OYW Media Q&A: Barb Bowden, Complex Managing Director, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando

Hear from a revenue management pioneer about the evolving and exciting hospitality industry.

Q: How has your career in hospitality opened your world?

A: Without a doubt, I think my career in hospitality has opened my world just with the relationships that you build with so many different audiences; team members, colleagues, guests, meeting planners, those in professional associations. I think these relationships absolutely create a network literally all across the world.

Q: Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?

A:  I began right after college. My very first role was working at the front desk at the Buena Vista Palace Resort right outside of Disney in Orlando. After two years at the Buena Vista Palace, I joined the opening team of the Peabody Orlando and actually remained there for 27 years, beginning with various leadership roles, primarily in front office and reservations. Then in 2004, there was really kind of a change in my career path when I was tapped to create and implement the very first revenue management infrastructure that Peabody Hotel Group had. So that included creating the organizational structure, the strategy, technology, supporting processes and operations, which was a remarkable experience at that time. I think based upon that experience, I was then promoted to General Manager and, ultimately, Vice President General Manager of our newly expanded hotel. We had just expanded that hotel, so we were growing to 1600 rooms, 300,000 square feet of meeting space. So, really one of the largest convention hotels at the time. So, from there, I was absolutely thrilled to join the team here at Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, currently serving as Complex Managing Director, overseeing the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Loews Sapphire Fall Resort complex.

Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando

Q: You were in on the ground floor of this new side of hospitality called revenue management.  Why is that part of the business so important?

A: Well, I think obviously at that time, the world was changing. You know, technology distribution, the way people were booking reservations. Everything that had to do with not only distribution but rate strategy, really looking at the entire overall organization just very differently than it had been done in the past. New technology was coming out at the time. That was kind of the beginning of a whole different way of looking at pricing and distribution back at that time.

Q: What kind of professional do you think is best suited to a role in hospitality, sales, marketing or revenue management?

A: First and foremost, I think we go back to kind of our roots as a service industry. Those with a passion to serve are absolutely a good fit for our industry. I think beyond that, those who are goal-oriented, and those who are committed to continuous improvement, data-driven, proactive communicators, those who really see and value partnerships, these are all kind of traits and characteristics that serve our industry well.

Q: Are there certain titles or roles or other industries that make the leap over to hospitality well?

A: I have seen so many different types of professionals transition to our industry. So I think from education, from finance, retail, there are so many different skill sets that transfer into our industry. And, typically, once they’re in our industry, that is it. No one wants to go back to the original profession.

Q: What might surprise people about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

A: I don’t think most people are aware of the many amazing career paths that are available in our industry. Many people know event planning or maybe front desk, but I don’t think people really understand all the wonderful career paths that are available from sales, marketing, revenue management to technology to engineering to safety and security, finance, PR, development, all the operational roles. And many people that I’ve talked to throughout my career are very surprised to kind of hear of the many different roles and interests, you know, and amazing careers that are available in our industry.

Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando

Q: What should a potential hospitality professional be looking for in a world-class employer?

A: A world-class employer always starts with a strong culture. In order to really be a great fit, you have to be passionate about the mission and the pillars of the organization that you’re working with and serving. You know, really look for culture and a culture you align with.

Q: Where do you see the industry heading and what does that mean for hospitality professionals as they start to chart their career path?

A: In our industry in hospitality, sales, marketing and revenue management, I think that technology, obviously, and analytics will continue to play a significant role. I think even more emphasis will probably be placed on the customer journey and, really, the ability to create quality customer relationships along with advanced technology and analytics. So, I think that continues to open a lot of doors as we look at the roles available in our industry.



OYW Media Q&A: John Washko, Vice President of Expo and Convention, Mohegan Sun

Q: How has your career in Hospitality Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management opened your world?

A: So what my career in Hospitality Sales and Marketing has allowed me to do is to really interact with individuals from all walks of life. So, I’ve been blessed in my career. I’ve gone the route of much more of the resource sector, both domestically and internationally. And so I’ve been able to deal with a lot of variables within, specifically, the meetings and the group market, as well as leisure, of people that are coming to a destination for reward, for business reasons and also for strictly leisure. So I’ve been able to interact with a wide swath of industry types and the individuals that obviously make up those industries in a variety of backgrounds where their needs, their experiences, their takeaways from the utilization of that resort or that property. We’re very, very different. So that when you’ve got a varying an expectation that provides you with the opportunity to meet different layers within organizations.

Q: So from the beginning of your career until now, what are some of the titles you held along the way?

A: I started out as a National Sales Manager. My degree was in marketing. And so my path has been throughout Sales and Marketing. I started as a Sales Manager, went to a National Sales Manager, grew to an Associate Director of Sales, grew to Executive Director of Group Sales. And as I was moving through these steps, the type of properties I was representing were growing and getting grander in scale or more stars and diamonds, depending on which one which stopped in my career. And then elevated to a V.P. of Sales and Marketing role and have been in a V.P. title for about the last 15 years of my career.

