Turning Self-Doubt Into Positive Momentum

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

Judi Holler, author of Fear Is My Homeboy, presented the keynote speech at HSMAI’s ROC 2019. Holler encourages people to embrace fear and get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Members of HSMAI’s Rising Sales Leader Council discussed Holler’s ideas along with a similarly themed article by Rainesford Stauffer on a recent call, during which they shared what has helped them take risks, push past self-doubt, and identify their professional strengths and weaknesses. Here are key takeaways from their discussion:


  • “Each time I made those scary decisions, it made me more comfortable and more confident in myself in making the next scary decision. And I think that’s the process you need to go through. And that’s how you grow that self-confidence.”
  • “When you push yourself beyond what you think you can do, you learn that the little things will help you get through the bigger things. When you’re not believing in yourself and you’re having that self-doubt, you have to remember that someone put you in that position because they believe you can accomplish this.”
  • “It could be boring if you were never fearful. If you never felt intimidated, if you never felt that you were under-prepared, if you never felt that you were going to learn something from that meeting or that experience, you would absolutely be bored.”
  • “Sometimes, we’re the hardest critics of ourselves. So, what I started doing a while back was making like a of things that I think are good, whether it be with work or personal, and a bad list. And with those bad lists, I’d try three new solutions until I found out how to make my bad things good. That really put me outside my comfort zone, especially in work. I will say it’s so jarring to see that on paper and be honest with yourself like that, But it propelled me so much further, getting uncomfortable and being super-honest.”


  • “One of the best things that I learned from using those types of tests and finding out people’s strengths and weaknesses is play to those strengths. And that’s how I think you can really be successful as a leader. You knowing your own strength is good. What you do with your team’s strengths and weaknesses, and how you mesh that team together to work and get the job done quick, is what helps your team as a whole and helps you sell more. Once everybody understands their strengths, it really helps you get things done the right way.”
  • “When you start looking at your strengths and your weaknesses, you often focus on the weaknesses. But instead of saying, ‘How do I fix that?,’ really look at your strengths as well and look at what’s causing those instead of what’s causing your weaknesses. Focusing on how you accomplish your positives can also help you bring your weaknesses up.”
  • “What I love about a 360 assessment instead of some of the other strength assessments is that it gives you other people’s perceptions of what you are. And I believe in having outsight on how other people perceive you, not just how you personally think you are. I’ve been fortunate to have someone at work to help me with that, and I hope everybody at work has someone who can gut-check them and help with what you lose focus on.”


  • “At the end of the day, as long as I know I did everything I could, failure is not a problem. That means you tried. So, failure is a good thing.”
  • “We’re salespeople. If you really, truly embrace sales, then failing at a sale should roll off your back. It shouldn’t be that hard for us to try things and fail. That’s what we do every day. Every time we pick up the phone to call someone, we might not get a call back. You should have some pretty tough skin if you’re in sales.”
  • “Being in sales means getting rejected, which can suck, but it’s all a part of what we love. At least for me, the rejections become a challenge to do better, and it motivates me to get going.”
  • “We want to receive positive feedback, but I also think we need to get ourselves to a point where we can embrace negative feedback as well, because it’s often not completely negative, it’s just constructive feedback on a way that you can tailor yourself to be more successful.”

The Post-Pandemic Legal Landscape

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

As the pandemic has evolved over the past year, so has legal advice regarding how to handle common issues that have come up. Greg Duff, principal at Foster Garvey, where he chairs the national hospitality, travel, and tourism practice, has provided valuable insights to HSMAI members in the past, and on May 25 will present a webinar on traveler expectations and legal implications for hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization professionals moving forward. The webinar is complimentary.

Throughout Duff’s more than 25 years working exclusively in the hospitality industry, he has dedicated himself to helping clients solve the range of legal issues associated with owning and operating a modern hospitality organization. We recently caught up with Duff to preview the upcoming webinar and get his take on moving forward into the post-pandemic stage.

What emerging issues will you be tackling in the upcoming webinar?

