Thirty Under 30 class taking care of business in 2017

The beginning of a new year is the perfect time for setting goals and determining the best way to achieve those objectives. Members of HOTEL MANAGEMENT’s newest Thirty Under 30 class shared with us what their priorities are in 2017 and how they plan on hitting those targets.

Positive Experiences

Meredith Odom, assistant general manager, Wyndham Virginia Beach (Va.) Oceanfront: My hospitality resolution for 2017 is to make someone’s day, every day. A full-service hotel is a busy place. It’s easy to get wrapped up in what needs to be done, rather than what can be done. For travelers, a small thoughtful gesture can truly go a long way. Maybe you overheard the Smiths talking to their kids about the aquarium during check-in: prepare a hand-written note with directions and a discount card inside and have it delivered to their room once they get settled in.

That is what hospitality is all about, and that is the kind of positive experience that I want to provide to my guests every single day of the year, even if it’s only for one person. It’s one person that won’t forget what you did for them long after they’ve checked out.

Suburban Development

Jacob Lebowitz, director of design & construction, DelMonte Hotel Group: The urbanization of the suburbs through the development of mixed-use lifestyle centers is an attractive trend for hotel developers and brands alike. These projects demand a hotel product that is relevant to a specific demographic and uniquely positioned to take advantage of a variety of offerings from the community.

Virtual Event

HOTEL OPTIMIZATION PART 2 | Now Available On-Demand

Survival in these times is highly dependent on a hotel's ability to quickly adapt and pivot their business to meet the current needs of travelers and the surrounding community. Join us for Optimization Part 2 – a FREE virtual event – as we bring together top players in the industry to discuss alternative uses when occupancy is down, ways to boost F&B revenue, how to help your staff adjust to new challenges and more, in a series of panels focused on how you can regain profitability during this crisis.


My 2017 hospitality resolution is to integrate an existing urban-focused lifestyle brand into a suburban development. Brands such as AC Hotels, Aloft, Canopy and Moxy already fit seamlessly into many urban centers but could naturally adapt to a suburban development that can match their progressive values and stylish aesthetics.

Luxurious convenience

Pavel Sandoval, guest experience manager-leadership, Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort & Spa, Orlando: My resolution is to frame my decision-making around the guest experience more through the lens of a destination-based experience. Especially in a market where supply in the luxury sector is growing, differentiation solely on amenities is no longer the end all be all.

This past year I’ve seen the continued surge of alternative home-sharing options and the push to be closer to the community and experiences that make a trip memorable. Convenience to the experiences that matter in a luxurious setting is my focus, underscoring not only the vast array of experiential offerings already available, but the ease at which they can seamlessly come together.

Better Business Intelligence

Andrew Buwalda, financial controller, Deerhurst Resort, Huntsville, Ontario: I plan to work hard to improve the tools we use to drive our business and make strategic decisions by leveraging new technologies and eliminating cumbersome legacy processes. My hope is that the deployment of better business intelligence tools will allow leaders at all levels of our organization to work smarter versus harder and to focus more time and energy on delivering enhanced guest experiences.

Expanding the Conversation

Davonne Reaves, asset management associate, CHMWarnick: 2017 resolution: Elevate the discussion of industry health to include revenue and expense growth. As an industry, we continue to focus on [revenue per available room] as a leading the barometer of performance. As an asset manager, a discussion of revenue absent expenses tells you nothing about the health of the industry nor the profit potential of a given hotel. I plan to accomplish this by continued collaboration with our asset management and property teams and highlighting the balance between revenue growth and the need to implement changes to the operating model today, to optimize performance in the new year.  

Technology Upgrade

Angela Wu, director of revenue management, W New York – Downtown: My 2017 hospitality resolution is to learn to use Tableau and also to learn Python, a programming language often used for data analysis. Having the ability to leverage big data and using data-visualization tools to deliver business insights are two key skills that will make me a more valuable contributor to the hospitality industry and will better my practice of revenue management.

Giving Back

Justin Grimes, director of operations, Kennebunkport Resort Collection: My hospitality resolution is to find thoughtful and effective ways for our hotel company to give back to our community. It is just as important to be an industry leader as it is to be a community leader. We’re in the business of delivering extraordinary experiences to our guests—so we should take this same approach with those who are in need.

Hospitality brings people together and I believe that service is something that we all possess intrinsically. We can provide meals to those who are hungry, vacation-like experiences to those in despair and a helping hand to those dealing with life’s burdens. I plan to connect with local organizations whose goals are aligned with ours and find ways that we can use our collective manpower to make a difference. HM

Capitalizing on rapid growth on Dream Hotels’ agenda

Giving guests what they want is a priority for Dream Hotels, according to Rachel Feit, the company's director of digital marketing.

“My hospitality marketing resolutions are to identify new ways to introduce the growing Dream Hotels brand to prospective guests around the world and build our suite of guest-experience-management tools,” she said. “Dream Hotels is rapidly growing—both domestically and internationally. Therefore, in 2017, audience development and acquisition will be at the forefront of our marketing strategy. Through new distribution channels, digital platforms, off-site activations and original content, we will reach new people in new markets and cultivate strong relationships—which then helps create brand loyalty, the bread and butter of our business.”

Exceeding guests’ expectations is another item on the company’s to-do list in 2017.

“At Dream Hotels, we will continue to stay nimble, adapt and listen to our guests,” Feit said. “As a lifestyle brand, we know that our guests want more than a comfortable mattress, and that’s exactly what we’re going to give them in 2017.” 

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