Today, we are delighted to be speaking to a true professional! We have Gus Vonderheide, the Vice President of Global Sales for Hyatt, joining us.
Gus has a unique perspective of our industry. He is a long-time volunteer in various associations and is always focused on sales and delivering value.
In this episode, Gus talks to us about group and business travel, what is changing in the industry, and what we can expect when we next check into a hotel.
We hope you enjoy our conversation with Gus today!
Gus Vonderheide’s bio
In his role as Vice President of Global Sales – Americas, Gus Vonderheide has the responsibility for Hyatt’s transient and business travel segments. He provides leadership over a global strategic team that manages relationships with Hyatt’s largest corporate, consortia, and travel management companies.
These customers, all based in the Americas and doing business globally, generate over $1B annually for the brand.
Part of a larger team, Hyatt’s Global SalesForce can be found in 20 additional locations around the world.
A 27-year Hyatt employee, Gus has led the sales teams at the Hyatt Regency Louisville, KY, Hyatt Regency Dearborn, MI, and the Grand Hyatt Washington, DC. He also spent time in the Worldwide Reservation Center in Omaha, NE, where he managed the Western Worldwide Sales Office and group call desk.
Before his Hyatt career, hotel management experience includes Sales, Front Office, Purchasing, and Convention Services.
Gus continues to fill leadership roles in many industry organizations. He is a recent past member of the GBTA Board of Directors, MPI Foundation and is currently a BTN Group Advisory Board Member.
This year, Gus is celebrating forty-one years in the industry! After graduating from high school, he was unsure of which direction to take. His mother told him about a new hotel opening nearby and suggested that he find a part-time job there for the summer. He got hired immediately and has been working in the hotel business ever since then.
Meeting his wife
Gus met his wife at that hotel, and they had their wedding reception there several years later.
A good start
Gus feels that rolling tables and stacking chairs was the best place for him to start his career because it gave him a foundation that has taken him into many different career levels and jobs.
Staffing issues at hotels
Like all hotels, Hyatt furloughed and laid off many team members when the COVID-19 pandemic started. Gus feels that hospitality is in the DNA of great hotel team members. Saying an abrupt goodbye to those people was the hardest thing he has ever done in his career. He thought that things would turn around after six months. But only now, after eighteen months, are things starting to lighten up in some areas, so he has not yet managed to bring back as many people as he had hoped to do.
Different ways of filling positions
Things took so long to come back that Hyatt permanently lost some of its valued employees so they are now looking at filling those positions in different ways. They are digging deep into the hospitality schools and leaning into hiring new talent from the graduating classes.
A new crew
They are looking for the right people to bring fresh blood into their organization. They would like to form a new crew of individuals from their commercial service teams, loyalty people, salespeople, and people from digital distribution. They feel confident that as business returns, they will be ready to start anew.
Gus Vonderheide’s thoughts on change
The key to dealing with change is that you have to stay in front of it, says Gus. To make it today, any company has to change as fast as the world is changing.
For a partnership to work in this time of change, both parties need to walk in the other’s shoes and understand the other’s perspective.
Together by Hyatt
Hyatt has introduced a program called Together by Hyatt, of which hybrid meetings are a small but important piece.
Food and beverage
Hyatt is looking at a sustainable, local, clean, neat, and well-organized product for food and beverage. It looks and tastes good and accommodates the new life that we are now living.
Wellness and wellbeing
Hyatt believes in wellness and wellbeing. They are doing all the right things to keep their people engaged, healthy, and part of the equation.
Although Gus feels that hybrid meetings will still be around for a while, he would love to see people going back to hotels.
Business and group travel
Group and business travel is a big part of Hyatt’s business. They need both to increase occupancy and maximize their revenue. The return of people to their offices goes hand-in-hand with business travel starting again. Although many organizations are postponing their return-to-office date until later this year or the first quarter of next year, Gus feels optimistic that it will happen.
They are very thankful that people are comfortable to start getting out with their families again.
Companies need to be flexible around people choosing to work in-office, at home, or both.
Working and doing school work at a hotel
Hyatt is creating opportunities for local people to check into their hotels to work for the day. They have also provided opportunities for families to check-in, and have some family time in the evenings. During the day, the parents work, and the kids do their school work.
What people can expect when they go back to a hotel
Hotels are short-staffed at the moment, but they are ramping up. As the occupancy returns, hotels will continue to rebuild and be better positioned to bring in and maintain new staff members. People still need to be prepared for things to be a little different, however.
Opportunities for independent business owners
There are many opportunities for business owners who are willing to accept change and react fast when it happens. We are living in a different world now, so business owners need to be flexible, and they need to be creative when it comes to finding the right resources and offering the right benefits. Business owners also need to have high expectations and bring in quality individuals with the right mindset.
New people coming into the hotel industry need to be flexible and willing to do whatever they can to move up in the industry. They will gain a lot from volunteering for organizations like GBTA (Global Business Travel Association), MPI (Meeting Professionals International), and BTN (Business Travel News).
Email Gus Vonderheide
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