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At the HSMAI Hotel Commercial Strategy Conference in Charlotte, Lori Kiel, Chief Commercial Officer of The Boca Raton and Chair of the HSMAI Foundation, delivered an engaging opening presentation. Her session was a masterclass in commercial strategy, blending historical context with modern practices and future trends. Captivating the audience, she set the tone for a day filled with insightful discussions and innovative ideas. Kiel’s extensive experience and deep industry knowledge were evident as she navigated through the intricacies of commercial strategy, making complex concepts accessible to all attendees. By relating historical developments to contemporary practices, she provided a rich backdrop that highlighted the evolution and future direction of commercial strategy.


Starting with an analogy, Kiel compared commercial strategy to the rooms division in a hotel. Just as the front desk, housekeeping, and engineering work together to deliver an exceptional guest experience, commercial strategy unites sales, marketing, revenue management, and distribution. This integration is crucial for driving profitability, and she emphasized the need for commercial leaders to understand the interconnectedness of these departments. Like a rooms division leader ensuring harmony among departments, a commercial strategy leader must ensure seamless collaboration among various teams. Her analogy resonated deeply with the audience, making the abstract concept of commercial strategy tangible and relatable. By underscoring the need for a holistic approach, she highlighted that success in commercial strategy requires understanding how different functions interconnect and influence each other.

The Evolution of Revenue Management
Kiel took the audience on a journey through the history of revenue management, starting from the 1990s when rates were manually updated on brochure racks. This era relied heavily on manual processes and limited technological support. The turn of the millennium introduced basic revenue management systems and the rise of online distribution channels, marking the beginning of a more data-driven approach. By 2010, advanced analytics and strategic roles for revenue managers became the norm, culminating in the integration of AI and machine learning by 2020. These technologies revolutionized the industry, providing unprecedented insights and automation capabilities. However, the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the enduring value of human expertise in navigating unprecedented challenges, showcasing the limitations of AI in the face of unpredictable global events.

Sales: From Cold Calls to Data-Driven Strategies
Kiel’s exploration of the sales landscape highlighted the shift from traditional cold calling and trade shows in the 1990s to today’s sophisticated, data-driven strategies. She described how salespeople once relied heavily on face-to-face interactions and personal connections to close deals. The advent of CRM systems and online booking platforms revolutionized sales, enabling personalization and optimizing pricing strategies. These tools allowed sales teams to track and analyze customer interactions more effectively, leading to more tailored and efficient sales processes. By 2020, virtual sales interactions had become commonplace, reflecting the industry’s adaptability and the growing importance of sustainability in sales practices. Virtual interactions reduced travel costs and carbon footprints and opened up new possibilities for remote engagement and global outreach. This shift towards digital and virtual sales techniques underscored the industry’s resilience and ability to innovate in response to changing circumstances.

Marketing: A Constantly Evolving Discipline
Marketing, perhaps the most dynamic component of commercial strategy, has undergone significant transformations. From the emergence of brand differentiation and loyalty programs in the 1990s to the digital revolution of the 2000s, marketing has continually adapted to new technologies and consumer behaviors. Kiel recounted how early marketing was dominated by print ads and direct mail campaigns, which were gradually replaced by online advertising and digital content. Today, marketing is highly analytical, incorporating influencer strategies, community involvement, and a strong emphasis on sustainability. Leveraging data to understand customer preferences and tailor marketing efforts accordingly has become crucial. Advanced analytics tools have enabled marketers to track campaign performance in real-time and make data-driven decisions. The rise of social media and content marketing has further transformed the landscape, making it imperative for marketers to stay agile and continuously innovate.

The Rise of the Commercial Team
Modern commercial strategy is all about breaking down silos and fostering collaboration. The goal is to create a seamless operation where sales, marketing, and revenue management work together like lanes on a highway, each respecting and understanding the expertise of the others. This collaborative approach is essential for driving profitability and achieving strategic goals. Operating in silos often leads to inefficiencies and missed opportunities, whereas a unified approach ensures that all efforts are aligned toward common objectives. Successful commercial teams harness the power of collaboration to achieve remarkable results. By fostering a culture of mutual respect and open communication, these teams leverage their collective strengths and drive significant business growth.

Expertise and Upskilling
Continuous learning and upskilling are crucial in today’s fast-paced industry. Staying relevant in one’s area of expertise while gaining knowledge in other disciplines optimizes strategies and informs decisions. Kiel highlighted the rapid pace of change in the industry, noting that staying current with trends and technologies is essential for maintaining a competitive edge. Leveraging industry resources, such as newsletters and professional development programs, helps stay informed and enhance skill sets. Cross-functional learning opportunities allow commercial leaders to understand the perspectives and challenges of other departments, leading to more effective collaboration and innovation.

To conclude her presentation, Kiel shared insights from Raul Maranta, Chief Commercial Officer of Remington, on the importance of fostering a culture of training and development. Maranta highlighted the need for continuous improvement through testing, failing, and learning, as well as the value of participating in industry conferences to stay abreast of new technologies and best practices. Kiel echoed these sentiments, emphasizing that a commitment to lifelong learning is a cornerstone of successful commercial leadership. Embracing a growth mindset, where experimentation and adaptation are vital components of the learning process, empowers teams to achieve higher levels of performance and innovation.

Lori Kiel’s presentation was a powerful reminder of the evolving nature of commercial strategy in the hotel industry. Her insights and analogies provided a clear roadmap for commercial leaders to navigate the complexities of their roles and drive their organizations toward sustained success. Her engaging storytelling and practical advice left a lasting impression on attendees, inspiring them to take actionable steps in their professional journeys. As Kiel aptly put it, “Get uncomfortable, go to a breakout for a subject you know nothing about, and seek ways to optimize your reach.”

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