Recruiting for Hotel Revenue Roles Escalates to ‘Salary and Wage War’

Hotel News Now – As demand for the hotel industry ramped up, so has demand for revenue experts to sort through the data of that demand and maximize rates and profitability.

But leaders in the revenue-strategy discipline say labor in that field — like many others — has been in short supply and has required employers to move quickly to secure the few potential employees out on the market.

Speaking to Hotel News Now during an exclusive joint interview of revenue experts at the 2021 HSMAI Revenue Optimization Conference, executives said there’s an intense competition for revenue talent.

“I think a lot of us are going back through the Rolodex of every person you’ve ever worked with in your life to try to appeal to the personal side and say ‘Oh my gosh, do you want to come back? Do you want to be part of the team again?'” said Kerry Mack, vice president of revenue and distribution for Highgate Hotels. “But especially in the major markets as we start to come out of [the downturn], it’s an aggressive salary and wage war.”

Mack said remote work has become a huge sticking point in recruiting revenue managers and strategists and has drawn many out of the hotel industry completely.

“There’s too many people that are allowing [work from home], and that’s a huge perk,” she said.

Lori Kiel, chief revenue and marketing officer for the Kessler Collection, said hotel companies are often caught in the middle of having ownership that don’t believe in letting employees work remotely and potential employees who insist on it. She said there needs to be more flexibility from the ownership side to be more competitive.

“It’s almost a no-brainer when it comes to revenue,” she said. “You can do it from anywhere.”

Erica Lipscomb, senior vice president of commercial strategy for Crescent Hotels & Resorts, said the change requires getting property-level teams on board.

“The hard part is going to all the general managers and owners and explaining to them the way and that we have gatekeepers in place,” she said. “Companies have done this for many, many years. It will be OK. We’ve had some wins, but unfortunately, it’s a slower process.”

Chris Cheney, vice president of hotel performance and analytics for Stonebridge Companies, said potential employees increasingly are insisting on having control of that “anywhere.”

“We’ve had great candidates in our backyard that live seven miles from our office and are interested in a change, that don’t want to come in that seven miles to the office,” he said.

Heidi Cosio, vice president of revenue management for Aimbridge Hospitality, said her company hasn’t yet had major problems with hiring or retaining employees in the revenue field, but she’s worried that is likely to change over time as similar companies target their employees.

“In that scenario, management companies and brands furloughed, and now they’re bringing people back, but the people they wanted to have aren’t coming back,” she said. “So now we’re being poached at [$10,000 to] $30,000 more, and those are salaries we can’t match, right now.”

Linda Gulrajani, vice president of revenue strategy and distribution for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, said it’s hard to combat those efforts.

“The people who are getting poached are getting poached for better jobs or better titles,” she said. “So they’re moving into regional roles, or I had one who got a [vice president] title.”

Mack said it’s not just other hotel companies looking to poach those employees.

“It’s technology companies. It’s travel-adjacent companies,” she said. “It’s other management companies. It’s one-off hotels.”

She said this labor crunch is exacerbated by the field being highly specialized, and that’s pushed hiring managers to look for people with similar skill sets in other fields of work.

Lipscomb said her company has started looking internally for people who might be able to grow into revenue-management roles. Kiel said she’s looking more and more at potential employees without hotel-related experience.

“I really had to expand, and it’s been rewarding as heck because they’re coming in with a completely new energy and new spirit,” Kiel said.

She compared hiring right now to buying a house, adding “you have to be very quick with that offer letter.”

“That’s the worst part of it,” Kiel said. “I’ve had to do so many interviews because I’ll find the one then when I send them on to the hotel I’ll say, ‘OK, I’ve got you someone and you need to quickly get them in.’ Nope. They already got another offer.”