How can you be ahead of the curve?

By David Kong

Friday March 18, 2016

The hospitality industry offers great opportunities for workers to advance and build long-lasting careers. In the United States, approximately 1.8 million people are employed in the lodging industry, and many started in entry-level positions. According to a survey released by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, more than fifty percent of those in management positions started in an entry-level position. And, of those polled in the survey, 94.4 percent were promoted within their first year of employment. The industry provides an incredible range of positions from housekeeping to operations, marketing to interior design. And with the continued growth of the industry, there will continue to be an increased number of available jobs and opportunities to advance.

For the past 40 years, I have seen many success stories. I have watched many individuals who worked hard, developed their talents, and advanced in the industry. It has been interesting to note which disciplines have allowed individuals to move ahead faster. For example, in the 1970sand ‘80s, those in operations advanced faster to become General Manager. Then it changed to sales and marketing in the ‘90s. Those in sales and marketing advanced faster and made more money. In early 2000, it was e-commerce. Now, electronic distribution and revenue management positions seem to have risen to the top in terms of priority jobs for the industry.

Why are revenue management positions in such high demand right now? The distribution landscape is evolving quickly. In the past, websites used to serve more as brochure ware – simply marketing the company’s offerings, whereas nowadays, websites are used to book the majority of business. The online travel agencies were booking around two percent of the industry’s reservations in 2000. Today, that number is closer to 20 percent. Additionally, tour operators and travel agents have morphed their business models into different roles. Revenue managers are necessary to optimize the mix of business and pricing.

There is also a trend for non-hotel industry professionals to be appointed CEOs of major brands. Consumer packaged goods (e.g., P&G, Unilever) experience has become the hot experience on the resume. So, why is packaged goods experience important to the industry? It’s thought that people with experience in packaged goods are often better at marketing. Also, individuals with legal backgrounds are becoming CEOs of major hotel brands. Why is that? Often individuals with a legal education and background tend to be more methodical in their work and offer wide perspectives on various issues. Finally, individuals with a strong development background often excel at franchise sales, and are becoming CEOs.

It’s interesting how the tide changes in the hotel industry. If there is one constant in this industry, it’s that it is always changing. Disruptors like Expedia, TripAdvisor and Airbnb challenge the status quo and change the rules of the game. To be successful, it doesn’t make sense for one to just focus on what’s “hot” today. We need to be constantly asking ourselves, “How can we be ahead of the curve?”

Those individuals that are intellectually curious, never content with their current job, and are always looking for opportunities to broaden their horizon will always be the most successful. Don’t be known as just the best revenue manager or best attorney. Be known for being strategic and thoughtful. Be known for being a team player, someone who has high emotional intelligence. And be known as someone with passion. With that skill set and determination, your potential will be limitless.