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The HU High Five (E6) - Bob Gilbert

June 30, 2020
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Rich Siegel Talks with Bob Gilbert, CEO of HSMAI, to Discuss the Tremendous Challenges COVID-19 has Thrown at Industry Specific Non-profit Associations and Organizations

Much has been said and discussed about the global pandemic’s devastating effect on the hospitality industry, notably hotels and the vendors that serve them. This week on HU High Five, Rich Siegel of Hospitality Upgrade sits down with Bob Gilbert, CEO of HSMAI, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International. The two discuss the tremendous challenges COVID-19 has thrown at industry specific non-profit associations and organizations … and Gilbert provides some insight into where they go from here.

“The ripple effects of the crisis we’re in are going to be far reaching in a lot of different industry sectors, it’s not just hotel and travel,” says Gilbert. Organizations like HSMAI have business models that are dependent on things like member dues, conference registration fees, and sponsorships.  “As soon as the hotel industry begins tightening up on those expenses…it’s going to constrict the revenues to associations … so like any business, we are going to struggle,” said Gilbert.

Arguably the hardest hit faction of the association sector revolves around the cancellation (or postponement) of countless conferences and conventions. “Group business will be slowest to come back due to the complexity of it. Hotels, conference and convention centers need to readjust their entire floor plans for social distancing and consider things like how they are going to do seating, what the cleansing standards are going to be, how will food and beverage take place, and so on,” explained Gilbert.

Despite the setback and some significant challenges ahead, Gilbert is confident the group travel business – and the association industry as a whole - will bounce back. “In this world now, the last 90 days, we’ve proven that we can do almost anything virtually, but it doesn’t replace the value of face to face interactions.”

Where does the U.S. stand in comparison to the rest of the world now, when it comes to hotel occupancy? Siegel and Gilbert discuss those numbers and more.

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