How to Travel Like a CHIEF: Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum

October 8, 2015

For me there’s also another layer to it all: family. My parents work in the Caribbean Tourism industry and I started my hotel career working for hotels in the Caribbean. The success of the region kept a roof over my head growing up, so for me it’s personal.

Sean Russell, his step-mom and fiancée were all reunited  at CHIEF.

Sean Russell, his step-mom and fiancée were all reunited  at CHIEF.

Adventures at CHIEF

This past weekend I returned to this magical region for the first ever Caribbean Hospitality Industry Exchange Forum (CHIEF), a forum developed to allow for the exchanging of best tourism practices from industry experts. It was great to see an event where hoteliers, hotel associations and tourism boards could not only network, but also leave with actual, actionable insight that they could implement upon returning home.

CHIEF included general sessions, breakout sessions and intimate round tables all centered around three categories: Operations, Sales and Marketing, and Sustainability.  The event took place at the El Conquistador, a Waldorf Astoria Hotel in Fajardo. Fajardo is an old fishing town about 45 minutes from San Juan. It’s the gateway to Culebra and Vieques, home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

Zino Beach, Culebra

Zino Beach, Culebra

The two CHIEF sessions that generated the most interest were focused on meta-search and utilizing traveler data, enabling hotels in both cases to reach potential guests directly. Needless to say, hotels are putting extra emphasis these days on anything that allows them to skip a third party intermediary. Hoteliers were especially intrigued by the process of audience targeting. In particular, how it works, the fundamentals of programmatic buying, and how audience optimization varies by campaign objective. In most cases, this was the first exposure that hotels had to the behind-the-scenes mechanics. There was a lot of interest in learning more.

Sojern represents at CHIEF

Parag Vohra, General Manager of Hotels at Sojern represented us at a CHIEF breakout session titled Unleash the potential power of your customer data: Make data-driven marketing decisions. The breakout focused on how to make strategic data-driven decisions that would expand reach, enhance awareness, drive traffic, and ultimately increase ROI.  

Parag argued that it wasn’t “Big Data” that should be the focus of the region. Rather “Small Data” or the data actually pertinent to driving conversions, should be the focus.

From left: Sean Russell with Brian Payea, head of industry relations at TripAdvisor, and Sojern’s Parag Vohra and Peter Shin

From left: Sean Russell with Brian Payea, head of industry relations at TripAdvisor, and Sojern’s Parag Vohra and Peter Shin

One of the things I heard repeatedly from hoteliers at CHIEF was that they receive hundreds of emails a day from companies trying to sell them something to help their hotel. It’s overwhelming and they can rarely afford it. Small, boutique, and independent hotels can literally feel “on an island” when it comes to utilizing data and reaching their guests.

At Sojern we really understand the realities of the day-to-day when it comes to being an independent property. That’s why we created the pay for performance product RevDirect. It allows these independent properties to get in the game with no upfront costs.

If you’d like to learn more about our products – or just say hi! – get in touch with our awesome team!


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About Sean Russell

Sean Russell is Sojern's Regional Sales Director of Hotels. As a professional actor and singer for over 20 years, Sean performed all over the world, including on Broadway. He "retired" in 2007 to work for Couples Resorts in Jamaica. Prior to joining Sojern, Sean was a Key Accounts Manager at TripAdvisor where he helped thousands of hotels drive direct bookings.

Sean Russell About the author

Sean Russell is Sojern's Regional Sales Director of Hotels. As a professional actor and singer for over 20 years, Sean performed all over the world, including on Broadway. He "retired" in 2007 to work for Couples Resorts in Jamaica. Prior to joining Sojern, Sean was a Key Accounts Manager at TripAdvisor where he helped thousands of hotels drive direct bookings.