Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International – Europe
HSMAIGAZETTE May 2010
W H E N T H E G O I N G G E TS TO U G H … MR. ROBIN KAMARK (above), newly appointed CCO of SAS, sees the airline industry’s current unrest as an opportunity to prosper and shine. That includes the individual—if willing to rise to the occasion. n SEE PAGE 13 EUROPEAN AWARDS AFOOT
The date is set, the venue booked:5 May 2011 sees the HSMAI European Travel Awards in Park Lane’s London Hilton, while HSMAI sets out to conquer Europe. Reserve that date today! n SEE PAGE 3
With traces of the financial crisis American Express’ MR. ALPER still lingering, you may find the ARAS is excited to see “the quick 12 Top Revenue Management ramp-up of HSMAI Europe”, and Initiatives, presented by the is looking forward to explore HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory potential opportunities that we can work Board, useful. n SEE PAGE 4 together on. n SEE PAGE 10
THE COSMOPOLITAN TECHIE
Welcome to HSMAI HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International) is a global organisation of sales and marketing professionals, representing all segments of the hospitality industry. With a strong focus on education, HSMAI has become the industry champion in identifying and communicating trends in the hospitality industry while operating as a leading voice for hospitality, sales, marketing and management disciplines, as well as connecting its members with customers. Mission statement: To be the leading source for sales and marketing information, knowledge, business development and networking for professionals in tourism, travel and hospitality. HSMAI is an individual membership organisation comprised of nearly 7000 members from 35 countries and chapters worldwide. HSMAI’s Americas Region, headquartered in McLean, Virginia, USA, consists of 38 chapters in three countries. HSMAI’s European Region, headquartered
in London, UK, consists of five national chapters. HSMAI Asia Pacific, headquartered in Singapore, has chapters in Singapore, Hong Kong/Macau. A chapter has also been chartered in the United Arab Emirates. The HSMAI Foundation was established in 1983 to serve as the research and educational arm of HSMAI. For a detailed description of member benefits, please see About-page at hsmai.eu. HSMAI Europe is expanding internationally, increasing its focus on pan European activities. For the first time in the organisation’s 80-year history we are launching an international European contest; Travel Marketer of the Year, followed by the awards gala at the London Hilton Hotel on 5 May 2011. Representatives from the entire European hospitality industry are
Are you ready to be an Industry Leader in Revenue Management?
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HSMAI Europe has partnered with Intelligent Hotels to facilitate, train and support the CRME preparations for you and your team. Join us for a one-hour Webinar at 15:00 (UK time) 1 June, presented by Jeff Osborne (CRME), founder and CEO of Intelligent Hotels, Inc. Mr. Osborne has been recognised worldwide for his cutting edge, results driven, approach to the design and implementation of systems that enable hotels to maximise profits through savvy revenue management. Using the expertise developed during a 25-year hospitality career, involving corporate, operational and revenue management positions, Jeffrey Osborne has successfully put his results-driven strategies to work for independent and branded hotels and resorts throughout North America and overseas.
welcome! For a detailed account of upcoming events, please see the editorial on page 3. We welcome you to join our ranks as we embark on our adventurous European expansion. Please see membership form on the last page. For current news and further details of ongoing HSMAI Europe activities and member benefits, please visit hsmai.eu.
Join us as we launch the prestigious Certified Revenue Management Executive (CRME) programme to all European Hospitality Professionals! HSMAI Americas developed the certification in revenue management, now available to members in Europe. Individuals working in revenue management in the hospitality industry, if they meet the minimum qualifications, can take an online examination offering a chance to confirm their knowledge, experience, and capabilities. n Brush up on the basics n Critical information “you need to know” n The pitfalls of data management – Avoid being trapped by the wrong things n Strategic Thinking … Are you there yet? n Critical Action Plan – Do you have one? n Measure results!
Visit this page for updated details on other webinars and off-line training.