Q: What first excited you about the hospitality industry and what still excites you about the work you do today?

A: Interestingly, I grew up in the hospitality industry. My father actually started with Marriott when that huge behemoth had three properties. So I grew up in the business. What got me excited was the sales and marketing side, the opportunity to really position what really is not a cog or a manufactured product, but an experience and the ability to use sales techniques and marketing techniques to create a vision of what an experience for a meeting attendee or a leisure guest could be. That’s a very different type of a sales process. And it’s very, very satisfying when you’re able to see the end result. If you look at what we do in Sales and Marketing in the hospitality industry, we’re creating memories for our lifetime. That’s very, very special and something that shouldn’t be taken for granted. And so that, to this day, still juices me every day to be able to create be a part of creating these experiences for people.

Q: What kinds of attributes, talents, skill sets would you recommend someone have if they’re interested in getting into Hospitality Sales and Marketing?

A: I think that one of the main things that sometimes people overlook or take for granted is the likability factor. It’s that people do business with people they like and people they trust. So, I think a lot of times we get so caught up with technology and processes that what we have to kind of come back to at the core is that people do business with people. And so I think one of the things I would really stress that maybe, outside of what you hear a lot is, really, do you like interacting with people? Do you consider yourself a likeable person? Being nice goes a long way in business and in life. I mean, we like doing business with people that are nice. And so those type of skill sets are important. To be successful in sales you have to also be very, very competitive. You want to be the individual that at the end of the month, if your name isn’t at the top of the production sheet for your team, division, however, you’re compared against the other members of the sales team. You know, for me, I’ve always been an individual that if I wasn’t in that top slot, it made my stomach hurt. I mean, that actually bothered me. So, you need to have a competitive edge, but you have to balance that with still being a good team player. And as I said, being nice goes miles and miles in this business and all businesses.

Q: What would you recommend professionals do if they really want to break into the hospitality industry? What are some good first steps?

A: One of the things I would recommend is go work at a property. There’s always some sort of a job that’s available at most hotels, resorts in the area that these individuals lived in. So, whether or not that’s as a Front Desk Agent, whether it is Housekeeping, Engineering, working at the pool, whatever it is, get into that environment and get a feel and start interacting with the individuals that work in different places, in different parts of the property. Because a hotel or a resort is like a little city. Maybe you’re going to find that the accounting department is a really good fit for you, your numbers person. Or maybe you’re going to find culinary; you can go so many different ways with culinary, whether it’s through the banquet team, whether it’s through the restaurant division. So, there’s so many different segments of the business, front office operations, human resources. There’re so many different areas where your own traits and special talents and really what juices you can really fall within that environment. A good way to find out where your fit is is just going in and working or interning within that environment early on. Also, you can find out maybe it’s not for you. I mean, the hotel business is not for everyone. Hotels are like hospitals, they never close. They’re open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. There’re certain departments within hotels that are kind 9-to-5 jobs, accounting would be a good example of that. But for the most part, if you’re in Operations or in Sales, you’re going to be working some different diverse hours, because that’s just the nature of the experience that you’re providing and what a hotel or resort really is. Internships. I’ve been involved with helping some from hospitality majors in securing internships and that has been a really, really strong opportunity for these individuals, these hospitality students to really understand what they like and just as importantly, what they don’t like.

Q: As a potential hospitality applicant, why should I look into hospitality? Is it really a great industry?

A: I can definitively say, yes, it is a great industry. Wonderful people in the hospitality industry; they’re dynamic, they’re outgoing, they’re service-oriented, they have the ability to grasp that what we’re creating for individuals is unique, that we could be part of people’s memories, part of the experiences that they’re going to take with them for the rest of their lives. That’s a very, very unique situation. You can go a lot of ways with it. As we’ve become so much more global with a lot of our big brands being very global in nature, your ability to see different parts of the world can be opened up to you through this career in hospitality and the sky’s the limit. You can go as far as you really want within this industry and you could go a lot of different directions. You could go hotels, cruise lines, airlines. There’s a lot of different spin-offs, if you will, of where you could take a career in hospitality. If you take a look at someone who’s going into a factory creating a product, and God knows we need people to go into factories and creating a product, but it’s a very kind of kind of a static environment. You go in, you have a function, and the next day you go on and you have a function. At the end of day, you’re creating a product that gets distributed. The hotel industry is extremely dynamic. Every day is different. And that’s what things that I love about my job and always have is that when I walk in the door, I may set out a plan for while I plan my day to go, but that plan can go through many, many iterations through the course of the day based on many external and internal factors. So, it’s the ability to be nimble and to be able to kind of roll with it a little bit and to be able to change speeds and change directions quickly and multitask. All of those things make my business day go by very, very fast. There’re so many dynamic things going on, you’ll be just be surprised by how quickly the days go by.

Q: What are some of the trends that you’re seeing in Hospitality Sales and Marketing and what are you really keeping a close eye on these days?

