Editorial Board   Guest Author

Mr. Willingham

Don Willingham

Vice President, Brand Performance & Sales Support, Hilton Garden Inn

As vice president of brand performance support and sales, Don Willingham oversees the upscale, yet affordable, brand's regional brand performance support (BPS) team in operations and sales and marketing support. Additionally, Mr. Willingham provides direction to other shared service departments within Hilton Worldwide regarding the direction of Hilton Garden Inn. This includes product quality and innovation, as well as customer relationship management and training, operational support, brand sales and distribution, and the new brand openings teams. His overarching goal is for his team to provide the guidance, training, tools and resources for all hotels and ownership groups. A 20-plus year veteran of the hospitality industry, Mr. Willingham has served in a wide array of capacities, ranging from brand sales support to training and operations. He has a long-time tenure with Hilton Worldwide and played different integral roles in regional operations and development training for the Hampton, Embassy Suites, Homewood Suites and Doubletree brands. Most recently, Mr. Willingham was the senior director, brand sales for Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites by Hilton. Since 2000, Mr. Willingham work with the Homewood Suites brand serving as a regional brand performance support director overseeing more than 30 hotels, as well as facilitating the brand's extended stay sales training. He moved into the senior director, brand sales role in 2003 and was vital in the launch of the Home2 Suites by Hilton brand, as well as the creation of and leadership behind the Homewood Suites sales strategies and programs. Mr. Willingham graduated from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville with a bachelor of science in Business Administration and a major in marketing. After graduating college, he worked for several hotels in the Atlanta area and went on to become the general manager at two Atlanta Hampton Inn hotels. He joined Promus Hotels as a training manager, where he was responsible for sales, pre-opening, and leadership development training

Mr. Willingham can be contacted at 703-883-1000 or don.willingham@hilton.com

Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.