Hotel Moment episode #53: "Focusing on inspirational women in hospitality"
Hotel Moment episode #53: "Focusing on inspirational women in hospitality"
The Hotel Moment podcast — episode 53

Focusing on inspirational women in hospitality

In this week’s episode of the Hotel Moment podcast, we’re highlighting the women making a difference in the hospitality industry. Learn about the women our past guests have highlighted as particularly impactful and hear their inspiring stories.

Listen in to hear how women are leading the charge in the workplace and initiating success for hoteliers around the world.

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Headshot of Karen Stephens

Meet your host

As Chief Marketing Officer at Revinate, Karen Stephens is focused on driving long-term growth by building Revinate’s brand equity, product marketing, and customer acquisition strategies. Her deep connections with hospitality industry leaders play a key role in crafting strategic partnerships. Karen is also the host of The Hotel Moment Podcast, where she interviews top players in the hospitality industry. Karen has been with Revinate for over 11 years, leading Revinate’s global GTM teams. Her most recent transition was from Chief Revenue Officer, where she led the team in their highest booking quarter to date in Q4 2023. Karen has more than 25 years of expertise in global hospitality technology and online distribution — including managing global accounts in travel and hospitality organizations such as Travelocity and

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Karen Stephens: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Hotel Moment podcast. My name is Karen Stephens, and I am the Chief Revenue Officer of Revinate. This week on the podcast, we’re replaying some of our favorite answers to one of my favorite questions, which is, “who are the women at work you are most inspired by?” Enjoy.

Who are the women at work or in the industry that you have been most inspired by?

Noreen Henry: Ooh, there are many women that have inspired me. But I’ll tell you. Um, so probably one of the most influential was Michelle Peluso. So Michelle was the CEO at Travelocity. Young, vibrant, energetic, brilliant, smart, relatable. Like she’s the first one that just like really walked the halls and sat down and wanted to understand your perspective on things.

And she just connected with employees like I’ve never seen before. And so I always hold her in high esteem and try and go, “Oh, what would Michelle do?” And try to channel Michelle whenever I’m trying to make tough decisions.

Karen Stephens: So who are the women at work that you have been most inspired by? So you already mentioned Lucy.

Peter Ricci: Yeah, Lucy inspired me in a very simple way. I was 14 years old, you know, I didn’t drive yet. My dad would come to pick me up, from my 3 shifts a week as a dishwasher. And there wasn’t one time that Lucy would not offer him something to eat a drink at the bar. He didn’t drink. So he would just patiently wait for me.

But warm nature. Just set a tone in me so early on. And, um, when she promoted me from dishwasher to busboy, it was only about 2 months in, but it was the most beautiful promotion. She pulled me aside. She told me how I loved to work with people. I never forgot that lady.

And there have been many, many female role models I’ve had, Estella Boni, may she rest in peace, at the Convention and Visitors Bureau. A lady named Joe Cling that I still happen to talk to today that I worked with when I was 22 or 23, who ran a cruise meetings company. And my current boss is amazing. She just stepped down as department chair, but you know, all of my best bosses have been women.

So I proudly say that all the time. A home too — my mom.

Karen Stephens: That’s great.

Peter Ricci: The best bosses have always been women, boss are not.

Karen Stephens: Are there any women at work that you’ve been very inspired by? So we always like to call out some females in the industry. Can you think of anybody, um, in your time that really struck you?

Fabricio Titiro: This one is, is not gonna be a problem, at all. Actually my wife. And, this might sound biased, right? But, but actually my wife and myself, we had, pretty much joined, almost, I, I would guess, our entire career in hospitality tech and she also works today for, for Oracle, in a different role.

She has the same professional experience. You could say we have the same seniority level if you want the same, more or less the same roles, but in different areas. And I’m very proud that she managed to do all this. Also all what it brings to be a mother, a full-time mother.

Fabricio Titiro: And, and, so definitely, definitely I’m picking up her.

Karen Stephens: All right. And what’s your wife’s name?

Fabricio Titiro: It’s Layla.

Karen Stephens: Layla. There you go. We’re gonna give Layla a shout out.