A: Well, the big game-changer has been technology, certainly, without a doubt.  Technology has completely changed the hospitality industry, how people travel, how people search travel, the whole Internet of Things, if you will. Travel being one of the main avenues and the main businesses that has really been able to take distribution and put out to a broad swath of individuals through efficient means like the OTAs have done, like Expedia, Travelocity, etc. How that is a complete game-changer for how people buy, how people make their decisions. That along with social media. I mean, now TripAdvisor has more weight where an individual is going to choose to plan their vacation or their travel. You’re looking at individual reviews. That all really started really strongly in the travel space and it has now morphed into the other industries. And now, obviously, when we are shopping on Amazon, we’re looking at the reviews of the product and what other people have to say. So as technology has changed the business it’s also opened up a tremendous amount of opportunities for people that didn’t have a big voice before. Things like social media and that’s the whole marketing going more towards a review-based and presenting the voice of the customer versus presenting the voice of the property. So industry, with its morphing, has opened up a variety of avenues that didn’t exist 10 or 15 years ago. So, as I see that where the hospitality industry is going, it’s actually technology. Some people say technology is making salespeople and marketing people less relevant and maybe even obsolete in certain ways. I look at it the exact opposite was: I see it creates more of a need for the right type of salespeople and targeted marketers to take advantage of the new technology and the new environment that we have in the hospitality industry. So, it’s created a whole wealth of jobs that didn’t exist or opportunities that didn’t exist 10 or 15
years ago, specifically to the Sales side of things. There’s a lot of technology that has come in in the sourcing and the processing of requests for proposals, bids, putting things through online channels. But at the end of the day, because of that, that technology being at times a separator between the end-user and the sales organization, the people that are really good and are able to utilize technology as a springboard to make that face-to-face contact and to make that personalization of the sale are the ones that are really to be rewarded quite handsomely because it’s become more challenging. It’s not as easy as it used to be. So, I think technology creates for us sometimes advantages and hurdles, but it also creates for us tremendous opportunities.



OYW Media Q&A: Adam Hawthorne, President of Travaasa, Vice President, Amstar

Discover how a dish washer developed a passion for hospitality that has taken him to the Mile High City to help guests experience hospitality in a whole new way.

Q: How has your career in hospitality opened your world?

I would say all-in-all it’s provided me with a great career throughout the years, I think one of my favorite things about the industry is that you can really start from any level even without a degree or without any previous experience. Start as a dishwasher or a waiter or a busboy or whatever it might be and make it to any level of the industry from that spot.

Q: How did you get from the very beginning of your career in the hospitality industry to where you are with Travaasa today?

Well, I was one of those folks that started as a dishwasher busser. That was my first job in the hospitality industry and I just kind of fell in love with it. From there I went into working the front desk at a small highway hotel in my hometown. I decided to go to the University of Denver and study further to advance my career. I ended up going to Chicago after that and working for Kimpton for a little while. And then with Hilton and their management training program, which is something I would really recommend for anyone that wants to continue their career in hospitality, is looking into a management training program that allows you to really touch each department within a hotel and start to learn operations. I went from Hilton to really wanting to get into working with independent hotels. I felt like Hilton and other brands are just a great place to learn the business. They kind of have the book written on it. But then as I wanted to advance out a little bit and try my own way, I went to independents. I worked out in Solvang, California, which is just outside of Santa Barbara. I worked at an independent hotel there and got a chance to be in a higher-level position and then a GM. And from there went to Preferred Hotels, which is another type of business that I really recommend for folks along their career path. That allowed me to get multi-property experience. I covered a region of about 50 hotels for Preferred, all independents, all that work a little bit differently. That allowed me to figure out both best practices, and things that are not just practices, and come to a better thought process for myself on what I thought was a good strategy for operating hotels. From there, I came to Amstar, which is the owner of Travaasa Experiential Resorts. We launched this brand over the last nine years. That’s really allowed me to do what I’m most passionate about, which is developing a space where people can do the activities that they love to do. So our team can do what they’re passionate about, whether that’s teaching someone how to mountain bike, or how to farm, or do yoga, or any of these things.

Q: What does a president of a resort group do?

My number one priority is creating a space for our team to be successful. That, to me, really entails giving them the space and time to do what they’re passionate about without a lot of interference. So if it is the person that’s out teaching someone how to mountain bike, that’s not something that I’m personally capable of doing or even teaching. I’m just not capable of doing that. But my role, hopefully, is giving them time and space to perform that function of their job. On the more technical side, there’s a real estate component to what I do. We’re consistently considering the value of the real estate and how the operation affects that.  And then from an operations perspective, making sure that we’re hitting financial results. Sales and marketing and revenue management are probably the most key components to that; kind of the engine that drives the ship.  It’s just ensuring that we’re constantly focused on those things. From an organizational perspective, you can lose focus on sales and marketing and revenue management and be thinking more towards expense control or even the H.R. side of the business or some of these more supportive types of departments. I think a big part of my job is ensuring that we remember that the revenue side of the business is what keeps us going. That doesn’t mean that it’s more important, but it means that we need to stay focused on it.

