For today’s Leading The Way interview, we speak to Amanda Elder of Kempinski Hotels about her challenges working as Chief Commercial Officer and how sustainability and flexibility are now more important than ever.
Since becoming Chief Commercial Officer of Kempinski what has been your biggest discovery or challenge?
The biggest challenge and most exciting aspect of the role is certainly managing its complexity. It does not only entail shaping the company’s profile and brand, driving customer relationship management, developing business and sales, internal and external communications, but also deals with digital marketing and technology investment strategies. Leading constant change in response to evolving consumer behaviour with more diverse target markets and segments, you have to be a strategic activist. In addition, I am a member of the Kempinski Management Board and this gives me the opportunity to influence major decisions in paving the way for our company. It’s a very demanding but rewarding role.
What have you come to appreciate this year?
We have the most incredible talent around the globe, both in our business development teams and in the operations teams around the world. Ensuring that we communicate actively and appropriately to all, expressing cultural empathy and understanding has been a key. I have truly appreciated the global mindset that our teams have adopted, helping each other across time zones. With some colleagues in lockdown and others on short work hours, the teams not affected rose to the challenge and lent their talent and time.
Do you think 2020 is the year that will mark a change for our industry and if so, what do you think will change?
I think our industry is forever changing and evolving for the better. This year certainly took a completely different turn, and we have all needed to be agile and quick on our feet to meet the new challenges. I think we all have a completely different attitude and acceptance level to flexibility. Virtual appearances are now as accepted as in-person meetings for our team members while flexibility in terms of booking terms and cancellation policies has also become the norm. If we show flexibility in everything we do for our guests, owners, and staff members, we will all thrive.
Did you or do you have anyone you would consider a mentor? If so, who, and how have they helped you realise your potential?
In the past, I grew from being exposed to many great leaders as informal mentors. Having worked in so many different cultures during my travels in my career has allowed me to draw inspiration from several great people along the way. The team of people reporting directly to me at present, mentor, and guide me every day without even realising it. Their trust and confidence empower me and I believe it is a 360-degree circle which is feeding our positivity. We are inspired by those around us which in turn allows us to emerge as strong leaders in a crisis such as this. Our mentors are all around us, it’s in the books we read, it’s in the conversations we engage in.
What’s your top tip to people working in luxury travel?
Continue to be authentic to who you are, care about your guests and customers, stay in contact, never stop networking, be available – don’t forget where you came from! Educate yourself at every opportunity, what is new, what is emerging, how can you broaden your knowledge of the experiences that are out there!
It’s clear that one of the main aspects of your company ethos is around sustainability, do you feel that the pandemic and subsequent restrictions have affected or changed the demand for this type of travel experience?
I am very sure that our guests care even more about this incredibly important topic than ever before – they want to know that we are truly working towards sustainable solutions and wish to understand how luxury can embrace these solutions. With health, well-being, wellness, self-reflection, privacy, reevaluation of what’s important being key topics during the pandemic, it’s even more important to lead the company towards a sustainable travel experience.
What do you see as the key responsibilities of the luxury travel industry to the communities they operate within?
I see respect, understanding, empathy, job creation, equity, and diversity as being key responsibilities for all of us within or outside the luxury travel industry.
What can and should luxury travel brands be doing to help replenish lost revenue in 2021?
We all need to be extremely innovative, creative, and receptive to ensure we develop and launch new revenue streams in the future. I believe this starts with strong partnerships with like-minded brands. We have to assess our food and beverage offerings to meet the mobile consumer and once again flexibility is the key. By continuing to build trust with our guests we can rebuild occupancies. Constant communication is the key, giving the customers control, empowering them to change their bookings, and being as flexible as possible is the way forward.