Join us for an energetic 60 minutes as we help you to reach your potential. Get recognised by your peers and existing and potential employers. Get certified! To sign up: Please visit our registration page. 2
www.intelligenthotels.com – www.hsmai.eu
CO N T E N T
A LETTER FROM THE PUBLISHER
Welcome to HSMAI
Certified Revenue Management webinar
A Letter from the Publisher
12 Top Revenue Management Initiatives
Revenue Management – The Easy Way
Alper Aras: The Cosmopolitan Techie
Robin Kamark: The Tough Get Going
HSMAI Membership Form
PUBLISHER & EDITOR-IN-CHIEF: INGUNN HOFSETH, PRESIDENT & CEO CONTENT, ART DIRECTION & DESIGN: JARLE PETTERSON, PERGAMENT pergament.no ADVERTISEMENT, MARKETING & SALES: INSERO
ADVERTISING OPPORTUNITIES Please contact Anita at +47 91652873 or email@example.com The HSMAI Gazette is published electronically four times a year by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International – Europe, London (UK). The magazine reaches hospitality sales executives and professionals throughout Europe. ©2010 by the Hospitality Sales & Marketing International – Europe. All rights reserved. Reproduction in whole or in part without written permission from the publisher is prohibited. Editorial address: firstname.lastname@example.org. Address all manuscripts to this address. The Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International is a non-profit educational organisation devoted to upgrading the professionalism of those engaged in hospitality industry sales, marketing and servicing. Members: Please send all change of address information to email@example.com. The material in this publication reflects the opinions and philosophies of the individual contributors—and does not necessarily represent or reflect any position (official or otherwise) of the Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI), its staff, officers or officials. These articles are provided for the interest of the readers—and HSMAI does not certify any of the data or statistics in these articles. On the cover: Mr. Robin Kamark, CCO of SAS (Scandinavian Airline System), photographed by Anders Bergersen, Bjørgli & Bergersen HSMAI EUROPE PARTNER:
Are you ready for the HSMAI European Travel Awards? INGUNN HOFSETH PRESIDENT & CEO HSMAI EUROPE
or several years HSMAI in Europe has been limited to activities in a handful of countries, especially in the Netherlands, Ireland, Hungary and Norway, to be continued unabatedly, but in addition to the ongoing consolidation, the time has finally come to put our efforts in the out-rolling of the HSMAI concept in a number of new countries, as well as a set of activities with an all-European scope. For the first time in HSMAI’s more than 80-year-long history a European contest and awards event is afoot. On Thursday 5 May 2011 the brand new HSMAI European Travel Awards will take place in London (UK), where travel and hospitality ventures throughout Europe are welcome to partake, on an annual basis. Seeing as we have long since entered the twenty-first century, we will try to carry out submissions and, in part, judgements by way of digital means. The awards gala will of course take place in the evening, while a conference will be held earlier in the day. I am personally taking charge of the preparations from our London office, but will retain my post as president and CEO of HSMAI Chapter Norway, which, of course, will lead to extensive commuting between London and Oslo. An HSMAI European Advisory Board, made up by 25–30 influential leaders and sales and marketing directors from across Europe, will serve as HSMAI’s counsellors in these matters. Our chief objectives for the immediate future are: 2010 n HSMAI Lodging Chief Marketing Officer Roundtable in London n Uphold, develop and strengthen the national levels of activities n Special Interest Groups for Revenue Management and Travel Internet Marketing n Webinars n Certification of Revenue Management Executives n Quarterly publication of the HSMAI Gazette n European Advisory Board meetings twice a year n Introducing HSMAI in new markets 2011 n HSMAI Roundtable Conference in London on 5 May n HSMAI European Travel Awards on the evening of 5 May n Introducing HSMAI in new markets I know how this must seem very ambitious to some, but we are confident that, if we all make an effort, we can actually pull this off! Also, I hope you will enjoy the HSMAI Gazette, and remember: We are always open for suggestions.
12 Top Revenue Management Initiatives Revenue Management has been singled out as focal point for HSMAI Europe in 2010, based on experiences from the Americas. Even though the outlooks are less gloomy than last spring, the measurements suggested by the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board in this April 2009 article still apply, with challenges still remaining. Bear in mind that its content remains unchanged, with respect to dates etc. WRITTEN BY
THE HSMAI REVENUE MANAGEMENT ADVISORY BOARD
As we enter the second quarter of the year, lodging stocks continue to be on a rollercoaster ride with no end in sight, and the outlook for the overall economy is problematic and uncertain. Despite the doom and gloom being projected for 2009, there are many things your revenue management team can do to take a proactive stance in driving revenue and gaining market share in this difficult time.