Q: Let’s talk about what makes a good hospitality professional. What skill sets and personality traits do you think particularly lend themselves to working in the hospitality industry, especially on the sales and revenue management side?

I think the great news is that almost any personality type can find a space within those various functions. I think each of them may take a different personality type. So if you look at sales, I would really look towards someone that is good at building relationships. I feel strongly that we’re not generally selling our hotel rooms, but the salesperson is in fact selling a relationship. They’re saying that they’re going to be here with the client throughout the process. That they’re going to be hopefully a friend first and then working with them on business. From a marketing perspective, I think that takes a creative personality kind of mixed with a someone who’s analytical because that discipline has moved so much towards analyzing the data that comes in to the ROI. And then from a revenue management perspective, you have to be very financially proficient, but a little bit of that mix of creativity from the marketing side, as well. Because the core function of that job is making the process for the guests as simple as possible to get to a booking.

Q: If someone was thinking of transitioning from one career path to another and wanted to hop over to hospitality, are there any particular other industries or careers or titles that would make for a nice fit with the hospitality industry?

I can’t think of many where someone couldn’t transition over. As we look specifically at sales, marketing, and revenue management, any of those functions in another industry are highly transferable to hotels. With revenue, anyone who has had an analytical function to their job can make that transition. But even if someone hasn’t, they can start somewhere like the front desk or reservations within a hotel. Generally, there’s going to be a lot of opportunity to move up within those departments and learn these different skill sets. 

Q: What do you see in terms of trends in the hospitality industry?

The most important trend when it comes to sales, marketing, and revenue is trying to transition more into a booking path for guests that is akin to what the retail industry has provided. If you go to the very biggest, Amazon, the simplicity that they have created for the consumer is something I think we’ve been missing for a long time in hotels. We continue to complicate that path with extensive packaging and rate structures that are complicated to understand for not only the guests, but even people within the industry. We’re going to continue to see the guests demand that that process to book a room becomes something that’s not stressful, that is more easily accessible, and really just simplified to the extent that the retail industry has done that.

Q: Would you recommend working at an experiential hotel for someone considering a career in hospitality?

It’s a pretty great space because you can come into it from even more disciplines than are normally passions available in the hotel industry.

OYW Media Q&A: Amanda Voss, Vice President Sales, Bellagio Las Vegas

Discover how a chance visit to Las Vegas led a young professional to double down on a career in hospitality and make her mark on the Las Vegas Strip.

How has your career in hospitality sales, marketing and revenue management opened your world?

I believe that hospitality has opened my world through emotional intelligence. Understanding
people is so powerful. You start seeing the growth of the emotional intelligence you get with your clients; the special things that you can do for them or make them look good by holding a successful meeting and making sure all those wow opportunities are made. And then you evolve into a leader of people. Your emotional, intelligence affects your teams, and how do you get the best out of your team, and how that correlates to you being able to reading people. So, it goes from your external clients to your internal clients. And both are just so important. I think the hospitality world really helped me, through my career, gain a stronger emotional intelligence.

How do you get from the beginning of your career in hospitality to where you are today?

I started out at MGM Grand as a front desk agent and room reservation agent. I was going to college here at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. It was a great part-time job to get my first taste in hospitality. I was also a hospitality major. After graduation, 9/11 hit and the opportunities were not as abundant. So, I took whatever job I could get because in my head as long as I worked hard, I thought, I can move up. I got a Receptionist job in the sales department at Treasure Island. And that’s where things really started to bud in my career. I moved on to be a Convention Services Manager. And then I actually was able to decide that that was the point in my career that I wanted to go into sales. And so I took a step back and actually came to Bellagio as a Sales Assistant in the convention department, which then led me to the Mirage Hotel, where I became a Sales Manager and then opened ARIA as a National Sales Manager. Ultimately, I became Executive Director and then was transitioned as Vice President of Sales for Monte Carlo Resort, where I worked with a transition team to make it into Park MGM. Most recently, I came over to Bellagio a little over a year ago as the Vice President of Sales. So, a long, storied career within MGM Resorts. I moved wherever the opportunity was.

What still gets you excited about your job today?

I am definitely a people person. I love my teams. I love working with new teams, tweaking it a little, and seeing them flourish. When I first started out in the hotel business, I have to be honest, it was a fluke. It was not on purpose. I actually came out with my family. We had an uncle who was a who was a big gambler. And of course, that whole experience, I thought, wow, if I could be this casino host and I just made sure everybody had a good time. That sounds like a great job, right? And I’ll never forget riding my first time in a limo from the hotel back to the airport. And we’re looking at the freeway. And my dad pointed out UNLV to me. And he said, Amanda, that’s one of the top ring hotel schools. You should go to college there. And that sparked my interest. There’re so many different jobs. You can go anywhere within a hotel. You can work one job for six months and in a year and say, hey, my interest is now this. Everybody has an important part in the hotel. I love all the opportunities under one roof.

