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 February 2019...

Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.