actually increase overall ADR due to the mix 3) Acknowledge that marketing and of business. revenue management are intertwined. After your realistic forecast is completed, a 2) Employ realistic forecasting which strategic revenue management team should leads to higher revenue, and better labor review that forecast with the marketing team to identify need periods or opportunities. and expense management. A forecast is a short term projection that has This communication should result in the generation of customer focused, revenue many objectives that it needs to communi1) Look carefully at your pricing. cate, including financial expectations, neces- generating offers. What do you do when there is downward Marketing and revenue management sary staffing levels, supply needs, expense pressure on rate in your competitive set or should work together prior to the launch of guidelines, etc. Some key steps to realistic market? Is it realistic to hold your rate? As any marketing efforts to make sure the goals forecasting include: there are plenty of valid points in the arguof the campaign are clear, the messaging is ment to hold rate, now is the time to caren Bring the key stakeholders together to appropriate for the business needs of the fully and thoroughly analyze any potential agree that a forecast is meant to be realis- hotel, and that tracking is in place. Once the shift in pricing. Start with your STR report tic based upon the facts known at a parcampaign begins, the departments should to understand your rate index versus your ticular point in time. regularly review results to make sure they occupancy index. As you create strategic test n Be clear that information changes over are achieving a desirable ROI. periods, be sure to review the STR report in With most online marketing efforts, you time and so will the related forecast, but it detail to determine if you achieved the should not change based upon the fear of have the ability to manipulate pricing desired result. One thing to consider before documenting a low number to ownership and/or messaging almost instantly. If clicks making a pricing change is your market segare high and conversion is low, pricing or simply avoiding market realities. An mentation mix. Typically, the higher permight need to be tweaked. If clicks are low inflated forecast may lead to less than centage of Best Available Rate or Retail Rate optimal pricing, market segmentation, and and conversion is high, the message might business you have, the better your hotel will distribution strategies. It may also lead to be wrong. Offer an analytical, revenue manperform. Hotels that have very low percentagement based approach to your marketing overstaffing and over ordering. age of BAR/Retail business may be sufferteamâ€™s work. You may be more likely to get n After completing your forecast, your ing from an overpriced BAR/Retail rate. In additional marketing funds to help you proactive revenue management team underperforming hotels, it is sometimes weather this downturn. should focus on what actions need to be possible to decrease BAR/Retail rate and implemented to achieve or exceed the forecast. n revenue management, this is not the time to just hunker down and survive. This is an opportunity to shine, add value to your organization, and help it thrive. The following initiatives should help position your revenue management efforts for success in 2009.
4) Treat your third party Internet partners as an extension of your revenue team. Strategic relationships with your third party Internet partners are important, now more than ever. In bad times, as in good, treat your third party partners as an extension of your revenue team. Good market managers have their fingers on the pulse of the overall market and can provide great insight into broader trends that you may not see.
If you feel you are missing something from the brand that could help you drive more revenue, make a recommendation. Share your need periods with the brand and ask what they can do to assist you in exceeding your forecast. Take a proactive stance in your relationship with the brand and it will pay dividends.
6) Make your weekly revenue management meetings more strategic. Spend the first fifteen minutes of your next weekly revenue management meeting disn Share need periods, discuss production targets, and how you can work together to cussing what is going well and what could be improved in the effectiveness of the achieve agreed upon goals. n Celebrate when those targets are met and meeting. have open discussions when here is a n Review the agenda, the attendee list, and shortfall. the flow of the meeting to look for n Reevaluate your distressed/last minute opportunities to make changes that will channel strategy based on feedback from shake things up in a positive way. your market manager and the needs of n Get beyond the “what” and make sure your hotel. you are diving into and understanding the n Research if there are any sites that can why.” It is no longer good enough to say drive business into your market with that a market segment is up or down from which you do not currently work. last year. To have a truly effective meeting, a revenue manager needs to be able 5) Be a brand expert and expect the best. to speak to the reasons for these variancFor those hotels that have brand representaes. This will enable the revenue managetion, the revenue management team should ment team to adjust strategies going understand what assistance and support the forward. brand can provide to drive revenue. The n When making pricing changes, note what brands that are taking a proactive stance in the desired result would be and follow up focusing on revenue generating plans and with those results next week to inform actions are to be applauded for earning their future pricing changes. fees. In addition to knowing the brand systems, n Market share is of pivotal importance and now is the time to dive into weekly STR you should be on a first name basis with reports and rate shopping tools every your regional support person. Ask what is week to recap last week’s performance working and not working for other hotels, against last week’s strategy. what they are seeing and hearing on a global n With the surge in groups falling into attrilevel, and if there are any initiatives being tion or cancelling their programs entirely, discussed that your hotel could beta-test for make sure you are spending time discussthe company. In addition to these frequent ing this important revenue stream. conversations, make sure you understand all of the audits, reports, training, and marketBrainstorm ways to increase conversion and ing opportunities available to you. upsells through the call center.