The areas that I intend to cover include the evolution of the pandemic from COVID protocols to testing to vaccinations, and then focusing on health passports and whether they are necessary. I’m also going to talk about the use of guest waivers and whether they are appropriate. There have been a lot of questions on if hotels need to be using them to waive liability if anyone gets COVID from their property.

I’m going to touch on guest communications and what communications should look like in this pandemic world and soon-to-be post-pandemic world, and the importance of communicating. I’m also going to talk a little about the privacy implications related to COVID and if properties should be taking affirmative steps or offering testing and vaccinations. Finally, we’re going to talk a little about the use or issue around cancellations and refunds that have occurred because of COVID.

What do you hope attendees will take away from your presentation?

Everyone is hoping to learn something different, so I really hope that people ask questions and participate so they get the answers that they need. The more I hear about various experiences and issues makes me a better lawyer and helps me help other people. It’s more difficult via video, but I like to keep things interactive.

Why should HSMAI members tune into this webinar if they have heard you speak on COVID issues before?

This is going to be a broader conversation, as opposed to focusing on specific topics as I did in several past presentations. This will focus on post-pandemic effects, and there will be new information.

Do you think that things are starting to stabilize, or will they — along with your advice — continue to evolve as the pandemic slows?

I think it will continue to evolve just as it has been. There is still a great amount of uncertainty, not necessarily around how bad the pandemic will get, but uncertainty on how everyone will respond as restrictions begin to lift. Some states like Florida or Texas have already completely opened their doors, and others are far behind. How they unwind from the peak pandemic differs for every jurisdiction. We’re still in a period of great uncertainty.

When do you see things getting back to “normal?”

Even when the pandemic is past us, I think there will be lingering effects. It’s too early to tell right now, but I think that by fall in many regions, it will be back to normal levels. However, that also varies greatly by segment. It’s clear that leisure is the first to come back, and then corporate and group will follow. How quickly corporate and group come back still remains to be seen.

I’m the first to champion and support the idea that travel will come roaring back and will continue to keep coming back as long as COVID remains in check. As more people get vaccinated and good practices improve, so will travel, and therefore our advice will evolve.

Do you think that we’re still living in the pandemic, or are we finally starting to move into a post-pandemic society?

We’re still in pandemic right now, but for purposes of this discussion, we’re going to be looking at the future. We have testing and vaccines widely available to us right now, so we’re taking that into consideration and discussing, as those things continue to improve, what the industry will look like.

Does your advice to hospitality professionals vary based on where they’re located?

Depending on the issue, it is incredibly difficult to give blanket advice for properties due to the varying locations, because everything depends on where the property is located. One of the very first questions I ask when advising someone is “What is your current state of reopening?” You have to have all of the information before you can advise someone, and because every state has different restrictions in place and plans to become less restrictive, it’s crucial to understand that before you can give advice.

Greg Duff will present “The Post-Pandemic Legal Landscape: An HSMAI Webinar” at 2 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, May 25, 2021. The webinar is free. Learn more and register here.

HSMAI Top 25 Profiles: Denise Chapman, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach

Creating and merchandising luxury lifestyle experienc­es has been Denise Chapman’s passion throughout her hospitality career. For more than two decades, she has led resort marketing teams to launch new brands, polish existing ones, and turn around under-performing assets. Currently the director of marketing for Five Diamond–rated Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club, her roster of upscale resort marketing director roles has included Monarch Beach Resort, Omni Hotels & Resorts, La Costa Resort & Spa, Claremont Resort & Spa, Sonoma Mission Inn, La Quinta Resort & Club, and Resort at Squaw Creek. In the past, Chapman has served as an adjunct instructor at California State University, San Marcos, a member of the board for Visit Carlsbad, and an HSMAI Adrian Awards judge. She is currently a member of the HSMAI Resort Best Practices Roundtable.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: During the pandemic, Chapman functioned as a team of one, with the key objectives of staying close to customers and employees, being of service to them while they were locked down, and building leisure momentum heading into reopening. Thanks to her efforts, despite COVID, Monarch Beach Resort saw a 3-percent year-over-year increase in leisure volume.