What kind of industries translate well into a hospitality career?

We look for someone who has great customer service. And I always say, you might find your next support person scooping ice cream. You might find them in the retail industry. As long as they like people, then you can train them to be your support system. And you really hope that your support is someone that you would want to grow within the company into management and leadership. Anybody who is in a service industry could be someone who could translate. When it comes to revenue, you should definitely be a person who loves numbers.

What should a potential hospitality employee be looking for in a world class employer?

One of the big things that I believe in is succession planning. You definitely want to know what is the succession planning for a job and how can I grow. When you’re going for a job, you’re choosing to step into your future and it doesn’t just stop with the job that you’re applying for. Succession planning tells you they’re making a firm investment in their employees and they want their place to keep growing and growing and growing. You want to feel supported by succession planning so that you can make a long-term investment into that company. So that should be a key characteristic when you’re looking for an employer: succession planning. And then also tell me about your culture. Your culture will tell me a lot, as in do I align with your culture? Do I compliment your culture? That’s something I want to be a part of because you want to enjoy your job every day.

How important is it to have a robust network of quality contacts within the industry?

It is so important to have contacts, whether it’s in your city or out of your city, because you never, ever know when you’ll need them. I may have a piece of business that I can’t place here at my own property or sister property, and they might be able to consider another city. Or maybe I want to do something special for a client that is not staying at my property. Maybe I can create a wow moment. It just makes business easier, because you know who to call to make things happen. The other reason I think it’s important to have contacts is sometimes it’s great to just bounce ideas off of people who are maybe not even in your industry. Some of my great mentors aren’t even in the industry. And some of my great mentors have been in the industry. So, I think it’s very, very important to extend that and it can be intimidating when you’re first getting into the business. Platforms or associations like HSMAI help facilitate that for you and make it a lot easier being a member so that you can gain those contacts.

OYW Media Q&A: David Bowd, CEO of Salt Hotels

Learn how a poor student became a brilliant hotelier working in and opening some of the world’s most renowned properties. Don’t miss David Bowd’s hospitality career must-dos and his predictions for the future of the industry he loves.

How did you get started in Hospitality Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management?

I actually left high school when I was 16-years-old in the UK. I was not a good scholar in any way at all. I was the bad boy in class and I didn’t enjoy school in any way at all. And when I was 16 I had the opportunity to go on and do further education, but I also went for an interview to be a management trainee in a hotel in Worcestershire in England and I got that job, which is quite amazing now when I look back on it. But the worst part of that interview was my mum went into the interview with me because they wanted to make sure that they understood my parents understood sort of what the industry was about. I started soon after that as a bellman, that was my first position. And from day one I knew that this was what I wanted to do. I knew that being in a hotel environment really suited my personality; looking after guests, helping people. I decided that I was going to forge my own management trainee path and work in every department in a hotel. I was a team manager for a couple of years. I always had an idea and a fantasy of becoming a chef. When I was 17 years old, I got into the kitchen and at the end of day one I realized just how much I hated being back of house and how much more I would be fit to a front of house environment. I moved to London when I was 17. I joined the White House Hotel in Regent’s Park, London, a large 600-bedroom hotel. Then I really started to understand and get a real buzz from the revenue side of things. We had a big board in the office of how many rooms we had every day to sell and what rates we were selling at. And nothing computerized. I spent 10 or 12 years at the White House working in all different departments and ultimately becoming the Deputy General Manager. I felt that at that point this was a good time to travel. So, I decided to take a year out go and travel. I went to Australia. I got a job in a hotel and I became a Director of Rooms in two hotels in Melbourne, Australia, and I did that for a couple of years. I really enjoyed that and learning a different culture and a different environment of which to work in and in which to lead people.

And then I came back to went back to England. Eventually, I joined Thistle Hotels as General Manager. At the time they were the biggest hotelier in London with about 30 hotels and I was General Manager with them for three or four years. I joined Schrager after St. Martin’s Lane Hotel had just opened in London. It was one of the first boutique hotels to make it to the UK. Obviously, I knew all about Ian [Schrager]. I read a lot about him. I’d seen what he had created in his other hotels and was very interested. I then flew to America and met with Ian and I was sold. I would make a lot less money than I was earning at the time, but I thought it was a good opportunity to learn a different element and to see the industry. So, I worked with Ian as the general manager for Martins Lane and then shortly after took over as Regional General Manager. I absolutely loved the lifestyle of boutique market segment. I realized that it was exactly where I was supposed to be. Ian convinced me to move to America and I moved to New York to take over operations for all of the hotels. That was 12 years ago that I had my first real US hotel operations experience. After running operations as Morgans Hotel Group I actually went back to work for Ian. I left Ian to work for Andre Balaz as Chief Operating Officer to open the Chiltern Firehouse in London. After four years with Andre, I thought it was it was maybe time to again take a take a different route. I bought a small inn on Cape Cod, got a dog, and had a bit of a life. So, Kevin [O’Shea] who is co-founder of Salt Hotels and I bought the Salt House and renovated and opened that and it was an incredible success from day one. And we were like, “Oh, this is interesting. You know, maybe we’ll do a second one.  And so, we bought a second hotel and opened that. Then we were approached to operate the Chique Hotel on Shelter Island. While we were opening that I was approached by iStar which had 34 acres of waterfront space in Asbury Park, New Jersey, to create a working with Anda Andrei, who was the design lead for Ian Schrager for almost 30 years. We did that and then here we are. We just opened our fifth hotel. We have we have a few more to open over the next few years, including London in 2020.