7) Understand that displacement analysis is not what it used to be. If you are still using last year’s numbers when running displacement analysis on groups or base business, you might want to reconsider your strategy. With things changing as much as they are right now, it is wise to use very recent history as well as your realistic expectations when you are reviewing business. Don’t throw away the idea of displacement analysis all together as there are still times of medium and high demand. Work with the sales team to understand a group’s propensity to spend and balance that with your knowledge of potential rate offers or promotions that you will run during the same dates when determining your group rates. 8) Conduct a comprehensive system audit. Make sure that 2009 is properly built in all of your booking systems. nTake advantage of any rate configuration reports offered by your PMS and CRS, and be sure you have rate seasons built and bookable through at least 2009. nBe sure that there is inventory for sale in all channels as now is not the time to be stingy. nTest your availability for multiple dates and lengths of stay on your own Web site’s booking engine and on the third party Internet sites. nTest all “book now” links from promotions and other parts of your Web site. Ask your corporate account travel managers to do the same—they’ll appreciate your concern. nBefriend a travel agent and see how your hotel is appearing on the GDS. nReview production reports to see if any of your distribution channels, consortia, or corporate accounts are underproducing as compared to the previous year by more than the economy can explain.
Reevaluate strategies that were implemented in good times to step up channels or specific discounts that might bring incremental revenue in today’s environment. 9) Implement a self-funded revenue generation incentive program. Declare the month of May to be “Revenue Generation Month” at your property. Ask all staff members to provide revenue generation ideas to your director of revenue management. Ideas can include specific things like a short-term group or catering lead from personal contacts, or a more general idea like offering late checkouts for $25 on low occupancy nights. Get the competitive juices flowing in the reservations and front office departments and see who can generate the most upsells to suites or premium accommodations. For every idea adopted, consider awarding a savings bond, gift card, or cash to the employee who generated the idea. Do make sure to set some limits and maximum payouts in advance.
10) Increase your market acumen. Create space in your schedule to increase your market acumen, focusing on what is going on outside of your hotel. Market acumen falls into two main areas— competition and potential demand opportunities. Ideas that can help you address both areas include:
businesses, restaurants, and retail stores are coming to your area and how they can help you fill hotel rooms.
11) Appreciate that customer service and revenue generation go hand-in-hand. With hotel demand at some of the lowest levels in decades, basic customer service skills are a valuable asset in guest retention, nReview the current STR competitive set to word of mouth advertising, and maintaining see if it accurately reflects the hotels with and increasing hotel demand. which you compete. If it does not, put Share guest feedback with the staff and together a competitive set that you can discuss the hotel’s strategy when it comes to use as a true benchmark of your perform- responding to online customer reviews. ance. This is especially important in a time Social networking sites with customer when market share will come into greater reviews are having a major impact on how focus. our guests choose their hotels. Make sure nOnce you have agreed on your true comyou are not ignoring this feedback and the petitive set, research and understand revenue implications it can have. where they get their business and why. In addition to providing great guest servAsk “What do they offer that we do not?” ice, leverage frontline associates’ interactions and vice versa. with guests to increase demand for your nBuild relationships with your competitors hotel. These employees can work as liaisons so you can understand their business for your sales staff to drum up new business better, but beware of antitrust regulations. or rejuvenate relationships with current nGet involved with your City Development accounts. Train these employees to briefly Department to be aware of what new document guest feedback, comments, and HSMAIGAZETTE
contact information, so the sales staff can reach out and build a positive relationship with these guests. Consider asking them to track the answers to simple questions like: “What brings you to the area?” and “Do other people in your company travel here?” This can be a powerful way to find hidden gems of business for your hotel. 12) Increase Your Organization's Intellectual Capital. Training and preparation are essential to prepare for and pull out of times of economic turbulence. It may be tempting to cut expenses by cutting training, but it is not how smart organizations will thrive. Now is the time to increase rather than erode your organization's intellectual capital, which may already be suffering from a loss of knowledge and experience as a result of layoffs. Continuing education doesn’t have to be expensive to be effective. Low or no cost initiatives include mentoring, peer coaching, and informal best practices sharing. HSMAI offers affordable online and face-to-face learning opportunities including webinars, strategy conferences, publications and more. HSMAIGAZETTE
About the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board The Revenue Management Advisory Board is responsible for providing leadership for HSMAI’s Revenue Management Special Interest Group (SIG). The SIG is advancing the revenue management discipline by being its leading source for education, best practices exchange, thought leadership, and networking for professionals in the hospitality industry. It accomplishes this through a wide range of information sharing, networking, and educational opportunities. See more at www.revmanagement.org MEMBERS INCLUDE Chair: Timothy Coleman, CRME, Consultant, The Coleman Company ViceChair: Warren Jahn, Ph.D., Revenue Management Training Consultant, InterContinental Hotels Group Elizabeth Cambra, CRME, Corporate Director, Revenue Optimization, Outrigger Hotels & Resorts Michael Cohen, Director, Revenue Management, Hyatt Select Hotels Group Jack Easdale, Corporate Director of Revenue Management, Gaylord Hotels Bernard Ellis, CRME, Managing Director Americas, IDeaS Revenue Optimization Dan Kowalewski, Vice President Strategy & Service, Wyndham Hotel Group Scott Roby, Vice President, Revenue Management, Tarsadia Hotels Stowe Shoemaker, Associate Dean of Research, University of Houston Miguel Solis, CHA, CRME, VP, Sr. Director Revenue Management, Hospitality Resource Group Kristi White, CHSP, Director of Client Revenue Strategy, TravelCLICK
Revenue Management – The Easy Way
HSMAI Gazette presents an exclusive interview with Paul Margaillan, co-Founder & Managing Director of Easy (Ez) Revenue Management Solutions Ltd., the world-leading SaaS Revenue Management Solution provider, headquartered in London, UK.
