“Stay curious, embrace change, and don’t be afraid to try and fail.” An Interview with Hospitality Marketing Maverick Jessica Hayes

In our latest hospitality professional interview, we caught up with hospitality sales & marketing consultant Jessica Hayes. President of leading hospitality sales & marketing consultancy firm Hayespitality, Jessica has been part of the hospitality industry for over 20 years serving in various marketing, sales, procurement, and account management roles.

Mrs. Hayes discusses her professional career, her valuable insights, career advice for young professionals, and the inspiration behind her great success as a hospitality innovator. 

Advanced Hospitality: Jessica, I’m amazed at the diversity of experience that I found in your professional profile. Now you are a successful consultant in Sales & Marketing but I know you did not start out as a consultant.  How did you start your career in the hospitality industry? What challenges did you face initially?

Jessica: I was a French major at a liberal arts college and I was hired right out of college to be a bilingual software trainer for hotels.  I never did get to use my French, but I was challenged to learn the language of hotels quickly.  

In the beginning, everything was brand new, and I mostly learned on the fly – I did everything from installing software across Novell and NT Networks, standing up and training sales & catering offices, to troubleshooting glitches and solving problems. I felt that it my job was to make the clients love the software and to enjoy using it.

Advanced Hospitality: What major technology trends, in your personal opinion, are shaping the hospitality industry?

Jessica: I think we’re all getting more discerning about the use of technology in that we want to use it for good and as a tool.  Technology, especially in hospitality, should be used to facilitate connections and experience. It should remove friction, not add to the noise and chaos.

The trends that are shaping these experiences are Voice, technology integrations, and ironically, using technology to unplug.  Travelers are using technology to book trips on which they put away their devices and decompress in order to prioritize their wellness.

Advanced Hospitality: Who was your biggest inspiration in the early days of your career?

Jessica: My mother is a lawyer, and she was always very tech-savvy, so I remember calling her from the road during my first week of onsite training and asking her how to copy a file.

Advanced Hospitality: Did you always love technology?

Jessica: Not especially.  I’ve always loved solving problems and connecting with people.

Advanced Hospitality: What technology gaps did you see in the hospitality industry and its implementation in the industry?

Jessica: Staff retention is a big issue. I have a lot of empathy for hoteliers that are navigating so many choices for technology and then once they choose, the experience isn’t always seamless.  The ROI on these purchases is often in how well the software is adopted, and there are a lot of variables when the staff is tasked with learning new technology.

Advanced Hospitality: You have had the opportunity to work in leadership positions with various hotel brands. How do you define success?

Jessica: As I’ve grown in my career, I’ve evolved, and success is much more of a holistic term for me now.  It is not about a career path or a title. It is about leading and being led, remaining curious and embracing challenges.  And most importantly, it is about work/life integration. 

  • Advanced Hospitality: What does it take to be a Successful Marketer?
  • Jessica: The ultimate goal is to generate sales, but a successful marketer fully understands the buying process and makes it easy for customers to buy. 
  • Advanced Hospitality: How important is it to motivate teams during a project?
  • Jessica: Motivation and energy are invaluable.  I’m constantly reminding myself and others of what hospitality means and why we chose it as a career. 

Advanced Hospitality: Famous American author Bryan Eisenberg said: “Our jobs as marketers are to understand how the customer wants to buy and help them to do so.”

  • As a ‘Sales & Marketing Consultant’, what’s your view about this quote?

Jessica:I fully agree.  Marketers also have to embrace the ways in which the process of buying has drastically changed. 

  • What’s your tip for young professionals to become ‘good marketers?’

Jessica: Stay curious, embrace change, and don’t be afraid to try and fail.  

  • Do you think being an entrepreneur is popular these days in hospitality?

Jessica: I think it is popular across all industries, and I’m especially jazzed by all the women entrepreneurs that are emerging.  

Advanced Hospitality:HITEC and HFT are two of the biggest events in the Hospitality calendar. What is the significance of these events for the Hospitality Industry? 

Jessica: HITEC used to be a place where hoteliers went as a “one-stop shop” to buy technology.  I think this is more of a secondary mission now. As a technology vendor, it is essential to have a presence at these shows, not just to meet potential customers, but to meet with partners.

It is more important than ever that we all play nice together, and HITEC gives us all an opportunity to meet in person and collaborate to tackle complex demands of the industry. 

Advanced Hospitality: What’s your suggestion for hotel owners looking to make their hotels more guest-friendly through technology assistance?

Jessica: The entire guest experience needs to be analyzed and planned from a technology standpoint:   Pre-arrival choices and experience, personalization, on-property experiences, and post-stay communication should all have the capability of being handled by technology.  However, a guest should never be aware that there are 50 different pieces of technology that play into that whole experience.

Advanced Hospitality: You have served on committees for the Seacoast Women’s Giving Circle, Arts in Reach, as well as New Heights. How was your experience? Do share some of your memories with our readers.

Jessica: Life-changing. When I first had kids, I was able to take a break from my career and  focus on raising them. However, I quickly learned that I missed many aspects of working.  Getting involved in the community and working with nonprofits enabled me to use my entrepreneurial skills and feel like I was making a difference in the place I chose to put down roots.

Advanced Hospitality: Let’s put technology aside for a minute, and discuss you. What are your hobbies? How do you enjoy your spare time?

Jessica:  I have four kids, a husband and a dog, so I value my time with them. I’m happiest when I’m engaging in lively conversations with my family and friends. I love to dance, and I love to read. I like to listen to podcasts, and I enjoy writing. There aren’t enough hours in the day! 

Advanced Hospitality: We all have career coaches, influencers, and mentors who inspire us to push ourselves in our personal & professional lives. Can you name some of the people who have motivated you throughout your journey?

Jessica:  My mother is all 3 but there are so many more. 

Coaches – My dad is the biggest sports enthusiast I know – he is my ultimate coach.  I also loved my college diving coach, Jan Fuller was amazing. It’s not easy getting someone to flip off a diving board and land it properly. 

Influencers – In no particular order, Michelle Obama, Glennon Doyle, Elise Loehnen, Willa Cather, Will Smith, Beyonce, Chris Long, Scott Harrison, Beyonce, and Brene Brown.

Toshi Soda

Director Of Sales & Marketing

Toshi Soda is Director of Sales & Marketing at Advanced Hospitality Technologies, a leading fully managed hospitality technology solutions partner. As director of marketing, Toshi is constantly on the circuit engaging & sharing leading-edge technology insights with clients, hotel owners, and hospitality companies. He now assists hospitality professionals with his expert knowledge and insights via online articles, meetings, and conferences.