What advice would you give other looking to start a career in hospitality?

I think it depends where you are in in your career and in and in your life. I think the most interesting thing about hospitality is it is it’s an industry that anyone can join in any part of their life. Four years ago we launched a school in Asbury Park teaching the business of hospitality. When you have an opportunity to see inside and get a glimpse of what hotel life is about. I think that spending time in hotels or hospitality or sales functions is really important to see if this is something that matches what you’re looking for. And then I always say be prepared that it is incredibly hard work. It’s wonderful for me. It’s certainly the best career I could ever have, but it is seven days a week, 365 days a year. You never close a hotel door. So, it is a full on job, but one where you’ll meet the most interesting people both working with and looking at it from a guest point of view.

What might surprise people about what you do as a hospitality CEO on a day to day basis?

What would surprise people about my role I think is how I opine over every small detail of everything within our hotels. I get up very early in the morning. I am a very early riser and from that moment I’m thinking about every experience. I write to every single guest on the morning after that first night stay to ask, “Is there anything we can do to make it better for you or is there anything that I need to know?” When you get to be CEO I think it’s really important to stay connected and to understand what the guest is hearing seeing and doing.

For those who may be considering transitioning from another industry over to hospitality, what kinds of personality traits and talents lend themselves to a second career in hospitality?

To me it’s all about attitude. We have a company motto that is, “hire the attitude and train the skill.” I think in hospitality we can train almost anything, but you have to have the right attitude. We can’t train people to smile. We can’t train people to inherently open the door and let somebody else go in front of them. It’s all about that real passion for wanting to look after people. And I think that comes from growing up. I think it comes from experiences in life. It’s all about energy and smiling and fun and a genuine care of other people.

What should young people be doing to get their foot in the door in a way that might eventually lead to a career in the Sales, Marketing, and Revenue Management side of the business?

Getting into the industry is really important. It’s really important I think that people take time and read look at what has hotel companies are doing, sales companies are doing, revenue operations are doing. Learn as much as you possibly can from as many people as you can out there. Don’t expect to come into the industry and everyone’s going to give you all of the knowledge you need. Go out there and work to find that knowledge yourself to make you better.

Do you have any predictions about the future of the hospitality industry?

I’ve seen health and wellness becoming more and more prominent throughout the industry and I think that will only continue. And I think that will continue from an employer point of view, as well. One of the things that we did a couple of years ago was we brought a wellness coach into the organization who confidentially meets with all of our employees and talks to them about mental health, physical health, sleep, and addresses all different aspects that affect different people in different ways. I think health and wellness is really something that will continue to be prevalent in our industry.

And truly local hotels that are not just in the community, but lifting a community, helping a community whether that’s through local employment or local purchases or collaborations with local artists or musicians. A hotel is such an important part of the community and, to me, should be a part of the fabric of the community. I think not paying lip service to the word “local” but really meaning it.

And from the insider’s point of view, we’re really learning through technology the movements, the habits of our guests. I’ve always felt that hospitality is behind the rest of the world when it comes to technology. We’re all about guest experience, but I think we can use technology to better understand what our guests want. What is the trend? How do they feel? I hope that the industry will be better through learning from our guests.


OYW Media Q&A: Michelle Woodley, President, Preferred Hotels & Resorts

Discover how a love for the art of entertaining led this hospitality powerhouse to become the President of a hospitality group in an industry as unique as the people who work in it.

How did you get started in your nearly 30-year career in Hospitality Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management?

I started right out of college. My first internship was actually in finance with a major hotel group. I quickly came to find I was not cut out to be in finance. A gentleman I had interned for knew of an opening at a hotel that had recently opened which was the Swissôtel Chicago and that they were looking for a systems manager. I remember going over there and just being dazzled by the hotel itself, but more importantly by some of the people who I met.  Although I didn’t have a background in systems, I just felt that it was a good fit for me at that hotel and that I could figure things out and learn things along the way. After about a year and a half, I got to really know the office manager pretty well and she was actually moving on to become the room service manager and she wanted me to become the front office manager. I said that I’ve never been a front office manager before and she said, “Look you’ve never been assistant manager before either. Look how successful you are.” So, I was really fortunate to have a mentor there to believe in me and take me into another role which was as an office manager. I bring these positions up because I believe that knowing the back end from a systems standpoint, knowing the operations from a front office perspective is actually what helped me later on in my career where I entered into revenue management, sales and marketing.