aul believes that the actual RMS solution selected by a hotel property or corporate organisation is “only a very small piece of the puzzle,” and that Revenue Management concerns the mentality and business processes within the hospitality operation, covering activities ranging from Pricing Strategy, Sales & Marketing, F&B, Housekeeping, Front Desk and Accounting policies. “The process needs to be adopted by all departments within an operation to bring greater success and higher profitability,” says Paul. The EzRMS™ Product Suite has been designed from day one to overcome common operational issues within the hospitality marketplace; this via the introduction of a SaaS model which controls upfront licensing and implementation costs for hotel client operators, thus offering a full service but equally costeffective solution at all times. EasyRMS have enabled organisations to remove the capital expenditure risk factor of investing in RMS solutions, and to justify much higher penetration rates within their property portfolios, proven by the huge growth in hotel clients experienced by EasyRMS over the past years. One of the key strengths of EzRMS™ is the combination of leading methodologies in one software solution: BAR, LOS Opti8
misation, Dynamic Pricing, Profit Optimisation, Total Revenue Management (including all property revenues) and full seamless integration to the leading PMS, CRS, S&C and Channel Management providers around the world. This results in a truly rounded solution for the industry today. Other factors that set EzRMS™ apart are its user-friendliness; the power of the reporting & analytics available; and the smooth delivery of service & support on a global basis. EasyRMS now have 12 offices supporting the product suite around the world. Despite the last few years’ economic slump, EasyRMS have continued to grow strongly in both numbers and reputation across the globe. “The development and growth of our organisation on a diverse geographical basis is still key to our company strategy, this to ensure that we continue to not only sell solutions to our clients, but to also provide SaaS, a full, dedicated support and consultation service around the world, to assist our clients in making the very best of the tools and processes they have to work with today,” states Paul. Throughout the past two years the company has held series of Revenue Management & Pricing seminars in Europe & Asia Pacific; given the success and popularity of these events, the company continues to
host similar seminars moving forward, “which is our way of continuing to aid the ongoing education of the industry and of giving something back to the industry in general,” Paul notes. Mr. Paul Margaillan, Following the EasyRMS Ltd. huge success of EasyRMS’ services, the company is striving to provide further tools to benefit the industry in areas not yet addressed. When asked what is coming next, Paul passionately adds: “watch out for our revolutionary new Meeting Room Management solution, EzMEETING™. This is an area in which the industry is crying out for help, and EasyRMS are just about to deliver!” Proving once again the leading and innovative nature of this dynamic organisation in the Revenue Management arena, we look forward to seeing what the brains behind EasyRMS come up with next!
The Cosmopolitan Techie If someone truly deserves to be called international, Mr. Alper Aras, Director, Industry Development, Airlines and Lodging in American Express Merchant Services immediately springs to mind. Turkish born and bred, educated in Turkey, America and Europe, living in the U.S. and travelling the globe, serving the international hospitality and travel industry, Mr. Aras comes across as the cosmopolitan incarnated. TXT: JARLE PETTERSON PIX: LEANNE HUANG
lper Aras received his Industrial Engineering degree from the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey. He then moved to Atlanta, where he received his Masters in the same field at Georgia Institute of Technology. The rest, as they say, is history. Shortly after he embarked on an impressing career, currently working with HSMAI’s long-time partner American Express. “I started my career in 1999 in Dallas, working for i2 Technologies, a supply chain management software company,” he recounts. “I had opportunities to work on long-term assignments in Germany and Japan early on in my career and was able to build on my knowledge of the supply chain management industry from my studies. After approximately four years at i2, I moved to Europe and attended INSEAD for my MBA degree, and was fortunate to be able to experience both the Fontainebleu in France and Singapore campuses. Post business school, I moved to Chicago and worked for the Boston Consulting Group for three years. I moved to New York in 2007 and started my career at American Express,” he explains matter-of-factly, as if the extent of it all was a very average thing, over the course of a mere decade.
