February 20, 2024

How to travel like a CHIEF: Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum

Blog-photo-20151008By Sean Russell From Sojern

Like most of us, any time I get to go to the Caribbean I am happy—a cold towel and rum punch waiting for me upon arrival, white sandy beaches, crystal clear oceans, reading a good book in a hammock, delicious food, unparalleled service, the nicest people you will ever meet and an escape from the realities back home.

For me there’s also another layer to it all: family. My parents work in the Caribbean Tourism industry and I started my hotel career working for hotels in the Caribbean. The success of the region kept a roof over my head growing up, so for me it’s personal.

CHIEFThis past weekend I returned to this magical region for the first ever Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF), a forum developed to allow for the exchanging of best tourism practices from industry experts. It was great to see an event where hoteliers, hotel associations and tourism boards could not only network, but also leave with actual, actionable insight that they could implement upon returning home.

CHIEF included general sessions, breakout sessions and intimate round tables all centered around three categories: Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Sustainability. The event took place at the El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Fajardo, an old fishing town about 45 minutes from San Juan and the gateway to Culebra and Vieques, home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

The two sessions that generated the most interest were focused on meta-search and utilizing traveler data, enabling hotels Sojern-@-CHIEFin both cases to reach potential guests directly. Needless to say, hotels are putting extra emphasis these days on anything that allows them to skip a third party intermediary between themselves and the guest. Hoteliers were especially intrigued by the process of audience targeting – how it works, the fundamentals of programmatic buying of media, and how audience optimization varies by campaign objective. In most cases, this was the first exposure that hotels had to the behind-the-scenes mechanics, and there was much interest in learning more.

Parag Vohra, General Manager of Hotels at Sojern represented us at a breakout session titled Unleash the potential power of your customer data: Make data-driven marketing decisions. The breakout was focused on how to make strategic data-driven decisions that would expand reach, enhance awareness, drive traffic, and ultimately increase ROI.

unnamed-1-1Parag argued that it wasn’t “Big Data” that should be the focus of the region, but rather “Small Data” or the data actually pertinent to driving conversions to the properties and islands—a 1:1 data conversation with travelers.

One of the things I heard repeatedly from hoteliers was that they receive hundreds of emails a day from companies trying to sell them something to help their hotel, it’s overwhelming and they can rarely afford it. Small, boutique, and independent hotels can literally feel “on an island” when it comes to utilizing data and reaching their converting guests.

At Sojern we really understand the realities of the day-to-day when it comes to being an independent property and that’s why we created the pay for performance product RevDirect which allows these independent properties to get in the game with no upfront costs.

If you’d like to learn more about our product – or just say hi! – shoot me a note. And until next year, travel like a CHIEF!

From left: Sean Russell with Brian Payea, head of industry relations at TripAdvisor, and Sojern’s Parag Vohra and Peter Shin
Sean Russell, his step-mom and fiancée were all reunited at CHIEF
Zino Beach, Culebra

Sean Russell is Sojern’s Regional Sales Director of Hotels. As a professional actor and singer for over 20 years, Sean performed all over the world, including on Broadway. He “retired” in 2007 to work for Couples Resorts in Jamaica. Prior to joining Sojern, Sean was a Key Accounts Manager at TripAdvisor where he helped thousands of hotels drive direct bookings.

For more on this story go to: http://www.sojern.com/blog/how-to-travel-like-a-chief-caribbean-hospitality-industry-exchange-forum/

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