NOMINATED BY: John Rovie, Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach Resort & Club — “While Denise’s experience and accomplishments are amazing, it’s the person behind the impressive skills and results that is so deserving. The quality and quantity of her achievements during this unprecedent­ed time was remarkable. Denise is driven by doing what is best for colleagues and what is best for customers … which is inevitably what is best for the business.”


“The challenges of the pandemic have required our team to collaborate in new ways and dig deep to find solutions. Knowing that the livelihood of our cowork­ers and the wellbeing of our management company and ownership are all at stake has provided powerful motivation to keep moving forward with urgency.”

HSMAI 2020 Top 25 Profiles Special Report

HSMAI Top 25 Profiles: Charlestowne Hotels’ Jonathan Capps

HSMAI recently honored the 2020 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. We’re profiling all of them in a forthcoming HSMAI Special Report that we’re previewing with excerpts, including Jonathan Capps, Vice President of Revenue, Charlestowne Hotels.

Jonathan Capps oversees internal and external revenue optimization at Charlestowne Hotels. Offering exten­sive knowledge of corporate strategies, he takes a 360-de­gree approach to Charlestowne’s work: marrying creative development with data science to increase revenue and assess targeted campaigns. Capps joined Charlestowne in 2010 as a corporate revenue manager and advanced to director of marketing before accepting the vice president of revenue position. Prior to joining the Charlestowne team, he was director of revenue optimization at Wild Dunes Resort and worked in hotel development with a Florida-based management company. He earned a degree in hospitality and tourism management from the College of Charleston and serves as an adviser for the college’s hospitality revenue management MBA program.

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: Through his research in software and operational processes, Capps has created profitabil­ity-enhancement methods resulting in game-changing ROI for Charlestowne’s properties.

NOMINATED BY: Casey Galasso, Quinn PR — “Jonathan has made a name for himself at Charlestowne and across the hospitality industry as an executive who doesn’t follow the trends but who sets them. Always operating in a growth-centric mindset, a hallmark of Johnathan’s lead­ership — and what makes him truly extraordinary — is his steadfast commitment to doing right by his hotels, owners, and team of revenue managers, constantly finding new ways for them to reach peak-performance levels they never imagined possible.”


“Watching all our departments and property teams take on an ‘I’ll do whatever it takes’ attitude to help our hotel(s) get through this extremely challenging time — from general managers living on property for a month and sales team members covering desk shifts, to all personnel helping to turn over rooms on ‘busy’ days. I’ve also kept motivated by utilizing some of the slower periods to focus on helping grow our portfolio and vetting new systems/technology.”


Navigating Difficult Conversations With Clients

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

We may not be as stressed as we were a year ago, but many hospitality professionals, including salespeople, are drained, just as the majority of their customers are. And when customers offload their heavy feelings on salespeople, it can be tough to avoid internalizing those feelings and becoming even more burnt out.

Members of HSMAI’s Rising Sales Leader Council recently discussed how they navigate these difficult conversations and release the stress that comes with them. Here are key takeaways from their conversation.


  • “I think most of the time from my experience, people just want someone to listen. And if you do that, then I feel like that’s how you can connect with them, just by having empathy.”
  • “During these times, the best situation is to just let them release whatever feelings they have and empathize with them. All they want to do is have someone to talk to. I talked to a guest a few days ago and she just unloaded for 45 minutes and I just sat there and listened. When she was done, she said, ‘Thank you so much. I haven’t had anyone that’s had the time to just sit there and listen to what have I been going through.’”