industries, where I work very closely with our client management teams to develop and execute various business building initiatives with our merchants,” Mr. Aras explains, moving on to career opportunities. “One of my concerns when leaving consulting was the misconception that I would be limiting my exposure to one subject matter or functional area. As I explored opportunities at American Express and throughout my tenure in the company, I have been very pleased by the tremendous long-term career opportunities the company has to offer. Our culture encourages exposure to various roles in different business units through one’s tenure”. In Mr. Aras’ line of work we would expect there’s a lot of travelling involved, so we wanted to know how it’s like to work A fast-track career under such conditions. It turns out, howevThese experiences gave him a solid underer, there’s less globetrotting involved than standing of how American Express works, we suspected. what key strategic opportunities the “Actually, in my current role I do not company faces, and how to address them. travel for business purposes at the level that With vast international experience, he soon I did prior to joining American Express. came to work closer with the travel and hos- You can imagine, as an IT and strategy conpitality industry: sultant most of my time was spent on the “In 2009 I moved into my current role in road, but since I joined American Express, the Merchant Services Americas organisamost of my travel has been short-term and tion. In this role, I am responsible for busi- planned in advance. For example, the majorness development for the airline and lodging ity of my trips include attending airline or There is however very little about Alper Aras that strikes you as average—save, perhaps, for the usual businessman appearance, but he carries on, attributing much to circumstances: “My first role in American Express was the Director of Strategic Planning in the Strategic Planning Group. During my two years in the group, I worked on business planning and strategy across a wide range of business units, including OPEN (our small business card group), Merchant Services, Pricing, and Customer Service. I was also very fortunate to work on two international assignments, including a project in Mexico City with the country manager and in London with the Global Business Travel group.”
lodging industry-related conferences, trade events, attending merchant meetings with our client managers when necessary, and visiting college campuses as part of employee recruiting efforts.” Requires planning “When I did travel frequently, being away from home Monday through Friday posed challenges in my personal life. Maintaining personal relationships and running basic personal errands required careful planning and management. In addition, the physical wear and tear of being on the road was quite
taxing. Having said that, I learned to be very structured in managing my personal time, and prioritising things I need or would like to do. Despite these challenges, I also saw the bright side of travelling for work. I tremendously enjoyed the opportunity to experience different cities and countries, and meeting very smart and diverse individuals around the world,” Alper Aras remembers. Based on the later years’ financial tribulations, we’re curious as to what challenges he considers unique to the hospitality and travel industry.
“It is no news that 2009 was one of the most challenging years for the hospitality industry, and we saw both corporate and leisure travel suffer. Within the lodging industry, the average daily rates went down significantly and there were cut-backs in corporate travel. Looking ahead, while the demand for both corporate and leisure travel is coming back, pricing will be a challenge for the industry. The hotels and travel companies who can manage to significantly enrich the value that they offer to their guests while improving rates will be in a good position,” he concludes.
“This year, we are very excited to see the quick ramp-up of HSMAI Europe, and we look forward to exploring potential opportunities that we can work together on,” says American Express' Mr. Alper Aras.
Revenue Management has been highlighted as an important area of commitment in HSMAI. In your experience, would you say that American Express and its products and services in any way can contribute to the travel and hospitality industry’s revenue optimisation? “American Express takes pride in being a long-term key partner to the hospitality industry. We continue to stimulate travel, thereby driving spend. One of our core strengths is our loyal and high-spending cardmember base—consumer, small business and corporate—whom we drive to our merchants. Another source of value is our strategic marketing capabilities and partnerships with our merchants that are leveraged to help partners create and execute marketing programs to reach our valuable cardmember base.” An active partner to HSMAI “Additionally, our American Express Business Insights group leverages our closedloop model to provide valuable key strategic insights to companies via products and consulting services. By using these assets, including our unique capabilities—the fact that we’re the merchant acquirer, processor and network—their insights can ultimately help our merchants better manage and grow their businesses.” “Finally, our Consumer Travel Network and Global Business Travel teams work with our airline and lodging merchants to drive business and create powerful solutions to support them. The global connections that HSMAI provides the hospitality industry’s key marketing and sales contacts, is a great asset and we are proud to support