My career as a front office manager with this hotel was great. I did that for my two or three years. This was back in the early 90s when revenue management and central distribution for hotel companies was really starting to make an impact on business and there was a lot of attention on it. At that point in time, I got to know the president of the company of Swissôtel and he wanted me to take a look at what has happened happening in central reservation in central distribution and, again, this was relatively new in the hotel industry. I was really fortunate to be able to move into a corporate role where I actually headed up our central reservation system. That allowed me to travel the world and train users across the board; not only the people in the reservation department that would use central systems, but also directors, sales directors, and marketing managers and educate them on what is central reservation system and show them how there was influence in the areas of sales and marketing and the idea to influence your sales through central reservations.

People bought into the idea that there was this ability to reach others around the world through technology, but the idea of revenue management and hospitality was relatively new.  It had already been well-established in airlines. At one point the president of the company asked me to actually write a white paper on revenue management. So, I spent a lot of time researching and talking to the airlines about what was happening in the area of revenue management. I eventually wrote a white paper about the future of revenue management and the impact that it could have on Swissôtel and our properties around the world. That led to a slightly broader role that included not only central reservations, but also included revenue management. I really had a great time doing that with the ability to interact at the property level as well as at the management company level in educating and helping people understand how these tools could assist them. But at the same time, also having the opportunity to listen to what the challenges were across these disciplines, across sales across marketing, and across operations. That led to a broader role as Vice President of Electronic Distribution and Marketing which was online marketing inclusive of revenue management, distribution and online marketing on a global basis.

Then I moved on to Preferred Hotels and Resorts back in the early 2000s as Vice President of Marketing and Distribution. In that role I had responsibility for the marketing discipline as well as distribution. I served as a liaison in making sure that all of the strategies we were implementing on the marketing and distribution side were integrating and complementing our strategies on the revenue management side. I moved in to a role as Senior Vice President of Global Marketing Strategy. Preferred Hotels and Resorts is made up of close to 750 independent hotels around the world, so it was a much broader role than I had previously. It was more a role of education and making sure that things were getting integrated at the right points of contact, so that to the consumer the Preferred Hotels and Resorts brand was presented consistently and that our revenue management and distribution tactics also were cohesive.

After serving in the global marketing strategy role for a while I actually wanted to go back to my roots in revenue management. I really liked the marketing side of things, but I felt I was getting a little detached from revenue management. I was able to take on the role as Senior Vice President of Distribution and Revenue Management which was where my passions were which continued to expose me to many different areas of the company. In 2015, I moved into a broader role as Executive Vice President where I really focused on integrating our disciplines across the board, both for the growth of the Preferred Hotels and Resorts brand as well as driving revenues into our hotels.

About two years ago that grew into the role of President where I continue to directly direct some departments, which include IT, sales on a global sales basis, as well as group sales, marketing, distribution, revenue management, and customer relations. My role here is not only to make sure these departments are operating effectively, but to ensure collaboration with our regional teams. My main role is to make sure that we have great internal collaboration so that what we’re delivering and offering to our hotels is a cohesive solution and something that they can take advantage of.

What attracted you to the hospitality industry and still excites you about your work today?

I have always loved the art of entertaining. I think that if you get a DNA test on me my blood would show that hospitality is in my blood. I come from a Greek family so hospitality is always been something I was raised with. Growing up I always loved to be a part of what was going on in our household. I did a lot of cooking and I did a lot of party planning like my mom would have her bridge group over and I would prepare their luncheons for them. I even prepared my brother’s senior high school senior prom me over him and six of his friends. I always loved the planning, the preparation, and the thrill of executing on those kinds of events and am always excited to see people’s reactions to it.

I believe that the definition of hospitality is very true. If you look it up in the dictionary it’s about receiving and treating guests and strangers in a way that is friendly and welcoming. Whether it’s in my personal home, whether it’s in a hotel lobby greeting a guest, or whether it’s in the boardroom, it’s those elements of hospitality that are so important to our industry today. Nothing excites me more than seeing a happy hotel; one that we’ve been able to assist with solving some of the challenges that they might have. I want to make sure that all of our associates that work at Preferred Hotels and Resorts feel welcome; that they know that they have a place here. That means bringing people into the organization and making them a part of something bigger. It’s what really brings joy to my life.

What might surprise people about what you do on a day-to-day basis?

That travel is not 100-percent glamorous. It certainly has its fine points and it is amazing to travel around the world and see some great destinations and some wonderful hotels that I get to see in our portfolio. But there are a lot of delays that come with travelling. Yes, I do get to go to great places, but I have to remind people that it’s not all as glamorous as it seems. At the same time, I think there is a misconception that all hotel people are alike. That maybe they’ve all come up through food and beverage and they’ve all come up your operations and really that’s not true at all. You really get to know people and you get to see that everyone truly is unique and I think that that’s what actually makes hospitality such a unique industry. It is all these different personalities and personal experiences that makes customers want to come and visit hotels. It’s not as much the brick and mortar as it is the experience.

What kind of person is a good candidate for Hospitality Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management?