Who are the women at work you’ve been most inspired by?

Johnathan Capps: Um, we might need a minute on this one cause I have a few, you know, it starts in the home front. So obviously my wife, and what she does every day. I gotta give a credit to that, but she’s been in the business too. She actually switched from a, a catering position in weddings to HR, a great transition there was meant for her, but also my mother, you know, that job I mentioned when I started, my mother’s been in the business my whole life, in hotels and in hotel management, so I kind of took from her and saw hospitality through her, you know? And what I’ll remember about that is like, the times I’d go to like work with her or I’d stop by, she always reminds me, and she was always that person that, and this is where we say that some technology could push us out of this frame, but she was always like to grab the coffee pot in the morning to go refill a guest coffee and talk to a guest, right? Like, and I still, she’s still in the business to this day. I still see that when I see her, you know, when I go back to her hotel and bring my kids there. And like her interaction with guests is just none other and obviously the root of the, the business that we’re in. So I think I learned a lot of that people side, the business, and I even sell to my team.

I mean, people see revenue, people as, you know, spreadsheet, people, et cetera. But, there’s an internal relationship building to this job that’s, that’s none other, and I think, you know, 50% of the job for some of my team between communication to general managers and sales team. So, I think she imparted a lot on that, of that on me, but also just her hard work and, and grind towards what is a tough business.

And then I just can’t leave without saying, I, you know, there’s this, there’s a group of strong females on my own team. five of my nine revenue team members. I mean, they’re great. I love working with them every day. And we just got back from Denver in July for a company, general manager summit, and I got spent a lot of time. Our 2021 GMO of the year was a female who runs our property up in Hamilton, New York, the Colgate Inn. She’s done a amazing job there of, of transitioning an older inn to, to really being the spotlight of that town. So I I’d say, you know, the answer is I’m, I’m surrounded by amazing females from my personal life growing up to, to even now.

I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s, it’s really great.

Karen Stephens: That’s great. So let’s give that GM a shout out GM of the year. So what’s her name and what’s her property?

Johnathan Capps: Kendra Young. Yeah, Kendra young. She’s at the Colgate in Hamilton, New York, and actually transitioning to where we’re gonna have two properties in that same area, run by her. Cause there’ll be another one in the town as well.

Karen Stephens: Very cool. Well, congratulations. That is awesome.

Who are the women at work you’ve been most inspired?

Paul Hitselberger: You know, it’s funny. My, my first general manager, uh, was a woman. Back in again, this is probably in 84, 85, I guess, after I left Atlantic City. I haven’t spoken to her in a long time. Her name was Peggy Barton. There was a woman who I partnered with, a woman named Anne Williams. You know, I’ve worked for, Betty Procaccianti of the Procaccianti Group.

Just, I’ve had all sorts of women that I’ve worked with. I mean, I currently at First Hospitality, my SVP of, of commercial strategies is a woman named Jenna Fishel. So just, it’s constantly been opportunities. I think that’s the one of the beauties about our industry. Some of the cultural diversity that, uh, we have and, and I’ve always seen, at all levels.

Karen Stephens: Who are the women at work you’ve been most inspired by? So you talked about a woman just a moment ago, but is there anyone else you can think of, uh, in your career that has been very inspirational for you?

Rob Mangiarelli: I’d say there’s two that jump immediately to mind. One of them, worked for me, for 15 years, uh, Gina Tallarico. She’s the Vice President of Asset Management now at Hyatt. But when I hired her the first time, she was my number two running finance for North America. And what I loved about her was the way she balanced her strengths and my weakness off, you know, her precision for being a great accountant, her ability to maintain relationships, her understanding of everything that was going on, was a great counter to, what I was good at. And I think surrounding yourselves with somebody who, who can really play to your weaknesses was great. And, you know, we’re still good friends, today.