  • “You give a lot in that interaction and you’re left with little afterwards. You feel kind of drained. My recommendation is taking a walk or FaceTiming with your baby, whatever helps you, but you need to ground yourself after those calls. It’s not okay to just keep powering through. You need to digest that interaction, so that it doesn’t internalize and go home with you.”
  • “I make a fun little bingo card to cross off on personal releases. You have to find your personal release, whether it’s yoga or watching a movie or just taking a shower. I use that as a weekly reminder that I need to make at least one bingo this week and do a bit of self-care.”
  • “I’m the worst at trying to do too many things and once you’re done with a long conversation, you’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, that took forever. I have to make up for lost time.’ But instead, take a walk or go outside or get a nice tea. Just do something to reset your mind.”


  • “We have a tool that we use called LEAP — listen, empathize, ask, and produce. You listen first and show them empathy. And then just be able to ask some questions and find out if there’s something you can do for them. And that can lead to something to help with that issue, or it can help continue to build your strong business relationship, because maybe you’re able to turn the conversation back to business and what you both can do for each other.”
  • “I use SNAP, which is stop, notice, ask, and pivot, which helps me with the emotional intelligence part of it. Because when you start internalizing that information, it starts making you less efficient with your day because you’re only thinking about that. The pause that comes first is really helpful.”
  • “One thing that’s really helped me is this: I think all of us have done this in reading an email. We take a certain tone with it because it just seems like that’s the tone of the email. And then I can feel myself getting riled up in it, and I’ll say, ‘Nope, I’m just going to set it aside.’ And I’ll actually go back and reread it later and realize that they’re not saying what I interpreted. I know it’s basic and it’s something we talk about, but I’ve found myself misinterpreting something that can be taken out of context, and taking that pause helps me get perspective back.”


  • “We do have to remember that we aren’t therapists, that isn’t our job. We feel like we are, if there’s a client that really has something to say, but I think we do have to remember that it’s not our role as a professional in business to give them advice. Even if you’re friends with the client, they’re never really your friend, they’re your client first.”
  • “I felt a lot of pressure to maintain that relationship with a longstanding client who was offloading with me. Sometimes you get put in a position where you have no choice. You have to listen. It leaves you in a situation where you don’t ever want to talk to them again and they’re going to be on property at one point. I didn’t like the way it left me feeling and I didn’t like this imprint our conversation left on me, but it is what it is.”


  • “You can’t trust what you see on social media. People can make things look really fantastic and social media may be an outlet for some people, but it’s important to really check in with them.”
  • “It’s always good to try to find out and stay in touch with others and find out what is going on. We had a long-term client ghost us in the past few months, and we thought that it was on our side. When we finally were able to make a connection, it turned out that it was a personal issue that they were going through. It’s important to be sensitive to clients’ personal things, both COVID and non-COVID related.”
  • “If you haven’t talked to somebody in a while that you work with or used to work with, it’s really important to check in on each other as well. Your direct team, your old team, I just really encourage that, because you never know what somebody is going through.”


By Christopher Durso, Vice President of Content Development, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)

HSMAI’s exclusive event for Organizational Members will focus on identifying the post-pandemic metrics ‘that help us all speak the same language.’

KPIs are a moving target — and we’re taking dead aim at them with Global Curate, an invitation-only event for HSMAI Organizational Member companies on May 11. Presented by HSMAI Americas and HSMAI Europe and focused on the theme “Defining Success in the New Market,” Global Curate will bring together leaders in hospitality sales, marketing, and revenue optimization for small-group brainstorming to help identify the metrics that will be most relevant to hotel companies as they move through and beyond recovery.

In advance of Global Curate, we talked to Lori Kiel, chief revenue and marketing officer for The Kessler Collection, who will be presenting at the event — and who as chair of HSMAI’s KPI Workgroup has been on the hunt for more accurate, responsive metrics since before COVID.

Was there a particular moment over the last year when it became clear that the industry was going to need to rethink its approach to KPIs?

Actually, it was long before the last year. For me, what happened was the 2018 acquisition of Starwood by Marriott. When they became such an enormous company covering so many brands, all of a sudden my STAR reports that I had relied on so heavily to tell me if I was succeeding — we were taught in school RevPAR par is king, and all of a sudden that lost its efficacy. I was having to reset my competitive sets, because no one brand is allowed to have more than 40 percent of the participation.