I think what’s really important for people looking to go into hospitality sales and marketing is to make sure that they understand what hospitality is: hospitality is the art of welcoming strangers and friends into your world and treating them with respect and treating them hospitably. And I think that applies not just to the operations people. Sometimes people think that only front of house people have to be that way, but I truly believe that whether you’re going into finance, into revenue, or into sales and marketing, you have to understand what that is.

I also think it’s really important to understand what it means to have made a commitment and be conscientious about what you have promised. On the sales side of things we make promises to people about what our hotels can deliver. On the marketing side through our communications we make promises to people and even on the revenue management side we make promises to people in the rate that they’re going to pay. We have to understand that that’s a promise we’ve just made and ensure that we deliver on those promises. I think sometimes that gets forgotten. When I talk to people entering the hospitality world or even people who are already in hospitality, I say make sure you recognize that you are making commitments every day in different areas.

And, of course, being able to adapt to what is going on in the world. Our industry is in constant change which is one of the things I believe actually makes it super exciting. If you want rigid and you want the same thing over and over, then hospitality is not for you.  Being adaptable and also understanding that there’s always new things to learn is super important.

What other careers lend themselves to a comfortable transition into hospitality?

I think there’s a lot of careers that do. You think about any career that involves serving others. Restaurants fall under the hospitality umbrella, even airlines fall under that umbrella. Healthcare is one that people don’t always look at as being easily translatable, but I think it is. A lot of it goes back to what the DNA of a person is and their ability to transfer skills from one area to another. We like to bring in people from other industries because of other perspectives. The travel industry is so big and so broad and effects so many people that if in your world you had to deal with people moving from one place to another, traveling or experiencing things that were new to them, I think that those skills are transferable into hospitality. Especially when we look at the sales, marketing and revenue management side of things, because the underlying disciplines are very similar. But it’s all about how you apply them into our world of travel and hospitality.

OYW Media Q&A: Reggie Cooper, General Manager, Salamander Resort & Spa, Middleburg, Virginia

A third-generation hotelier follows his entrepreneurial spirit to grow a successful career at some of the most sought-after independent hotels and resorts in the world.

How has your role in Hospitality Sales, Marketing and Revenue Management opened your world?

The people. The people I’ve gotten to meet by running high prestige luxury properties, whether it’s sharing coffee with a guest who is a former Secretary of State or having royalty come through. It’s really changed my world just in terms of how much I enjoy the individuals that you meet. And I’ve been fortunate in my career to work in the independent space and have had very unique, entrepreneurial owners that have allowed me to continue to try new things and develop new things.

How did you start your career in hospitality?

I’m a third-generation hotelier, so my grandfather ran the Royal York in Toronto. My father worked for Canadian Pacific and Hotels in their corporate offices and my mother ran our family restaurant. When I was 10, my mother didn’t have a dishwasher and I was put into service. I think that was where I started. I still think if I had stuck with it I probably could have been the best in the industry at washing dishes, but unfortunately, I kept moving forward. So, I think being born above a restaurant sort of predisposes you to find out what a fascinating industry this is and that’s what led me to become part of hospitality. Knowing so much about hospitality and really enjoying watching people interact with the employees and seeing what the guests get out of it was something that was attractive to me to pursue as a career.

How would you describe your day-to-day life as a General Manager in the hospitality industry?

I like to say it’s like a time traveler, because you’re working on things, like an event, that is not going to come until next year or the year after. Then you’re working with people who are coming in a couple of months. You’ve got events that are going to happen two days from now that you have to get ready for. Then you have the guest of the moment, the ones that are in house. And then you get to look back and say what did we do yesterday? Then we can close a month and you’ll look at the financial results, you get the Star report, you say how did we do last week against our competitive set? So, just defined as a time traveler where you get to cover about two-year span of time each day in what you do.

What would surprise people about your role as a General Manager?

I really enjoy watching the staff/guest interaction and to be part of that. It’s not uncommon for me to call my wife and say, “I haven’t had enough of it today. I’m going to be a few more hours before I get home.” That feeds my soul and my dedication to what I do. Just seeing that happen with our guests and with our staff members and how they how they really feel competent and proud of what they do.

What are some of the hidden benefits of your role as a General Manager?

For me, one of the greatest benefits is seeing people grow in their careers. I’m old enough now that I have a series of people I worked with when they were straight out of straight out of college and now they’re executives in other hotels and other resorts around the world. That’s such a benefit to be that mentor and pay tribute to all the people who mentored me growing up. And I really enjoy those relationships that we maintain outside of that. You know, it’s just a great industry and regardless of whether you’re competing with the property across the street, you still have a kinship and friendship with everybody that’s in that property. The other hoteliers that are in this industry might change properties, but we still have friendships and relationships and know each other’s families and spouses and that’s really unique. There’s not a lot of industries where competitors are that good a friend. We share ideas and ways that things are working for us that might help someone else. So, I think that is such an emotional return that we get out of doing this beyond just operating great hotels.