And having her around was fantastic. And I think second was Joan Bottarini. Joan’s the CFO at Hyatt. And she started in the company the same time I did. And so our careers kind of grew together. And just watching her, maybe six years ago, seven years ago, she left her job in the Americas to go take a job in Asia. And in a male dominated industry, in a male dominated company at the time, and then in a male dominated atmosphere like we have in Hong Kong. For her to be able to put herself out there and then that set her up to come back and be the CFO at Hyatt. And you know, it was a great inspiration for me really, as I thought about leaving Hyatt of, you know, here’s somebody who took a chance. Who took a chance and put themselves out there to, uh, try a new experience. And I, I thought it was fantastic. And, she’s just a fantastic person as well, so, that makes it even better.

Karen Stephens: Who are the women at work that you have been inspired by? Has anybody come to mind?

Matthijs Welle: Yeah, so when I worked at Hilton, there was a lady who, who became my boss. I, I, was a very young sales director at, at a very large hotel, the largest hotel in the region. And this regional sales director, I remember her coming in for a review and, and it was this 2008 when all of the markets had crashed last time round.

I still remember that, that day when I was in that room and I was being grilled and I had no answers because I’d just been promoted into that role. And it just, I was like, I will never be in a room where, where I’m not prepared. And I love my relationship with her after that because she did see that I wanted to learn and she really helped me and drove my career further.

And she supported me throughout my next promotions after that. I like people that challenged me constantly is, who ask questions that I don’t have answers to, because I don’t wanna be in that room. So it makes me prepare work harder to make sure that I have all the answers beforehand.

Karen Stephens: Who are the women at work you have been most inspired?

Zachary Schwartz: My first two bosses. And it really had nothing, nothing to do with gender, but more about their, you know, dedication, uh, and talent for the job.

Um, one was an amazing strategist and sat on the executive committee of the company that I was working for, and recall that, uh, at an early, at an early age, again, in my, in my twenties, um, they, she brought me to, uh, every board meeting. Uh, as a kid, straight outta out of college, I thought that was really cool to have that faith in, in me. Uh, and I’ll never forget it. And the other was a leading marketeer. Um, and you know, I’ve spent my career modeling, um, you know, the things that they did both in strategy and, and marketing. Um, so I have a lot of respect, uh, for both of my first two bosses who were female.

Karen Stephens: Both women and thanks for saying, didn’t really, their skillset had nothing to do with them being women. But it’s wonderful that, you know, they were inspirational as leaders. That’s right.

Who are the women at work you’ve been inspired by? So do any women come to mind, um, that you’ve worked with over the past few years? Either, you know, directly or collaboratively?

Philip Bates: Yes, yes. Um, 3 come to mind. We have an advisor named Glen Appel, who’s, who’s just wonderful, um, woman in the industry who, um, really ties together a lot of skillsets that I think are hard to find in anyone. Um, she understands design and service. She understands finance and kind of development. So she’s an advisor to our company and, um, she inspires me often.

But I think the one who probably wins the most is our general manager, Cristina, um, our Drift Mexico property.

I actually met her, um, when we were having trouble during construction. I wasn’t happy with our, uh, construction project manager, so I fired him. And then someone introduced me to her and she’s this like petite, very well dressed woman and, and, and the construction world in Mexico, and there’s a lot of machismo and all that kind of stuff, and she shows up to the site in like Prada sandal or Prada, like slippers, and like whipped those guys into shape.

Karen Stephens: Nice.

Philip Bates: So much so that I was like, “hey, do you wanna be our general manager, uh, afterwards?” and she did. And she’s been with us for 2 years now. And, and she, uh, she’s awesome. She’s really tough.

Karen Stephens: Oh, that’s great. I love that story. Fantastic.

All right. We have one more for you. Who are the women at work you’ve been most inspired by?

Pete Sams: Oh my goodness. Um, well, I mean, we have some incredible, uh, talent in our organization. When I think just about my team, that I work with most directly. A couple of names popped in my head with that question. So one, um, Patricia Davis is my Senior Vice President of, of Marketing and Communications. Uh, she leads an incredible team, I would call our, our Marketing Department, our, our next vertical, if you will. Uh, we’ve basically under her leadership grown to an in-house agency. I mean, there’s nothing that Davidson can’t do for you in the area of marketing based on the team that she’s put together.

