everyone pitched in to keep whatever business was available booked. Resilience and flexibility became essential, traits that were more easily adopted in organizations that valued teamwork. Transparency and compassion proved to be key factors in reputation management.

Communication and consideration mattered enormously to those who were laid off, those sent home to work remotely, and those who stayed. Organizations with people-first cultures made impossible decisions without betraying employees’ trust, while those who felt they were treated unfairly lost the faith. Hospitality organizations have long considered themselves to be in the people business, and this belief was put to the test. As one employee offered, after nearly three decades working with one organization, they were terminated (in writing) with “no advanced planning, no crisis prevention of any sort, and no care or concern for [my] well-being and long-term status of [my] leadership.” Transparency in the face of unforeseen events was most effective in organizations where leaders were trusted to take employee and guest well-being into account. Empathy will be remembered long after the rebound occurs.

Across the HSMAI C-level roundtables in 2020 and 2021, executives consistently reported that few (or fewer than other departments) commercial professionals were furloughed or laid off, or they were among the first to be recalled. FAU’s hospitality research found that even among these departments, less than 13% felt the industry had protected its workers better than other industries.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion & Intergenerational Collaboration

Two corporate culture issues of particular importance to commercial professionals are likely to return to the forefront as employment rebounds: DEI and workplace collaboration among four different generations.

DEI efforts were moving forward in many organizations as the pandemic arose. For sales, marketing, and revenue management professionals, women represented nearly half of all VP- to chief-level positions and were well represented at the director levels, holding more than 60% of current positions in 2021, according to the Castell Project’s 2021 Women in Hospitality Industry Leadership study. Yet, 57% of all those laid off in the pandemic were women, so it will take time to see what the ultimate impact might be.

In 2021, a task force of the HSMAI Americas Marketing Advisory Board surveyed more than 70 sales, marketing, and revenue management leaders from a range of organizations and found that nearly 55% had an existing DEI initiative or committee. These efforts ranged from executive education to comprehensive training for all colleagues. The HSMAI Foundation continues to work with several organizations who are researching, making recommendations, and fostering success in addressing DEI efforts, specifically across the commercial professions.

The reality of four generations (baby boomers, Gen X, millennials, and Gen Z) in the workforce for the first time in history adds a new dimension to the challenges of corporate values. In sales, marketing, and revenue positions, senior managers tend to be baby boomers and Gen Xers, both generations that have spent most of their working lives in offices, with clear work and leadership policies. Millennial and Gen Z professionals seem more interested in fluid structures and policies. The need to recalibrate existing logarithms, adapt existing systems to new realities, and the enormous changes in social media and big data challenge many commercial professionals, particularly those who aren’t digital natives. This is a consideration for managers as they work to navigate these challenges.

One highlight in developing supportive cultures among different generations has been the concept of “reverse mentoring,” which pairs more experienced workers with new professionals, often with the intent to work together on technology challenges. The Foundation will be watching for success stories and best practices with this approach, as well as other learning, development, and teamwork solutions.

Aside from DEI and intergenerational collaboration, the pandemic has heightened awareness of the importance of accommodating employees with familial responsibilities, supporting those with heightened risk factors, and addressing varying levels of need for job security. As workplaces redevelop, organizations will have to work with their employees to determine their needs and foster an environment of inclusion and understanding.

Corporate culture will dictate how teams will function and thrive. “Companies that aren’t aligned with the work-life needs of their employees will continue to see a migration of talent,” wrote author Connie Steele in her book “Building the Business of You.” The days of celebrating those employees who are best able to tolerate the pain of overdemanding days, burnout, multiple jobs, short staffing, and unending demands may soon be over.

As we rebuild, there is an opportunity for a cultural reset and renewal. Honest assessment of organizational values, the actions of its leaders, and the future expectations of guests, employees, owners, and other stakeholders are crucial. Organizations must ask: What does it take to be extraordinary? How can we listen and connect more? One leader told us that the future is about more than just booking rooms; it is choosing the mix of guests and ensuring purpose and kindness are shown throughout the property. There is a renewed commitment to mentoring and growing the next generation of hoteliers who know how to drive the business and are intensely passionate about the guest experience.