That left me longing for a new KPI that I could rely on like I had RevPAR. I brought that to HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board. I raised my hand and said, “I want to know how can we get back to a place where we as an industry can find one KPI that helps us all speak the same language.”

How did the pandemic subsequently inform or affect that work?

Before COVID hit, we had taken a Google Sheet and we had listed out every single KPI that we could come up with. There were 67 of them total and they came from all disciplines — revenue, sales, marketing, P&L. When we were trying to rank those KPIs in order of importance, it became clear that profitability was a big player all of a sudden. I say all of a sudden because, in the revenue management realm, we haven’t always worried about profitability. We’ve worried about getting the revenues in the building. However, what was becoming more and more apparent beyond just the OTA margins was the cost of distribution.

Right before COVID, we had started to say that we’ve got to find a KPI that takes profitability into consideration. And then, how do we train up, so our revenue management team can understand the cost of distribution and measure that in accordance with the revenue stream? It was when COVID hit and you have no money to spend and all you’re wanting to do is bring in as much revenue as you can without spending anything that profitability against top-line revenue was the KPI.

Is the industry heading toward creating entirely new KPIs out of thin air or just adapting existing KPIs?

In some ways, we are searching for the new KPI. We’re doing that in effect by trying to figure out, what are the KPIs that you most value? And if we put those together, what might it look like? So, our group is probably closer to, let’s test these out to find the newest KPI, not necessarily replacing or renaming one that already exists.

In the past, as an example, when we talked about RevPAR, it was never enough just to say RevPAR. What RevPAR obviously played off of was the ADR and the occupancy, and everybody understood that trying to get that balance between the two is what gave you a good RevPAR. Having an imbalance between one or the other hopefully was a strategic decision and not a mistake. Even today, I can look at any hotel STR report, and I can look at the occupancy and the ADR, and I can give you an idea of what’s going on there. We will definitely have a challenge ahead of us to try to figure out a new series of metrics that allow you to look at a report or a balanced scorecard and be able to know right off the bat what’s happening in that market or with that hotel.

What are you looking to learn from the conversations that will be happening at Global Curate?

I really just want to hear where those conversations go relative to KPIs, without leading the conversation, if you will. Rather than posing the conversation as, “How are we going to replace RevPAR?,” I would rather just put the test out there to say, “What are you using today, and why? And how is it effective?” And just get the conversation started, so we can see how many people are still out there maybe even still relying on RevPAR. I’m hoping to just be an active listener in those breakouts to understand what each of the participants is thinking of today as their key metrics.

The Upside of Pandemic Living

How COVID has changed the lives of hospitality professionals for the better.

You probably don’t need any additional insights into how the pandemic has affected hospitality for the worse. Furloughs, layoffs, closings — you’ve been living the bad news for more than a year now.

Without discounting the pain and uncertainty that too much of our industry is still facing, it’s important also to look for the ways that the COVID crisis has helped us, directly or indirectly. This is something HSMAI has been tracking since the beginning; we’ve regularly polled our expert communities — including our advisory boards and Executive Roundtables — on the positive outcomes they’ve seen in adapting and responding to the pandemic.

Most often, those conversations have focused on professional strategies. But at our most recent series of Executive Roundtable programs — bringing together leaders in hotel sales, marketing, revenue optimization, loyalty, and technology from brands and HMCs — we asked participants: “In the last year, what new belief, behavior, or habit has most improved your life?” Their answers show how closely work and home life have become intertwined, and what hospitality professionals have done to better enforce boundaries between the two, in the process changing their lives for the better.

Here are key responses from all eight Executive Roundtables:

As with everything related to the pandemic, we have no idea which of these changes will have a lasting or even permanent impact on the industry. But we can hope that a renewed focus on personal wellbeing is less than temporary.

HSMAI PERSPECTIVE: Defining Success in the New Market

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

Tomorrow’s KPIs are the subject of a lot of speculation — including at HSMAI’s upcoming Global Curate event.

