Creativity shines and rises to the top during the most challenging moments – like a never before-experienced global pandemic.
For instance, the pandemic has played havoc with the sale, marketing and revenue managers. They had to learn to interpret data in new ways and then devise best practices to drive revenue and profitability.
One organization that help the best and brightest in these disciplines innovate is The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). Founded in 1927, the association, with some 5,000 members worldwide and 40 chapters in the Americas, provides tools, insights and expertise to fuel sales, inspire marketing, and optimize revenue.
Each year, HSMAI also recognizes Top 25 Extraordinary Minds who have shared innovative ideas and more recently overcame some of the obstacles of the last two years.
HOTELS called on the HSMAI to get input from the 2021 Top 25, asking them about their most creative sales, marketing or revenue optimization tactic employed to drive revenue during the pandemic. Here is what they had to say:
Kevin Barosso, director of sales, convention sales, Mohegan Sun, Uncasville, Connecticut
“When faced with adversity the strength and power of relationships are what allow organizations to move forward and flourish during uncertain times. During the pandemic, from July of 2020 through April of 2021, Mohegan Sun was able to turn their 10,000-seat arena into an international broadcast center for Bellator MMA Fighting and Showtime Boxing.
“The success of these events was then transformed into Bubbleville, which was the largest NCAA non-conference basketball tournament held in November of 2020. Through our partnership with the Basketball Hall of Fame we were able to host 25 college Division I basketball teams over 11 days to safely play basketball in the Mohegan Sun Arena with games televised around the country on ESPN and their family of networks. The relationships established under pre-pandemic times were what allowed collaboration and hard work by all involved, including the resort, to flourish when most venues were closed and not hosting any events.”
Karen McWiliams, vice president of revenue strategy, Concord Hospitality, Raleigh, North Carolina
“As everyone in the industry found themselves in uncharted waters overnight, we determined that ‘speed wins.’ Forced to overhaul our deployment, we took immediate action on the most valuable data sources needed and reassigned how our time was invested. We transformed our tools to give minute-by-minute visibility across 140 hotels. This visibility was not just for our hotels, but for our regional teams and asset groups alike. There was never a more appropriate time to build the plane after take-off and this required a total team approach.
“As our business intelligence toolbox took shape, we pioneered our next-generation strategy deck. The hard work during the pandemic resulted in new ways to communicate, as well as faster ways to execute our plans. The methodology used also applied to our new-build assets, having created the space to open more than 10 hotels over the past two years, while focusing on the results needed during the ramp period. It was the quintessential ‘do more with less’ focus. We are seeing the results as we emerge from the storm and are staying well positioned to perform in all business climates.”
Liz Jaquez, vice president of revenue generation, Janko Hospitality, Itasca, Illinois
“While most hotels were cutting budgets for digital assets, Janko Hospitality doubled down investing in virtual tours for all of our mid-scale and full-service hotels. Our sales leaders found the virtual tours of event space, and especially the guest rooms, invaluable for closing business with clients who were working from home arranging travel for essential workers.”
Jessica Davidson, senior vice president Digital & Brand Marketing, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Parsippany, New Jersey
“Driving the most profitable bookings at the lowest cost of distribution is paramount to Wyndham’s Owner-First commitment. We launched the Wyndham Hotels & Resorts mobile app in the height of the pandemic when low contact, high impact experiences were sought the most – enabling mobile check in and check out at nearly 6,000 economy and midscale hotels. The app is now our fastest growing channel. We offer flash sales, fast booking, and ensure that our members have all they need to view and manage their accounts.
“Speaking of loyalty engagement, Wyndham Rewards – now 92 million members strong – continues to be a powerhouse given its value proposition. We have leaned-in to meaningful member offerings through shopping, gas and complementary accommodation partners, and deployed several member-exclusive offers and the lowest available member price. All of these efforts are designed to drive guest and owner value and we are continuing to invest.”
Mercedes Blanco, vice president of strategic partnerships, The Hotels Network, Miami
“Over the past months, it has become clear that building a strong direct channel is critical to a thriving hotel. When it comes to optimization tactics to drive revenue, I’ve seen extremely strong results from encouraging hotels to adopt a two-step approach. Firstly, using benchmarking insights to identify where the opportunities lie and then taking action where it will have the biggest impact.
“For example, with restrictions on international travel during COVID, the domestic market became even more important than before. Using THN’s benchmarking tool, our hotel clients were able to see how good they were at converting domestic traffic throughout each stage of the booking funnel compared to the market. If they were underperforming in terms of bounce rate, we helped the hotels activate personalized messages on their homepage targeting local visitors. By highlighting exclusive benefits for locals, hotels were able to better engage visitors and tempt them to make a booking. It’s all about showing the right message to the right person at the right time. Personalization is not a trend – it’s the new reality.”