By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Nina Nieminen always knew she wanted to be a part of the hospitality industry, getting her start as a dishwasher at a restaurant when she was just 15. And it’s worked out pretty well for her. Nieminen, now the director of revenue management and distribution at SOK Travel and Hospitality Industry Chain Management in Finland, was honored with HSMAI Europe’s first annual Fabian Specht Revenue Optimization Professional of the Year Award at the Revenue Optimization Conference (ROC) in London on Jan. 28.
Nieminen’s career took off after several years working in the restaurant business. After high school she studied at a hospitality/tourism school, interning in Toulouse, France, Switzerland, and Cyprus. She eventually began working for Nordic Hotel Company, which was acquired by Hilton, and there she got her start in the revenue field when she was selected for revenue management training “I knew it was perfect for me,” Nieminen said.
Today, Nieminen is in charge of revenue management for one of the largest companies in Finland, handling more than 600 restaurants and 60 hotels across Northern Europe. “I really had to build the revenue management culture,” she said. “When we first introduced this new idea, not all of the regions were interested in revenue management, because they didn’t think it would be beneficial to them. So we started with those who were willing to take the new processes on, and eventually the others saw the strategy was good. We never forced anyone to adopt the ideas or processes, but when we showed the results, other regions became interested, which made it much easier to implement the ideas there.”
After working her way through different facets of the industry, revenue management is still what keeps Nieminen’s interest. “The whole landscape is changing so fast,” she said. “You can always find more ways to work in revenue management, and I like that it brings along new challenges constantly.”
HSMAI Europe has been a part of Nieminen’s career for the past four years. The highlight of her membership is being able to speak with her counterparts across other companies. “I work in a country where there are only two big hotel companies,” she said. “I love to discuss work with my colleagues, but it’s difficult when there are only two of us. It’s nice to have an organization where I can meet pan-European and global peers and discuss things with them without the burden or pressure of being competitors.”
“Nina has for many years successfully led the growth and development of the revenue and distribution areas of a key European hotel group,” said Klaus Kohlmayr, chief evangelist at IDeaS, when he presented Nieminen with the award at ROC Europe. “Her focus beyond rooms into food and beverage, meetings and events, and other areas puts her at the forefront of innovation in the region. She is an active member of HSMAI, promoting collaboration and innovation throughout the industry, and is regularly engaged as a public speaker. She is always ready to share insightful perspectives with colleagues, peers, and academics.”
Nieminen said the award means a lot to her, especially because it was named after Fabian Specht, the late area vice president of IDeaS Revenue Solutions, who passed away unexpectedly in December 2019. “I was truly honored, especially when the award was named after Fabian, who I knew personally and respected,” she said. “He was all about giving to the industry, rather than exposing himself, and he probably would have been embarrassed to hear there was an award named after him.”
“We were all deeply shocked and saddened when we heard the news of Fabian’s passing,” said Ingunn Hofseth, president and CEO of HSMAI Europe. “He was a reliable and trustworthy person to work with and I admired him. He was accessible, emotionally supportive, and he prioritized HSMAI. We are proud to introduce this new award as a living testimonial to his memory.”
For hospitality professionals who are just beginning their career in revenue management, Nieminen recommends honing your creativity and curiosity. “You need to be competitive and always want to win or perform really well in order to do well,” she said. “And you need to be curious about the industry, because you just might be able to seek out signals sooner than the competition and reap the benefit before they can.”