“What one or two key performance indicators are you most closely watching to measure your company’s success today?”

It’s a loaded question if ever there was one. Among the many things that the pandemic has disrupted throughout the hospitality industry, how we measure success is at the top of the list. That’s why it’s so important to figure out — and why determining the most relevant post-COVID KPIs is the focus of our upcoming Global Curate program. (Learn more from our interview with Lori Kiel, chair of HSMAI’s KPI Workgroup and a presenter at Global Curate, in this month’s issue of Executive Insights.)

In advance of Global Curate, we put this question about KPIs to participants at our most recent series of Executive Roundtable programs for brand and HMC sales, marketing, revenue, digital, and loyalty professionals. This is part of our ongoing effort to figure out how the pandemic has changed the industry and to develop resources that will help sales, marketing, and revenue professionals respond. The chart below highlights key responses from our Executive Roundtable participants, who are tracking their companies’ success with a mix of traditional and situational metrics:Traditional metrics always have their place — with Executive Roundtable participants continuing to use classic KPIs such as RevPAR (revenue per available room), occupancy level, volume of leads and conversions, RGI (revenue generation index), EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization), GOPPAR (gross operating profit per available room), and ROAS (return on ad spend).

Situational metrics — adopted on the fly in response to the pandemic — often include traditional KPIs that hotel companies are now looking at more closely or with more frequency, such as traveler confidence, cancellations, and search engine trends among travelers. They also include less-tangible factors such as employee health, the importance of listening, and dedication to clean initiatives.

What our Executive Roundtable conversations made clear is that there is remains a great deal of uncertainty around what KPIs will be most relevant to sales, marketing, and revenue optimization as we emerge into the post-pandemic hospitality market. If you’re a registered contact for an HSMAI Organizational Member company, you should have received an email invitation to Global Curate — meaning you can help us figure that out; check the event website for more information. If you can’t join us, don’t worry: We’ll be sharing the result of Global Curate with the entire industry.

Opportunities, Retention, Motivation, and Other Advice for Today’s Hospitality Students

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

More than 300 hospitality students from 17 hospitality schools attended the HSMAI Greater New York Chapter’s Virtual Global Intercollegiate Spring Conference on April 5–8, 2021, to network, learn more about the industry, and hear from renowned speakers. Coordinated by New York University, Pennsylvania State University, and St. John’s University, the conference featured an opening keynote from one of the most dynamic leaders in hotel real estate: Art Adler, president and founder of Adler Hotel Advisors LLC.

During his presentation, Adler offered students a variety of insights into the evolving hospitality landscape as well as aspects of leadership that will be important to them as they move through their careers.


Adler shared what he considers opportunities and threats facing the hospitality industry specifically around consolidation, branding, and distribution. While he thinks brand consolidation and proliferation will continue, there are still important considerations such as:

  • Will brands become marginalized?
  • What is truly important to consumers? Is it brand, experience, location, or something else?
  • Will distribution systems such as Google, Amazon, and OTAs outflank the brands?
  • When it comes to independent management companies: Is bigger better?

Adler’s overarching advice: “Follow the money.”


After many decades in hospitality, Adler is well-versed on what it takes to be an impactful leader. He stressed the importance of employee retention, which has many benefits for an organization, including:

  • Experience results in better employee judgement.
  • Loyal employees translate to loyal customers.
  • Losing key employees results in a loss of productivity and increased financial costs of finding and training new people.

But how can leadership motivate employees to stay? Adler noted that engagement drives retention on every level. His advice for engaging with employees included:

  • Treat everyone from top to bottom with respect.
  • Involve junior employees in internal meetings.
  • Invest in training, including management training.
  • Remember that your best salespeople are not necessarily your best managers.
  • Interact cross-regionally and across hotels on every level.
  • Small rewards and recognition matter.
  • Use a manager/employee 360 feedback process.

