HSMAI celebrates 90 years, plans new education programs

LEESBURG, VA—Many associations aren’t lucky enough to celebrate 90 years of existence, but unlike other organizations, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) is still going strong nine decades later.

Robert A. Gilbert, president and CEO, HSMAI, welcomes attendees.

“Ninety years is a milestone that not many associations can celebrate today,” said Robert A. Gilbert, HSMAI’s president and CEO. “HSMAI has evolved as much as the industry has, and changes continue even today.”

Hosted at the Lansdowne Resort and Spa here, HSMAI’s 90th Anniversary Celebration Dinner reflected on the association’s history and looked into its future in the industry.  

HSMAI held the dinner during the Mike Leven Leadership Conference, which had invited leaders together to discuss volunteering, partnerships, recruiting, educational programming, profitability and more.

“The night was important and inspirational because we not only marked the anniversary of nine decades as an association representing the industry, but we also had several icons attend who were primary movers in shaping the powerful force we’ve become,” said Jeff Senior, global chair of HSMAI and VP of marketing at KSL Resorts. “Around one in 10 people employed in the U.S. are tied to travel; the people attending the event represent those making a difference today and those who created the opportunity for us over the years.”

“Having individuals who could celebrate the past, the present and the future together was inspiring for everyone who was there,” Gilbert said. “Many industry luminaries who were unable to attend sent congratulations videos reflecting on their engagement in HSMAI. I believe that many association volunteers influence an organization during just one part of an association’s lifecycle. To have them all come together and feel proud of their contributions during their era, as well as the success of continued evolution of the organization, is rewarding for all.”

The evening celebration included remarks and remembrances from the following past and present HSMAI leaders: HSMAI Lifetime Award Winner Roger Dow, U.S. Travel Association; past chairs Bruce Himelstein, BJH Group, and Barb Bowden, Loews Hotels; Dorothy Dowling, Best Western Hotels & Resorts; current HSMAI board chair Jeff Senior; HSMAI foundation chair John Fareed, Horwath HTL; incoming chair Mark Thompson, Dallas Convention & Visitors Bureau; and HSMAI’s current CEO.

HSMAI also presented its first-ever Hotel Sales Professional of the Year Awards. The association honored Adreana Bailey, national sales manager at Hilton DFW Lakes, and Jane Pearsall, senior manager of worldwide sales of global business travel at Best Western Hotels & Resorts, with these awards.

Additionally, HSMAI tapped the Greater New York Chapter as Chapter of the Year and the University of Memphis as Collegiate Chapter of the Year.

“As the only professional society in the world dedicated to the discipline of hospitality, sales, marketing and revenue management, we have a unique opportunity to bring together thought leaders in those disciplines to learn from each other,” Gilbert explained.

HSMAI tapped the Greater New York Chapter as Chapter of the Year.

While HSMAI provides educational materials and resources to its members (e.g., weekly newsletters headlining trends), the real value is when members interact and engage with one another in similar positions or markets. “HSMAI is in a unique position to facilitate this type of interaction,” he said. “Membership may not be for everyone, but testimonials time and time again articulate that personal and professional success comes when someone engages with peers outside of their company or their industry.” This interaction can help generate new ideas, innovation and creativity.

“Members value the opportunity to engage with each other about the pressing issues facing their companies, their hotels, their team members and them personally,” he said. “The issues are similar, but have some regional differences. HSMAI produces programs today throughout North America, Europe, the Asia-Pacific region, the United Arab Emirates and Brazil. Our chapter network allows these same trends and issues to be localized to sales, marketing and venue management professionals at the unit level of hotels and in specific local markets.”

Operating globally, HSMAI attempts to create engaging opportunities for its members through localized programs and events. In the Americas region alone, the association produces seven executive roundtables annually for a variety of peer groups from hotel management companies, including CMOs, chief sales officers, chief digital officers, chief revenue officers and more.

“These executive roundtables provide these executives the opportunity to openly talk about the issues and challenges the industry is facing and provides a forum to share best practices from other industry sectors that we can learn from,” Gilbert said. “We also produce experience study tours designed to stimulate strategic thinking.”

HSMAI next year will produce Executive Think (travel and hospitality innovation networking and knowledge) programs at the annual CES in Las Vegas and at the Fast Company Innovation Festival in New York City. “Last year, we produced an Executive Think program in Cuba to see firsthand how the hotel industry is developing in that market and how marketing principles are being applied,” HSMAI’s CEO pointed out.

Currently under development is the introduction of a new Organization Membership category. “For decades, HSMAI has been an individual member professional society,” he said.

With the significant growth we’ve witnessed in members from the corporate officers of hotel companies, the new membership category will make it simpler for hotel companies to engage more corporate executives in HSMAI programs and for more people to have access to our resources,” he continued.

Also new in this aspect, the 90-year-old association will host a semi-annual meeting of delegates from these companies, which will be called Curate. “We will facilitate this event in a manner that provides executives with opportunities to identify and discuss best practices related to the most pressing issues facing their companies as it relates to sales, marketing and revenue management,” he said. “Ideas for the solutions or additional educational resources can then be developed by HSMAI and our respective advisory boards for each discipline we represent: sales, marketing and revenue management.”

The HSMAI Foundation, which has been the publishing and research arm of the association since 1983, will have a new mission in 2018. The new focus will be solely dedicated to the issues of talent and leadership development for hospitality sales, marketing and revenue management. “Talent alone is one of the most pressing issues we have heard our members and their companies express concern about,” he said. “The role that our members perform requires more and more specialization, and the pipeline of talent cannot keep up with the demand for many of these areas of specialization.” HB

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