The International Network of Hospitality Consulting Professionals

9/11 & COVID 19: Hotels and Soul and Sales and Survival

Haydn Kramer

Today, someone asked me, “So, how does this compare to 9/11?”

“This,” I offered “is much worse.” Much worse.

Like most all of us, I had a conference cancelled this past week; my “Cayuga Hospitality Consultants Annual Conference”. I am lucky enough to work with this group of really “deep-knowledge-Hoteliers-seasoned sages-across-all-disciplines-group,” whom each successfully solve a world of problems for constituents in their beloved hospitality industry.

As a consultant with Cayuga, I along with many other of our other members will receive real, important work from this emerging tragedy. But this is not about good work to come, as no doubt pragmatic, real world solutions will emerge from this crisis, they always do. This piece is about what we have learned from our past experiences in recovery following significant disruption.

The comparison to 9/11 is an obvious one for the state we find ourselves in. When you imagine the scope of today’s reality with hotel occupancies hovering from 25% to 0%, at unimaginable rates–for many weeks ahead, this is a financially crushing event. It was bad for many, many months after September 11, 2001. Empty hotels, smoke on the Hudson still lingering in October, and a recognition that to terrorism; the United States of America was not immune.

Even after 9/11, some forms of commerce limped along. This is different. The engines of commerce and service are sheltering in place.

Regarding 9/11, I vividly recall the day I flew to Newark, New Jersey as a newly minted “V.P. of Sales and Marketing”, with the parting instructions from Cleveland {at the time} being, “Get out there and fix that.” So, I boarded a plane, experienced the fledgling incarnation of TSA, negotiated driving from Newark with sheets of Google Maps, to arrive under the porte cochere of the newly opened Marriott Renaissance Meadowlands.

Inside, I found a shell shocked sales team. As we gathered in the top floor Penthouse Suite, from which one could see a complete view of Manhattan, where that acrid smoke sill floated above the Hudson: We began to revive the “soul” of a sales effort that had no hope and lost faith. Leadership, sometimes, is just acknowledging, listening, and being quiet – but I remember saying, (amidst sales team members still weeping); “Listen, Sales, will save us, I promise you.”

With that, some elements of resuscitating that soul, that might apply today, included:

  • Clients and guests want facts, options, and empathy – not policy for cancellations.
  • Communication was difficult post 9/11, but preparing to contact corporate decision makers before you actually can is key. Specifically combing your database, (CRM, POS, Front Office, Revenue Management, Google Analytics, etc.), so you know who, exactly, to talk to first, can be critical.
  • Celebrating small wins, everyday, was inspiring and sustaining. “WE saved a group!” Ring a bell.
  • Focus on the problems specific to the sales effort, let operations worry about the other problems. Don’t let your sales team forget their mission.
  • Make real, in person, living sales calls, as soon as you possibly can on key corporate clients who are shaken, they won’t forget that.
  • Take a hard look at local demand, within 5 miles, 10 miles, and know your local market like nobody else does – so you know what the potential is if Revenue Management needs to accept more demand.
  • Align everything you do with everyone else. GM, Revenue Management, V.P. of Sales and Marketing, F&B, Front Office, Ops…When everyone feels like they are part of the solution, they know, they matter.
  • Adjust your budget to reflect a realistic re-calculation of the year. Goals are important. Impossible goals are not.
  • Look, I know it is a different time, but as leaders, we all need to go on “joint sales calls with our sales teams on key decision makers”, because it matters that the client knows who backs the sales teams commitments during a trying time. Show up.

Eventually, the world got better. The world will get better from Covid 19, but, it may be a much longer time. There are many new tools out there to engage clients; better web sites, targeted effective social media engagement, https://influencer-sales.com/, defined Buyer Personas, Discerning chat bot qualifiers, AI, Lead generation services, and on and on. Use them.

Survival : “the state or fact of continuing to live or exist, typically in spite of an accident, ordeal, or difficult circumstances.” The Renaissance Meadowlands survived and became one of the top performing Renaissance properties in the Marriott portfolio. Your property will come back too. I promise.


Haydn Kramer is expert in sales & marketing and sales management and member of Cayuga Hospitality Consultants. From “on the ground” direct sales with Residence Inn by Marriott to an Executive VP of Sales, Haydn has experienced a range of sales assignments across many brands and all lodging tiers. He was a pivotal member of Marriott’s “Sales 2000” task force that reinvented Marriott’s approach to “Sales” worldwide. Haydn was also entrusted with directing the first “Large Market Sales Team,” which cross-sold all Marriott’s brands for the first time. He is disciplined and forgets no details, but is known to have fun while helping teams achieve sales success. He is an expert in the sales call process, true sales persistence, and the new advent of Social Media as a critical part of any effective hotel sales platform. He has consulted for Marriott, Hyatt, Hilton and several boutique, independent luxury properties across the United States and in Europe.