Pete Sams: One of the things I like about, Patricia as well is her, her background is in luxury and resorts, and the like. But she came up as a mevenue manager initially. And so what that’s helped bring to the table is, I’m a big believer that as our industry has evolved, the importance of your brand and your ability to market, to your end user and how we reach the customer, through your digital is so critical. It’s like the 3 legs of the stool, right? We’ve historically thought of group sales and we’ve thought of revenue management, right? Which has evolved. And, and the, and the, you know, pulling of the levers. And we have incredible talent in our organization in those arenas, but we’ve now grown to the level where every single one of our regions has a dedicated integrated marketing manager as part of that triumvirate, if you will.

And a lot of that is just the spirit and the, doggedness and passion Patricia brings to the table–about why marketing is so critical to our success. So she comes to mind. Um, I have an amazing talent. I’m kind of pointing cuz she’s.

Karen Stephens: She’s over there.

Pete Sams: She’s right over there. Uh, Rachel Higbee, She’s a, a Yale graduate, and she leads our strategic operations team. She’s also a participant on our steering committee, so it’s in addition to our C-suite, we have 2 additional steering team members that participate with us regularly in setting the direction for Davidson. That’s how highly Rachel is thought of, and she’s on our steering team. Our strategic operations department is, an area that many of our competitors don’t offer.

Think of it as business intelligence, right? So kind of looks at the finance side of, of the business, and benchmarking and how we elevate and identify opportunity. She leads our brand relationships with all the different brands that we operate for, which are vast. our forecasting and our budgeting process lives within that arena.

And for me, it’s a great pairing because my background, as I mentioned to you is in finance, prior to operations. And so this is like my, it’s my opportunity to create and, identify with, with her, uh, assistance, you know, new and innovative, innovative ways to evaluate the business and drive ourselves forward.

So she’s an amazing talent. Brilliant. And a great leader. Her team is tremendous and, and growing. So, those are 2 folks. I mean, I would also say on the steering team, um, Crystal Beasley was elevated by Tom when he took the reins as our new CEO. You know, John Belden stepped down, not stepped down, but stepped into his chairman role.

And Tom was elevated from, um, as president, to president and CEO. I think the very first move he made was to elevate Crystal. And Crystal is, um, first and foremost was our legal counsel, right? And a tremendous talent and puts out volume like you wouldn’t imagine. I mean, she is just a, uh, savant. She’s very, very smart. And the, the thing that Tom did was elevated her to the C-suite and made her the chief administrative officer, and she now has a direct hand in our human resources function. and so that was a way to elevate her responsibility, grow her role in the company. And it’s just a unique combination, right?

You don’t always have that type of creativity in terms of how we’ve deployed, but she is a foundational success for us, and a difference maker, and a great support to our owners.

Karen Stephens: Excellent.

That, that is, that’s a power trio. So we got Patricia, Rachel, and Crystal a shout out. Great job. Okay, great. So thank you very much.

Karen Stephens: And then the last question, who are the women at work you have been most inspired by?

Tobias Koehler: Very good question, and I really love that you’re, uh, trying to show female persons in, in our industry really make a difference. And for me, um, I didn’t have to think long about this, uh, is, Isabella Owen, which is or was my Director of Sales and Marketing during my time in at Jumeirah. And I learned so much, uh, from her in terms of marketing, branding, but also how to hustle. You know, when I thought, “I’m getting up so early today, nobody else is in the office. I’ll be the first one.”, she was already sitting there. And, since, yeah, Jumeirah was basically my first hotel job. I really had a lot of questions and I can imagine they were not always the smartest, and she always took the time to, um, explain me everything.

And, yeah, it really made a difference. And in the, in terms of thinking, in terms of, um, how to approach marketing and, I’ve been taking a lot of that from that experience. And yeah, there’s so many other women I’ve worked with, it’s, it’s hard to mention them all. I do want to mention also Anna Heuer. Um, she’s the CEO if you will, from, the HSMA association in Germany. She’s doing such a great job in bringing together the industry. She’s always super positive and, and a super smart brain. Um, yeah, I learned also a lot from her how to counter hard experiences or um, not-so-friendly people in a very positive way.

Karen Stephens: Yeah, diplomacy. That’s right, that’s right. Wow.

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