The Hotel Sales and Marketing Association International, Inc.(HSMA) has proven itself to be the backbone and foundation of the Sales and Marketing arm in the Philippine hotel industry. With over 90 hotel and resort members nationwide, the HSMA plays an integral role in hotel and tourism trends and is an innovator in the travel industry.
We sat down with former President and current Chairperson Margie Munsayac, an industry veteran who is also the Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Bluewater Resorts. The veteran hotelier gives us an in depth look at HSMA as a major influencer and trailblazer in the industry, and shared words of wisdom that would be beneficial to other hoteliers.
Question: How long have you been in the hotel industry?
Margie: 39 years
Q: What position did you start with and how did you go up in the ranks?
Margie: Well actually when I entered the industry I started as the secretary of the Food and Beverage Manager of Montebello Villa and Hotel in Cebu. After 6 months I was promoted to Food and Beverage Supervisor and when I transferred to Manila, I was offered the position to manage the Manila office of Montebello. So from there I moved on from being a Manila Office Manager to Sales Manager and after 11 years I left them and joined the Bluewater Maribago as a Sales Manager then I grew to being the VP for Sales and Marketing of Resorts under the Bluewater brand.
Q: How did you do it?
Margie: One, you have to love your job. Two, you have to be very passionate about it and you don’t mind spending long hours and you are willing to learn.
Q: I understand that HSMA came to be in 1977. What was the reason for its conception?
Margie: Well actually the boom of the 5 star hotels in Manila came in 1976 when IMF had their convention here in Manila. The Philippine government needed to provide accommodations to the various international delegates and offered incentives to Philippine investors to invest in building 4 and 5 star hotels in time for the IMF event and thus we saw the rise of the various branded hotels such as the Peninsula, Westin, Mandarin, etc. Because it was a very trying time, there was a great price war. The tourism industry, especially the hotel accommodation sector, was very young. So there was a price war, people were not very professional, they were pitting one hotel against the other, clients were pitting them and so Directors of Sales and Marketing of these hotels would meet informally during lunch and discuss their problems. They decided to stop all of these price wars and agreed to meet every month to discuss their problems to agree on certain courses of action, professionalize their ranks. And so, HSMA was born in 1977.
Q: So when you say that HSMA would meet and discuss, they would also regulate pricing?
Margie: Yes. In 1977 it was easy to regulate prices because of Martial Law. Realistically however you cannot regulate rates because sales people will always try to get the accounts. So they thought of professionalizing their ranks and kept to the minimum any price dropping so that they would not kill the industry in Metro Manila. So by 1977 they decided to put up the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association and started inviting hotels and resorts outside Metro Manila. Membership was first offered to 4 and 5 star hotels and later expanded to include resorts in the provinces.
Q: Can you explain the mission and vision of HSMA?
Margie: When they first met, it was really to professionalize the ranks so that was initially one of the visions. As the years went on, we would represent and be the voice of the accommodation sector in trying to influence policies and laws that would affect our industry. So we keep a very close relationship with the Department of Tourism (DOT) so that HSMA would always be part of any major decisions. That is another one of our visions, that we would always be the voice of the sector.
The mission is really to educate and professionalize our ranks. Our mission is always to provide education to keep the membership abreast with the trends and make sure that ethics is being practiced as well among us.
Q: Do you have a say in the decision making of the Department of Tourism?
Margie: Not really a say. They would always refer to us. We would always be part of associations that the DOT would invite and we would discuss problems, discuss directions.
Q: Who are the other associations that DOT invites:
Margie: Well there’s PHILTOA (Philippine Tour Operations Association Inc., PTAA (Philippine Travel Agencies Association), all of the major ones that represent an industry in tourism and hospitality.
Q: If the members are practicing professionalism, how do you regulate non-members?
Margie: The association itself speaks for the industry because right now it has accepted 3, 4, 5 star hotels. We believe that the 3, 4, 5 star categories are the major players. With regards to the 1 and 2 star in terms of professionalism, everybody needs to be professional right now with the maturity of the industry. We believe that HSMA influenced most of the hotel practitioners to be more professional so that we could have a common front, a common stand when we have issues addressing especially when occupancies are not so good and when tourism is affected especially with security concerns and natural disasters so we thought that having that vision and mission would keep us all grounded with what we were supposed to do and not kill each other.
Q: Are there any other aspects on how HSMA contributes to the hotel and service industry aside from what you just mentioned?
Margie: We have decided to remain organic, we only accept membership that comes from other Sales and Marketing Departments of hotels and resorts. We have no allied members because our concerns are one. We don’t want to muddle it with concerns of allied members. Recently we have been facing problems on piracy. A lot of industries, like the cable and telecommunications companies, have been getting a lot of good employees from the tourist industry because, you know, we train people the right way. They are very passionate, competitive, and they make good employees. Three years ago HSMA came up with excellence awards so that the recipients would feel loved or appreciated by their owners, managers. They would think twice before leaving the industry.
Q: What prizes or acknowledgements are the recipients of these awards entitled to?
