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Alumna shares data perspective on the future of the hospitality industry

Alumna shares data perspective on the future of the hospitality industry

October 21, 2020 at 10:45am

One alumna leading a communications agency is using data to best advise her clients in the hospitality industry. 

Holly Zawyer '03 is managing director of Zapwater Communications in Miami, an award-winning integrated communications agency with offices in Chicago and Los Angeles, in addition to the South Florida location. In her role in the organization’s senior leadership, Zawyer is often faced with making big decisions that impact clients and their brands.

Though backed by more than 15 years of experience, Zawyer says preparing for something unforeseen is always tough, but is just a part of working in the hospitality industry. 

“What’s interesting about being in travel and hospitality is that there’s such a range of crisis situations that come your way,” Zawyer says. “From crime to natural disasters, you really have to be well equipped to handle anything in this industry, but no disaster plan or safety net was adequate to prepare 99 percent of businesses for navigating this pandemic.”

As it pertains to the future of travel, Zawyer says that her organization surveyed more than 1,200 U.S.-based frequent travelers about post-pandemic trips.

Of the respondents, 45 percent are between the ages of 24-35 and 43 percent take more than five domestic trips annually. Of those surveyed, 65 percent are looking forward to traveling again, both domestically and internationally; 39 percent are hoping to travel within the first six months after travel restrictions are lifted; 76 percent said resort and hotel safety protocols ranked highest priority over influencing immediate travel plans.

Consumer disclosures, such as self-reported surveys, share useful insight with corporate entities on the trends they can expect to see from their clientele post-pandemic.

“Although some clients have paused their campaigns due to interntional travel restrictions, we are optimistic that all of our hotel and resort clients will resume their marketing efforts,” Zawyer says. “From clients who have been able to reopen, we have been seeing great demand for travel, but it will take time to get back to where we once were.”

In the initial stages of the pandemic, Zawyer says that her team was working individually with clients to manage then-occuring border and hotel closures but has since transitioned to guiding her clients through uncharted terrain to make the right communications decisions. Concurrently, Zawyer was tasked with helping the team adjust to working remotely – a first for many.

Zawyer aims to keep the team motivated and taken care of. She adds that the organization understands this is a taxing period and wants to ensure that team members don’t burn out. 

“Though remote, it’s easy to transition to living at work rather than working from home,” says the alumna. “We want to be there for each other [not just] work-wise but emotionally, as well.”

FIU’s Chaplin School of Hospitality & Tourism Management is ranked as one of the top 50 hospitality management schools in the world by the 2019 QS World University Rankings; the school anticipates graduating a cohort this year of more than 300 students prepared for the world of work. 

With the hospitality industry taking a devastating hit at the hands of coronavirus, thousands of hotels and restaurants have been closed and even more staff have lost their jobs in a field that was already competitive. 

Considering graduates facing a much smaller window of opportunities while contending against a severely magnified pool of applicants, Zawyer says that her advice to students is the same as what she advises her staff: 

“Being flexible is key to being marketable.

In this industry you have to wear many hats. It’s important to take on responsibilities that might be out of your immediate scope because it’s always all hands on deck [in this industry]. You have to be resourceful and show your worth.”