This is an excerpt from the HSMAI Foundation’s State of Hotel Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Optimization Talent: 2020-2021 special report. To learn more about the HSMAI Foundation and its mission, visit the Foundation website.

HSMAI Customer Insight: Rising Gas Prices Replacing COVID-19 as Travel Worry | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, at a time when the impact of the pandemic on travel planning is steadily declining, a new worry for the travel industry has emerged – spiking gas prices.   About six in ten travelers indicate rising gas prices will impact their travel plans during the next six months. In fact, three in ten travelers say this will greatly impact their upcoming travel.  In contrast, only two in ten travelers say that COVID-19 will greatly impact their decision to travel in the next six months, down more than ten points from the start of the year.

Insights from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon for HSMAI:

 

Full Report:

HSMAI Customer Insights: The American Travel Planning Boom Continues | Longwoods

Longwwods International’s ongoing tracking study brings more encouraging news from key Travel Sentiment Indicators that points to strong Spring Break and Summer Travel seasons ahead. A resoundingly high 90% of American travelers report plans to travel in the next six months, with 23% planning in the next two months, setting up a for a very strong Spring Break season. Exclusive insights into the finding for HSMAI from Longwwods President & CEO Amir Eylon:

 

Full Report: American Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 56: Travel Planning Boom Continues

HSMAI Customer Insight: Travelers Look Past Pandemic with Future Travel Plans | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, the rapid decline in new COVID-19 cases nationally has travelers gearing up planning for both domestic and international travel.  The percentage of travelers who say that coronavirus will greatly their decision to travel in the next six months dropped from 32% in early January to 24% in early February.  And the number of travelers who reported they are changing their travel plans because of COVID-19 fell from 58% to 49% in the same time period. Get exclusive insights for HSMAI from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon:

Full Report:

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

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

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

 

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

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

Access the full report here:

HSMAI Customer Insight: Omicron Surge Disrupts Travel | Longwoods International

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, the dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant is taking its toll on travel intentions and perceptions of health and safety at the start of 2022.

The percentage of travelers planning a trip in the next month has slipped significantly from 23% in October to 15% in January.  Conversely, travelers are planning trips further out as the percentage of those planning trips in six months or later has increased from 19% in October to 23% in the latest survey.

Insights from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon prepared for HSMAI:

 

Full Report: COVID-19 Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 53: Omicron Surge Disrupts Travel

The New Hotel Sales Team

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

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

Access the full white paper on HSMAI’s website.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the hospitality industry dramatically, decimating revenues, spurring furloughs and layoffs, and creating a level of uncertainty not seen since the Great Recession, sales teams — particularly those within hotel management companies (HMCs) working with owner groups — were already facing challenges before this crisis.

Overly reliant on a strong economy and the resulting abundance of inbound leads, many sales teams had become too large and were not implementing a proactive sales approach. “As sales teams are rebuilt, they are looking much different than pre-pandemic,” said Jeff Bzdawka, CEO of Knowland, a leading provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality. “Not only are they smaller, but as they start coming back, it’s not necessarily the same people returning. For example, individuals who may have been very good order takers are not being hired back as salespeople for obvious reasons. There’s a higher-level skill set required today.”

The pandemic has forced a reality check. With necessary personnel cuts based on hotel closures and an extended pause on travel and group for most segments and markets throughout much of 2020 and 2021, properties simply haven’t had enough business to support previously sized sales teams. Within individual properties that may have been operating fairly autonomously, there is now greater HMC oversight.

“We’re really challenging our teams to be creative and find efficiencies to take on more responsibilities,” said Sunny Brewer, senior director of revenue management for Ashford Inc., which provides advisory management services to two publicly traded REITs, Ashford Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, and also includes property management company Remington Hotels. “We’re partnering with our managers to ensure, and develop to an extent, strategies both in the short and long term, and then making sure that they’re pulled through at a tactical level within each hotel.”

To do so, teams need to be able to get granular with the data they are parsing to source the business they want — groups that don’t have restrictions on meetings and are booking corporate events, for instance. “The data has to be very tailored to the audience and customer segment that is a good fit for the hotel and that market,” Brewer said.