Adler added that it is important to create a fun, inclusive, and collaborative environment that employees will want to be involved in. His tips for that included:

  • Compensation drives behavior.
  • Compensation and organizational structures must be consistent with fostering a team environment.
  • Lead by example – put the team first and yourself last.
  • Involve senior team members in setting strategy, as their buy-in is crucial for success.
  • The power is in the team – teams should have goals and rewards as a group.
  • Organizations need transparency from the top to the bottom.

Overall, Adler painted a rosy picture for students interested in having careers in hospitality. The growth and recovery of the industry over the next few years will provide significant growth opportunity for those who can make an impact in driving and managing revenues for hotels and hotel companies. The future of hospitality will be better than ever, and today’s students have a bright future to look forward to in the industry.

The Role of Revenue Technology in Navigating a Post-COVID Landscape

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

Every day that millions of Americans are getting vaccinated is one day closer to a post-COVID world. And in that post-COVID world, many systems and solutions that we took for granted will be obsolete or used differently, including revenue management technology. HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board (ROAB) discussed both the temporary and more permanent effects of the pandemic on RM technology on a recent call that was facilitated by ROAB member Dan Skodol, vice president of data science and analytics for Cendyn.

Here are key takeaways from the discussion, which presented a variety of viewpoints on this still-evolving issue:


  • “I always used the analogy of autopilot for a revenue management system. You need to punch in your coordinates, but if a thunderstorm pops up, you’re still going to fly around it. When we look at our own internal metrics of how users engage with the system, we look at one end of the system where somebody is overriding 365 days, and that’s a problem. But we also see when there’s no interaction or overrides and that’s also a problem. We’re concerned that there’s an overreliance on the automation and we’re missing that human element.”
  • “There’s a big course correction in terms of the overreliance on making sure that the technology is both the solution and the answer. How do we be intentional with these tools and craft a strategy so that we can drive outcomes? I think that skill somehow got under-presented, and people were more focused on implementing tools and building out features. I hope we learn from this in terms of how we lead and we try to get some balance back.”
  • “Systems aren’t as quick to pick up paradigm shifts as human individuals, because people can cognitively understand the behavioral component of customers. We saw that in some of the shortcomings of our systems when the consumer behavior changed drastically, in terms of shorter booking windows and the velocity of bookings occurring within that timeframe. Some of the systems that we relied on to guide us didn’t necessarily pick up on that consumer behavior and we were left stranded until we were able to adjust. With customer behavior changing and customer behavior continuing to change in the future, what activity will they retain from the COVID world that will drive a post-COVID existence?”


  • “I think historical data is still going to be a relevant factor, because the systems need to understand what is not normal and that when pace jumps the rails or where future demand jumps the rails, there needs to be a reference to say, ‘Hey, this is not right,’ so that we can correct it.”
  • “A reliance on historical data feels good to everybody because it’s definitive data. It’s very reliable. But what has it held us back from, in terms of our ability to accelerate our business? If anything, I see us as being at a crossroads with automation. We need to find a way to disconnect from some of these old constructs and find a way to attach to some of the more behavioral data that we have from consumers and accelerate going forward.”
  • “I think a big opportunity to feed into revenue management systems is using more external data, such as weather. So, when there’s a hurricane and that changes the demand pattern for a hotel, how do we feed that kind of information into a revenue management system so that the AI is so much better than it is now?”
  • “The reliance on forecasting is so high, but a big categorical shift has to happen, because if you can’t rely on historical data, you’re going to have to forecast better. It takes a crisis to make that shift, where you start taking in a lot of other things besides historical data. I think it’s a huge shift in the way revenue management is thought of right now in hospitality.”


  • “The shift is already happening to where I think that RM and marketing are going to form this unity together and it’s going to be its own wheelhouse department at some point, because we’re going to be providing strategies and tips based on what we need for visibility and they’re going to be the ones to implement based on what is needed.”
  • “In the last three years, I’ve seen placement and visibility outweighing what I was dealing with in yield management. Coming from a leisure market area, it was all about the placement and visibility online and working with vendors from an SCM and SEO standpoint to make sure the algorithm made sense and our dollars made sense.”