April 27, 2016

Michael Gossie

HSMAI CEO talks on the digital future of hospitality

Arizona was quite a change from the cold New England winters Kelly Murphy experienced growing up. But one thing wasn’t lost in Murphy’s move west: her ability to succeed at whatever she tried, including the hospitality indistry.

“I took a job as an administrative assistant at a small airport hotel in Tempe and soon after was promoted to sales manager,” Murphy said. “I was brand new to hotel sales, so my market was a typical newbie mix of SMERF (social, military, education, religious and fraternal groups), entertainment and sports. Every day brought a new challenge and I got hooked on the fast pace, the diversity of my clients and the hospitality community.”

Now a marketing specialist for the Phoenix Convention Center & Venues, Murphy is also president of the 250-member Arizona Chapter of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI). Established in 1968, the Arizona Chapter is the second largest chapter in the U.S. and was honored as the 2011 International “Chapter of the Year.”

Az Business met with Murphy to talk about her industry and where she hopes to guide the Arizona Chapter of HSMAI.

Az Business: How has your membership in HSMAI impacted you professionally?

Kelly Murphy: Joining HSMAI was one of the best decisions I made early in my hospitality career. It has been an invaluable resource for education, mentorship, lead generation and networking. I was new in town, so it also exposed me to venues, areas around the Valley and activities that I’m not sure I would have been exposed to if I hadn’t joined the association.

AB: How has the presence of mega events — the 2015 Super Bowl, the 2016 College Football Championship Game — impacted the hospitality industry in Arizona?

KM: We are so lucky to have Arizona in the international spotlight during these mega events. Last year, Super Bowl XLIX was a huge draw to the Valley and was covered by an estimated 5,000 media outlets. The Arizona Organizing Committee recently reported that the 2015 College Football Playoff had an estimated 200,000 visitors in the downtown Phoenix footprint, not including events at the Glendale stadium and around town. These mega events create demand for hotel rooms, dining options, shopping and special events in and around our great state. We are looking forward to seeing what the NCAA Men’s Final Four will bring in 2017.

AB: What trends do you see emerging in the industry?

KM: I see a trend toward digital marketing taking a greater role in strategic marketing plans. There are so many opportunities for online visibility and engagement through mobile optimized email campaigns, digital display advertising, content engagement, search engine optimization (SEO) and low cost, highly targeted social media opportunities, just to name a few. Digital is a constantly changing medium, so it’s important to invest in opportunities that fit your business model and use the massive amounts of analytics that are available to measure conversions, user experience and return on investment.

AB: What challenges does the hospitality industry face?

KM: The August 2015 STR Report projected growth in both hotel occupancy and RevPAR in 2016. Simply put, the business will be there. The challenge falls with gaining market share and adapting to consumer needs. Consumers have more choices than ever and their demands are on the rise, so strong revenue management strategies, creative targeted marketing campaigns and customer service that rivals your competition will be some of the keys to success in 2016.

AB: How does HSMAI alleviate some of those challenges for its members?

KM: One of our chapter’s goals is to provide excellent education programs that both inform and engage our participants. Our topics are relative to current industry trends and best practices for adapting and thriving in the ever-changing and competitive hospitality industry. We hope that everyone walks away from our monthly education programs having learned practical tools that can be immediately applied in their workplaces. We have members that are both seasoned professionals and members that are new to the industry. It’s important to us that we balance our programs so that they are relevant to all of our hospitality and supplier members.

AB: What sets the hospitality industry in Arizona apart from anywhere else in the world?

KM: In just over an hour, you can drive from Phoenix to the Red Rocks of Sedona and continue through the beautiful pines of Northern Arizona on your way to the Grand Canyon. In the Greater Phoenix Valley, you can run, bike and hike on over 40,000 desert and mountain parks and preserves, take in a round of golf, go boating on our lakes or sit back and enjoy a sunset that is so vibrant and beautiful it could take your breath away.

AB: As president of HSMAI, what goals have you set for this year?

KM: At our leadership retreat in late 2015, I shared with the team that I would like our focus in 2016 to be planning relevant and informative education programs, membership growth and community outreach with our charity of the year. Follow through is key to achieving these goals, so I am fortunate to have such a dedicated and hardworking leadership team.