Earlier this year, I made the case that hotels should add firepower to their revenue management staffs by hiring more analytics geeks. While revenue management teams have hotel industry experience, many lack the data skills necessary to make more scientific decisions, thereby potentially missing revenue opportunities. In a recent Skift article, the author has a similar line of thinking: He writes that the hospitality industry should hire employees with no previous industry experience—people with finance, business or communications agency backgrounds who can use those skills to improve hotels’ overall customer service strategies.


So what skills will the future hotel executive need to succeed? Like revenue management teams, I think a certain kind of geek will rule.


Mastering data analytics is one of the top challenges faced by hospitality leaders, according to an HSMAI survey, so future hotel executives will have to have a handle on data. Hotel general managers, owners and C-suite executives are already offering their staffs courses in advanced hotel revenue analytics, data mining, advanced Excel and analysis automation. At the same time, however, the successful hotel executive of the future must be someone who understands the industry and possesses leadership skills. Analytics geeks who are moving up the ranks will need to complement their skills with these competencies.


They also have to be service-oriented, with a feel for the market and an understanding of the customer. The reason that hotel employees with no industry experience do so well is that their previous industries were customer-focused. The same skills that help an advertising executive or a consultant succeed can translate seamlessly to hotels, where customer service is key. On the “geek” front, hotels also could emulate what airlines are doing by using their revenue management departments as a training ground for executives.


Hotels should get creative about the talent pool they hire executives from, too. Experienced banking or finance executives would do well in hotel leadership roles because that’s where the geeks are: These people understand numbers well. But because hotel jobs are a bit more customer-facing and creative, these employees could actually feel more satisfied and avoid the burnout that comes with crunching numbers and looking at spreadsheets in a hotel role. Hotels also should look to airlines’ revenue management departments, or car rental companies, cruise lines or restaurant chains—where hospitality industry experience runs deep—to fill their executive ranks.

At hotels, executives don’t just stare at numbers all day. They also deal with humans, so it’s fair to say that the hotel executive of the future must have the critical thinking, analytical, social and leadership skills necessary to handle it all.