Margie: The objective of Virtus is to a knowledge excellence in your day to day job. Thus Virtus nominees are all WINNERS already. To be nominated is already a validation of their performance and is a bragging right of both the nominees and winner. The trophies and cash prizes are just added perks of the award. Recipients can also put this on their CVs but at the same time it makes managers a bit apprehensive because the awardees are up for piracy. However it also challenges the management to take care of their employees.
Q: What goals has HSMA achieved so far since 1977?
Margie: We believe that we were able to professionalize, we were able to level up the way people think of Sales and Marketing personne. This department is actually the heart and soul of the hotels and resorts. We are the ones who provide revenues and this association has become our voice. We are being recognized and respected as somebody to look up to.
Q: How does one qualify to be a member?
Margie: It’s very simple. You just have to be the lead of your Sales Department, regardless of your title, and you have to be DOT accredited. Those are the 2 things that we are very strict about.
Q: You are all right with even 1 or 2 star hotels joining?
Margie: Yes we are open to it because we can see that there are more and more needs for such categories for us to remain globally competitive.
Q: What are some of the other industry events and activities that HSMA is involved in?
Margie: Aside from our General Membership Meetings, we also have educational seminars. Our General Membership Meetings are business meetings where speakers are always invited for us to be made aware trends and they provide us guidance, to raise the bar of our knowledge in sales and marketing. We are always part of the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB) and Department of Tourism Activities. We always play a big part in providing accommodations at reasonable rates for all of their activities. TPB and DOT have a lot of year round activities. HSMA is always the reference of room rates and room bookings.
Q: How does the HSMA collaborate with Department of Tourism and Tourism Promotions Board with their various programs?
Margie: The DOT and TPB do a lot of marketing activations all year round and we are always partners with them. In fact a majority of participants in trade shows, road shows, business missions are from the hotel industry.
Q: How does the Board of Directors for HSMA get elected?
Margie: This happens every 2 years. They get nominated and there is a votation. Before election the candidates pitch for their candidacy and describe their qualifications.
Q: You were a former President and now you are a Chairman. What is the difference in roles?
Margie: The President runs it. The Chairman is the armchair consultant. I make sure that they remain true to our mission and vision. Although I don’t have any voting rights, I still have a voice.
Q: During your tenureship as President, what changes were made in HSMA?
Q: What is the normal attendance percentage?
Margie: It’s really high, around 80%. Maybe 10 years ago we would get 25 people, but now we are averaging 60 to 80 people because we have it every other month and we have very good speakers as well. The speakers are all people who can share their knowledge and discuss trends in the industry.
Q: Can non-members also join these meetings?
Margie: Actually no. We would like only the members to be part of it. Non-members who are interested to join may be invited.
Q: What advice do you have for people in the hotel and service industry who are looking for a job?
Margie: They should not be in a hurry. If they come in on an entry level, for me they need to have the patience to get more experience and to learn more of the industry and of their job. A lot of people now who are not yet ready for the role are being promoted, because there are so many hotels with very few qualified people, and they find themselves not ready for the job. Wait for that certain maturity and number of years of experience that would make you an effective leader of the team. If you are not ready, you end up quitting or end up being fired.
Q: For those in the Sales and Marketing Department in the industry, what advice do you have for them given the current times?
Margie: They have to study and learn. They cannot just keep on selling, they need to know what is happening in the industry to make their property relevant and to make the most of where the DOT and TPB are going.
Q: How important are direct bookings?
Margie: Very important. If you are building your sales team, I would expect Online Travel Agency bookings to be at 20% and have more direct bookings achieved. To get more direct bookings, they have to work harder, the leader has to be more creative and they must know who their market is and work on their target market.
Q: For those who want to get promoted what is your advice?
Margie: Make sure that they provide outstanding performance. People feel that sales and marketing is a glamorous role but it is not. It is all about figures. If you don’t reach your revenue targets you’re out. So it’s really hard work. So you need to know your market, your job, your SOPs because figures never lie.
Q: You know how they say that tourism numbers remain the same but there are just more and more players, so it’s possible that revenue numbers will go down because of competition. What advice would you give to deal with this?
Margie: This may be true for international arrivals, which has increased slightly, but the domestic numbers is such a broad market. It’s hitting 60-70 million now. A lot of hotels and resorts are building for the domestic market because they provide not only leisure but also business travelers. Yes,the international market is very important since they bring in new money to the economy, but never underestimate domestic tourism. If you are a corporate hotel provide them with more meeting room privileges. If you are leisure hotel provide the needs of the travelling market. Know the target market. Make sure you provide your market with what you promise because people are very intelligent.
Q: Do you see an improvement in the general way that hoteliers deal with guests?
Margie: Yes it has greatly improved. Right now the output will always be about the guest satisfaction and everyone is into that right now. I think we are all raising our bar to provide that.
Q: What does the Sales and Marketing team do to ensure that guests receive proper after sales service?
Margie: The Sales and Marketing team should always have a big influence on the Operations team and say “We will not be able to give you the money if you will not be able to produce the corresponding operational output that is needed to provide guest satisfaction” . Most companies are being professional now, at the end of the day everybody is geared towards guest satisfaction. The Sales and Marketing team will not have such a hard time now because operations are being pushed to ensure guest satisfaction.
To know more about the Hotel Sales and Marketing Association, and the much coveted Virtus awards, please visit their website at www.hsmaph.com.