Shifting Priorities For Hotel Marketers

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

As part of its commitment to supporting hospitality professionals during the pandemic, HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for hospitality chief marketing officers in partnership with Koddi and Phocuswright on June 25. (Read takeaways from HSMAI’s previous CMO virtual Executive Roundtable, held on March 31, here and here.)

Roundtable participants choose the topics that they wanted to focus on; participating companies included ESA, Hilton, Outrigger Hospitality Group, Preferred Hotel Group, Radisson Hotels, Rosewood Hotel Group, Warwick Hotels and Resorts, and Wyndham Hotels and Resorts. Here are key takeaways from the group’s discussion:


Several participants said that a greater use of AI is one of the biggest changes the industry will see going forward. When polled, participants said they mainly had been using AI in operations, media marketing, loyalty/CRM marketing, and reporting. “As marketers, we play a huge role in investments in technology,” one participant said.

Another change that participants agreed on is the growing need to be more flexible, particularly when it comes to how they are spending money. “The spend right now needs to be nimbler and more fluid,” one participant said. “The way we’re budgeting and the marketing efforts we’re putting out have to change, because we’re seeing fluctuations like we’ve never seen before.”

“I think we’re seeing some of our partners have to adjust in the ways they’re allowing us to buy, because we can’t guarantee things like spend levels,” another participant said. “Seeing that flexibility is encouraging.”


Participants said that they are concerned about younger team members who have not been through any crises, such as the 2008 financial crisis, before, and therefore aren’t as adept as more experienced team members at pivoting to the new reality. “People who haven’t been through crises before are paralyzed right now,” one participant said. “Those that have been through other crises know how to react. I have to talk to the younger members of my team a lot, because they haven’t been through this before.”

“My more seasoned teammates are coming up with all types of ideas and brainstorming on how to tackle business in new ways, while the younger team members are stuck with how to think differently,” another participant said. “I think it is about going through other crises and knowing you have to change tracks to get out of it.”

Another participant said that fear of the unknown is new to everyone, whether they’ve been through a crisis before, because this COVID-19 is so different from all of the others. “People today are so data-driven, but we’re facing something we’ve never faced before,” the participant said. “We don’t know what’s going to happen. You have to lean on your gut more, which is making it hard for people to move forward as well.”

Participants also expressed concern that furloughed employees would be in for a bit of a shock when they come back and find they are in roles completely different from the ones they left. “I think the more junior team members on furlough are anticipating coming back to the roles they’ve left,” one participant said. “It’s new to them, so it’s going to be a bit of a learning curve coming back.”

“When they come back, everyone’s job is going to be different,” another participant said. “It’s going to be interesting to see a healthier respect from the sales and marketing team for our operations folks, after they have to work in that area for a little while. It’s a challenge to balance repurposing talent toward growth but recognizing they have to be quickly skilled in the space, since they have never worked there before.”


Participants discussed the ways that their companies are trying to support both current employees who have had their jobs completely changed and furloughed employees who are struggling. “We recreated our incentive plan for 2020,” one participant said. “At first I laughed, because we have no money, but everyone was just excited about redoing their goals for the year. Our CEO challenged everyone to rethink what they initially wanted to accomplish, which was tied to a financial reward, and instead refocus on what the company needs. There will be no bonus payout, but it was an interesting way to reset everyone’s goals in the organization.”

“We’re staying connected to our people one-on-one,” another participant said. “We want to understand their concerns and how they want to move forward. A lot of things come down to making sure that relationship stays strong and reacting to their concerns appropriately and staying supportive.”

Another participant said that their company launched an alumni network as a way for furloughed employees to remain connected to each other and to former employees. “We did it as a supporting mechanism to help our furloughed employees and create a camaraderie between those who are hurting within the global organization,” the participant said. “It also motivated and inspired those who are left to also think about the company differently and remain engaged.”

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

Categories: Marketing
Insight Type: Articles