the organisation,” says Mr. Alper, a firm believer in the partnership’s mutual benefits: “American Express has been a proud partner of HSMAI for a number of years. HSMAI provides a valuable channel for us to reach out to the key members of the hospitality industry while giving us a means to show our support and value. For example, this year, we co-hosted a roundtable event in New York with HSMAI that included 25 CMOs from top lodging companies and Visitors / Convention Bureaus. We had a series of speakers and panels, where we discussed the ‘New Normal in Lodging’ and its implications on marketing within the hospitality industry. This was a great forum where we were able to share our insights on the most recent economic downturn and the industry overall, bring in valuable external speakers, and jointly discuss the implications of these trends on the future of the industry. We also take pride in supporting HSMAI on specific initiatives, such as the Marketing Review Newsletter in the US, the Annual Leadership Conference, and the HSMAI Foundation. This year, we are very excited to see the quick ramp-up of HSMAI Europe, and we look forward to exploring potential opportunities that we can work together on.” On a somewhat lighter note, could you please tell us what your favourite pastime might be? “Travel is certainly one of my biggest passions. As a child, I remember both of my parents travelling internationally for work and feeling jealous that I was not! One of my most favourite personal trips over the last couple of years has been to Peru. I was amazed by the cultural diversity, amazing views, hospitality, and excellent customer
service. My one-day hike to Machu Picchu is one of my most memorable travel moments!” Our AmEx Man “I also fondly remember my family trips to the Mediterranean and southern Aegean coast of Turkey, Lake Abant in the Turkish Blacksea Region, and my first international trip at the age of five, which was to Belgium, and yes, I remember most of it,” Alper Aras reminisces. “Other than travel, I enjoy playing the piano and running. As far as piano is concerned, I practiced extensively between the ages of 5 and 21. The good news is I started taking lessons again; but it will be a while before I reach the level I once was at!” As it turns out, the travel and hospitality industry couldn’t dream of a better partner than Alper Aras, who still enjoys travelling. In fact, he more and more resembles a travel industry poster boy. One should think, though, that extensive work-related travelling took some of the magic away. “If anything, it has added to the magic and made me want to travel even more,” he declares unwavering. “It has given me access to a lot of countries that would otherwise have been difficult to visit, created opportunities for me to meet people who are also passionate about travel, and made me a much more open-minded and easy-going person. These experiences have helped me tremendously in my personal and professional life,” he says, and we just have to take his word for it. Wherever his journeys may take him, though, we suspect that he never leaves home without it: HSMAIGAZETTE
The Tough Get Going You know how it goes: When the going gets tough, the tough get going, which very much applies to the airline industry these days— and indeed to some of its champions.
TXT: JARLE PETTERSON PIX: SAS GROUP/ANDERS BERGERSEN, BJØRGLI & BERGERSEN
r. Robin Kamark, a highly valued and long-time HSMAI member, took up his duties as Chief Commercial Officer in SAS (Scandinavian Airlines System) this winter, after an eleven-year service in numerous leading positions— lately in Sales & Marketing. It should come as no surprise that it’s been a bumpy start, considering the rough patch the industry is currently going through, after the credit crunch, years of cut-backs and, but not least, the recent volcanic incident in Iceland, practically grounding European aviation for weeks. In spite of it all, Mr. Kamark holds an optimistic view of the industry’s general future–and, of course, that of the SAS in particular. “You might say that it’s been a baptism of fire,” he admits. “We’ve been through some demanding times, requiring a great deal of creativity on everyone’s behalf. The volcanic eruption came amid implementation of new strategies, structural changes and productivity-improving measures, very time-consuming and demanding in itself, both for the individual and for the organisation as such,” Mr. Kamark, who by the way has prior experience in the commercial end of operations, says. People make the difference Challenges or not, with eleven years in one airline, you should think that, after all, he HSMAIGAZETTE
enjoys the busy existence—and rightfully so: “In a company like SAS you’re offered an opportunity to hold a great number of positions, but if you want to go places, career-wise, you really need to go places, in the sense that it requires a great deal of flexibility—and willingness to move around. If you’re prepared to embrace that, there’s a whole world of international opportunities in store, provided you also possess the qualities needed to get the job done.” “Having said that,” he adds, “Yes! I truly love it here. It’s a melting-pot of different nationalities, bursting with highly competent people in a wide range of professions. You might say that the people factor has played a vital role in my reasons to stay, coupled with the ever-interesting challenges. Despite recent years’ turmoil, or rather because of the turmoil, we’ve been given a chance to determine what we’re made of, as a corporate organism. The answer has been more than amply convincing. There’s much truth to the old saying, you know, that hardship makes the man, and indeed the woman, and I have to say that our hardships have enriched us, made us even stronger. All thanks to the people that make up the sum total of the company.”
