McLean, Virginia —Roger Dow, who helped lead the U.S. travel industry out of its post-9/11 doldrums and take it to new heights, then helped guide the industry through the COVID-19 pandemic and position it for a rebound, received the Lifetime Achievement in Sales Award from the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) at its 2022 Sales Leader Forum on October 20 in Frisco, Texas.
Dow was recognized at an awards ceremony that also honored Paul Papadopulos, corporate director of national sales at Atrium Hospitality, and Alex Biondi, area director of sales for Aimbridge Hospitality, as the off- and on-property Sales Professionals of the Year, respectively. HSMAI also presented the inaugural Sales Educator of the Year award to Katie Davin, an associate professor in the College of Hospitality Management at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island.
After serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam with the 101st Airborne Division, Roger Dow began a successful 34-year career with Marriott International, ultimately rising to senior vice president of global and field sales. In 2005, with the travel industry still finding its footing after the 9/11 attacks, the U.S. Travel Association tapped Dow to be its next president and CEO.
Although he often joked that he had no experience in lobbying prior to taking the job at U.S. Travel, Roger brought assets to the position that served the travel industry well: a sharp business acumen, a vast network of contacts, and decades of experience. These assets, complemented with his natural leadership ability and an abiding sense of optimism, proved essential in guiding the U.S. travel industry through the post-9/11 travel slump and, two decades later, the COVID-19 pandemic. In the years between those two crises, the industry notched record-setting inbound visitation for 10 consecutive years (2009-2019).
Reflections on the start of his career in sales:
Roger stepped down from his role as president and CEO of U.S. Travel on July 31, 2022, but he is not “retiring” from the industry; instead, he is starting a new venture to tackle the two biggest travel challenges he sees on the horizon—workforce recruitment and retention and sustainability. With his relentless focus on improving the travel industry and helping it grow, Roger is a most deserving recipient of HSMAI’s Lifetime Achievement Award.
During his 22-year sales career, Paul Papadopulos, HSMAI’s 2022 off-property Sales Professional of the Year, has never forgotten the most fundamental lesson in travel and hospitality—make the customer happy. Stories abound of his hands-on, personal approach to addressing customer complaints, presenting customers with new options, and creating win-win situations for customers and hotels alike.
Currently the corporate director of national sales for Atrium Hospitality, Paul began his hotel and travel career in Boston with Westin Hotels and Resorts, where he held several operational positions. He eventually moved into sales, joining the team at the Bostonian Hotel and later working in sales positions with Fisher Hotels, Carlson Hospitality, and John Q. Hammon Hotels before joining Atrium Hospitality. He joined Atrium’s corporate team in Atlanta in 2017 to start Atrium’s national sales efforts.
As he has taken on more responsibility and leadership, Paul has “shared the wealth” by developing tools and programs to teach his colleagues how to work with customers. For example, he created sales programs for two markets he supports (youth sports teams and airline crews) and compiled detailed handbooks for both programs to teach on-property associates and above-property sellers how to work with customers who are buying in these two markets. He is currently working on a video companion resource to teach general managers and on-property sales leaders how to conduct an airline crew site inspection.
Although she has been working in the hospitality industry for only five years, Alex Biondi, HSMAI’s 2022 on-property Sales Professional of the Year, has already mastered the art of building relationships, both with customers and internally. Currently the area director of sales for Aimbridge Hospitality, she has not lost the personal touch she developed while working as a front desk agent in her first position in the hospitality industry.
Alex got her start in sales as the sales coordinator at the Hyatt Place Pittsburgh/Cranberry. She quickly moved up, becoming director of sales and then area director of sales, overseeing three properties in different states and markets. As she rose through the ranks, she impressed co-workers with her ability to spot new business opportunities. This skill became especially noticeable during the COVID-19 pandemic, when she cultivated relationships with traveling nurses and out-of-state construction crews who were helping staff local construction projects.
Alex also has developed an eye for talent and a desire to nurture it. After working with a guest services agent at one of her hotels, Alex groomed her to become a sales manager; she also hired another sales coordinator and inspired that person to take a sales manager position in a difficult market. She sees a bright future for herself in hotel sales and shares that passion with others by modeling the opportunities the industry can bring.
“I was doing catering hotel work in high school, and my mom said, ‘You know, you can go to college to do this,’” Katie Davin, HSMAI’s inaugural Sales Educator of the Year, once told an interviewer. “I went to Cornell and got a bachelor’s degree in hotel administration, thinking I wanted a food-and-beverage career.”
Katie’s path has since taken a few twists and turns, but her interest in the hotel and catering industry has never wavered. She received management training at Marriott, worked in catering services, then moved into catering sales and group sales at four different Marriott properties. Eventually she decided she wanted to teach, so she went back to Cornell and earned a graduate degree in hotel administration.
Katie has spent the last 20-plus years at Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where she is an associate professor in the College of Hospitality Management. She teaches courses in hospitality sales, marketing, and hotel management, sharing her enthusiasm for hospitality with the leaders of tomorrow. She also serves on HSMAI’s Sales Advisory Board and is a Certified Hospitality Sales Executive and a Certified Digital Marketing Professional.
“It’s an honor to be a part of the Sales Advisory Board,” she said in her interview. “I get to meet some very accomplished hospitality sales professionals and see the industry from that level, and then share that with my students.”
The awards were presented at a sales award dinner following the Sales Leader Forum. The Sales Leader Forum advances the hotel sales discipline by elevating the knowledge and skills of off-property sales leaders by sharing important trends, critical insights, and best practices, and what it means for leading hotel sales teams in today’s landscape.
HSMAI chapters and the industry at large can nominate individuals for Lifetime Achievement in Sales and Sales Professional of the Year awards. Nominees represent top talent in the discipline and are judged by a panel of sales leaders on a variety of criteria.
To interview an HSMAI spokesperson about the event and the award honorees, please contact Stuart Hales at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is committed to growing business for hotels and their partners and is the industry’s leading advocate for intelligent, sustainable hotel revenue growth. The association provides hotel professionals and their partners with tools, insights, and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue through programs such as the Marketing Strategy Conference, Adrian Awards, Sales Leader Forum, and HSMAI ROC. Founded in 1927, HSMAI is a membership organization comprising more than 5,000 members worldwide, with 40 chapters in the Americas Region. Connect with HSMAI at hsmai.org, HSMAI Facebook, HSMAI Twitter, and HSMAI YouTube.