AAHOA: Next-gen leaders must be open to change
AAHOA: Next-gen leaders must be open to change
01 APRIL 2016 8:30 AM

Speakers at this year’s Asian American Hotel Owners Association convention encouraged the upcoming generation of hotel owners to embrace changing guest and technology trends to continue to succeed.

NASHVILLE—This year’s Asian American Hotel Owners Association convention was all about success and how to achieve positive performance in an era of new brand launches, generational leadership changes and external disruptors.

Mike Leven, president and COO of Las Vegas Sands Corporation and an original organizer of what would become AAHOA, kicked off Thursday’s general session with a call to action for the rising tide of second-generation Asian-American hoteliers who are growing their own footprints in the business.

“What happens when you are successful?” he asked. “You stop doing what made you get there in the first place, and that’s where the danger comes in.”

Leven said that as the industry changes, the next generation of leaders must change with it, especially if they hope to be successful during downturns.

“The status quo is a prescription for failure,” he said. “You have a responsibility to continue to be dynamic in the search for change, for doing things different, for not being satisfied.”

Hotel franchise company executives echoed those statements on Thursday’s “Industry CEOs” panel and encouraged members to continue to be involved in their franchise organizations and the larger industry.

The CEOs shared insight into consumer trends, highlighting why creating excellent guest experiences will translate into strong bottom-line performance.

“We see people choosing experience over product—we see this in retail, in consumer products and certainly in travel,” said Mark Hoplamazian, president and CEO of Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “The idea that the product has to be perfect is weakening. Instead, people are looking for a holistic, experiential time.”

He advised attendees to make sure they’re creating those shareable experiences for guests.

Hilton Worldwide Holdings President and CEO Chris Nassetta echoed that sentiment that guests are all about experience these days. He told attendees that creating positive cultures at the hotel level are what will make those experiences great.

“It’s all about the experience, and the experience is delivered through culture,” he said. “We think about those disruptors—like Airbnb and (online travel agencies)—and we know we as an industry have a huge advantage. Guests check in and stay with us. If we do it well, and have an amazing culture focused on exceptional delivery of authentic experiences, then none of these (disruptors) can touch us.”

Nassetta made the link between company culture and technology, which was another big theme of the discussion.

“It’s not good enough anymore for us to be good between check-in and check-out. We have to do a better job with guests before and after they’re with us,” he said. “There are opportunities to do that and use technology to interact with customers and to create efficiencies. It also allows us to repurpose people in order for them to focus on service.”

Keith Cline, president and CEO of La Quinta Inns & Suites, said that in order for hoteliers to be successful in an age of constant disruption, they must approach business from a human side and a technology side.

“The human side creates the foundation for the tech side,” he said. “We have to use data to create a (smart) environment, and then we control the delivery of an outstanding customer experience.

“Culture is the underpinning of it all,” Cline said. “If the people in your hotels truly feel that coming to work is the best part of their day, they’ll go out of their way to create the experience for your brand in a way that distribution disruptors can’t.”

Jim Amorosia, president and CEO of G6 Hospitality, reinforced the idea that technology must make sense.

“Whatever you’re going to invest in has to deal with solving several points,” he said. “First, does it make anything easier for the guest? And second, how simple does it make it for the employee to complete the transaction? And for the investor, how reasonable can you make the investment and still allow for returns?”

Roger Bloss, president and CEO of Vantage Hospitality Group, encouraged convention attendees to look to their franchise and member partners for support in order to stand out in the sea of brands.

“Today it’s about distribution and loyalty,” Bloss said. “To be competitive, we have to have the marketing dollars and with marketing dollars comes size.”

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