Tough conditions The CCO has been moving around a lot himself, and is currently based in the Stockholm HQ, responsible for commercial functions previously organised in national units. Faced with grave financial challenges some deem the future of the aviation industry highly uncertain. So what is it that renders airlines particularly vulnerable to shifts in the global economy? According to Kamark the recent credit crunch led to plummeting demands. “The plunging demand took effect globally, hitting an already battered industry hard. With a new fleet in the pipeline, and investments already made, you’re not free to adapt instantly, as may be the case in other lines of business. Even so, when cut-backs are of the essence, one way or the other, they need to be addressed. In this industry flying is survival, meaning that cost-reductions will have to be made elsewhere. Time elapsed from a critical incident occurs until countering measures are made is very short in the airline industry, whereas other lines of business have the luxury of conducting thorough assessments,” Mr. Kamark points out, but hesitates to blame it all on the credit crunch. “There are other elements, too, with a huge impact on airline conditions, such as unforeseeable tax increase and the unstable oil market. Under such circumstances the short-term answer may be preventing netexpense flights by detaining parts of the fleet. Also, I am sure no-one has failed to notice the stiffened competition over the last decade, with extremely low entry-barriers, leading to an economic abomination: Maintained—or increased, even—supply in times of drastically reduced demand. Now there’s a challenge, if ever I saw one.”
The big turnaround Over the last couple of years speculations have flourished over a possible SAS merger, but SAS remains SAS. Robin Kamark is reluctant to predict the company’s immediate future, claiming his guess as good as anyone’s. “The airline consolidation has been building up during these three last years,” he says, “Take KLM and Air France, for instance, or, just recently, British Airways and Iberia. We see the same thing happening in America, and there’s a lot more to come. Whether SAS will be involved in such proceedings or not, very much depends on how well the ongoing changes are carried out. If successfully so, SAS may well turn out to be the stronger party in a constellation. Then, of course, there are the restrictions in ownership, not least in the United States. Either way, processes like that are bound to take time.” In times of financial unrest it must be tempting to turn to alternative sources of income, compensating for operative losses, but Robin Kamark doesn’t believe in an overly diversified business model, or, as he puts it: “In our line of business we’re dealing with a chain of functions that are tightly interlocked, which need to work in order to provide an end-product to the passengers, including regularity and reliability, both crucial factors for all commercial airlines. Bearing that in mind, I am extremely pleased to establish that we have been chosen Europe’s most punctual airline two years in a row, which is an excellent starting point for further development.”
Flexibility is crucial We’re anxious to learn what it takes to make it in Kamark’s line of work, and he’s only too happy to comply. “It can be very demanding. First of all it requires a good portion of flexibility and mobility. By that I mean a willingness to work abroad, if so required,
and to rise to the occasion when it presents itself. I would be lying if I claimed that luck had nothing at all to do with it, since, in part, it is also a matter of being in the right place at the right time, but you won’t come far without a foundation of qualifications, an ability to deal with people and make decisions—and stick to them.” “HSMAI plays a key role in connecting its members across borders, I think, in building networks and introducing people of mutual interest and benefit, merging people who otherwise never would have met. The organisation serves a much needed purpose in passing on competence between railway and aviation, hotels and cruise lines, distribHSMAIGAZETTE
SAS in brief "I truly love it here. It’s a melting-pot of different nationalities, bursting with highly competent people," says Robin Kamark, CCO of SAS.
nSAS is the only Northern European airline to offer personal screens in all classes on longhaul flights nSAS’s long-haul offers wider seats and more legroom nOne of few airlines internationally to offer a premium economy class: Economy Extra nSAS Business features a popular buffet bar and espresso machine; spacious restrooms with windows and a handle bar to stretch your back nFree wireless broadband and IP telephony in all SAS lounges nSAS is one of the world’s mostpunctual airlines nSAS first to introduce biometric check-in
While seeing networking as HSMAI’s chief purpose, Robin Kamark also recognises the need to professionalise the travel and hospitality industry, speaking warmly of education and follow-up studies. “Our HSMAI a strong brand counterparts have excelled in skills and “With that in mind I am very happy to see competence, too, demanding a higher level HSMAI now setting out to conquer Europe. of formal qualifications at our side of the The HSMAI brand is very strong, table.” especially in the As for his own workplace, Robin Kamark foretells a highly profitable SAS, with a strong brand—and hard times as a utors and the IT companies. But I also hope that HSMAI never turns into a forum for recruitment between businesses, as is often the case in similar organisations.”
U.S., of course, but also in Norway. In SAS we are extremely pleased to see a Swedish chapter emerge. With patience and determination, quality in content and taking it step by step, I am confident that the expansion into new markets will be a successful one.”
nSAS offers time-efficient travel solutions such as online/mobile check-in and mobile boarding pass nFast Track security for Economy Extra and Business customers, as well as EuroBonus Gold nSAS aims to be the world’s most environmentally-conscious airline nSAS has introduced more ”firsts” in history than any other airline
distant memory, working with clients through global alliances. After all, when the going gets tough, clearly, the tough indeed get going.
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