Welcome to “Insider Perspectives”, an interview series featuring travel industry insiders and veterans.
Hoteliers face the common challenge of retaining and growing their customer base while fending off competitors trying to lure guests away.
To help you drive customer loyalty and revenue, we will host a webinar on May 22 with experts from leading hospitality and hotel tech companies to share their insights and strategies.
Before our webinar, let’s get a glimpse into the professional and personal experiences of our panelist Michael Bennett, SVP Global Marketing & Business Development at Cendyn. Michael has over 23 years of international management experience, working with companies such as Cendyn, White Lodging, KSL Resorts & Capital, The Nature Conservancy and even established his own agency, Madhaus.
What’s your professional background? How did you start your career in marketing and hospitality industries?
I’ve always been in the digital space since I finished art/design school in 1995. They say timing is everything, and I happened to be at the right place in the early digital days. I was lucky to work on UI for some of the first newspapers online (browser based). I worked for global non-profits and Fortune 50 companies doing eCommerce work until I started my own digital agency in 2003 — that was my introduction to hospitality. We did work for White Lodging, Radisson, Panera Bread, TGI Friday’s, and others. In 2009, I sold the agency and went to work for White Lodging as the VP of eCommerce and never looked back.
What are some defining moments or pivotal points in your career that shaped your leadership style?
I’ve had the honor of working for and with some of the most influential leaders in the hotel industry. There are countless moments, but learning to listen, absorb, and react accordingly from the insights these leaders have to offer has been and will continue to be the moments that shape me. Also, owning an agency and wearing all the hats (HR, Sales, IT, etc.) will shape anyone. It’s the shape you choose that defines you. My biggest success is seeing team members I hired a decade ago move into leadership roles now. Their success is my success.
What made you decide to pivot your career from hotel management company (White Lodging Services) to hotel tech (Cendyn)? What are the major differences between the two fields and career paths?
Having owned an agency, I was eager to get back to the vendor side of the business. The timing was right and the opportunity to help drive and grow the Cendyn brand on a global basis was too good to pass up.
It’s all hospitality. Sure, we sell software and services, and hotels sell room nights, but at the end of the day, we empower the hotels to sell more rooms and better serve their guests. Happy hotels, happy guests. It’s pretty simple.
How have your role and responsibilities at Cendyn evolved over the past 3 years?
My role is the same, but the demands have changed. Mostly because we are truly a global company now. When I started, we were a well-established brand in North America. Now we are a well-established brand globally in addition to being a prominent CRM/Data thought leader.
What are your main responsibilities as SVP of Global Marketing & Business Development at Cendyn?
My main responsibilities are to drive demand, establish the brand in new markets, strengthen our position in existing markets, push the boundaries on CRM thought leadership, and consult with enterprise clients.
What’s the most interesting, exciting, and enjoyable part of your job?
The fact that it’s ever evolving. I have the best marketing team in the hospitality tech. They keep pushing me and the boundaries of demand generation, which I love. I love international travel as well. Learning the industry from a regional perspective is amazing.
As part of the leadership team at HSMAI San Diego Chapter, what do you observe as some of the hottest topics that interest industry insiders the most?
Here on the west coast, the hottest topic revolves around the inbound travelers from Asia, in particular, China. A close 2nd are all things digital. Last but not least is the Airbnb impact. Not so much stealing share (although it is discussed quite regularly), but the way it has forced hoteliers to become much more experiential in all aspects of the business.
A lot of us who work in the hospitality industry are passionate about traveling. So what’s on your bucket list for travel
After millions of air miles around the world, I still haven’t been to Italy yet. So that’s on top of my list along with Eastern Europe.
Your career must have taken you to many places in the world! Among your leisure and business trips, what’s your most memorable travel experience?
Last Fall, I had the chance to travel with my daughter Brooklyn to London and southern England for a week. I had amazing moments with her, and watching her absorb it all on her first international trip was a very special experience for me.
Do you have a side hustle or passion project outside of work? Or what are your hobbies?
I manage Brooklyn’s 10U travel softball team here in San Diego. It keeps me very active and brings me back to playing baseball when I was younger. Watching the girls progress, learn and grow as individual players as well as part of a team, is a very rewarding experience.
How do you plan and prepare for your leisure trips?
I’m pretty militant about my travel, whether it’s business or leisure. My family appreciates it as I have it down to a science. I’m always early, always relax in the SkyClub (I’m a Delta guy through and through) and board early. My girls know exactly what to carry on and what to check. Routine is important to me. And I always keep paper copies of everything, especially internationally. It also pays to have status – leverages it when you need too – especially when traveling with kids!
More About Michael:
Michael oversees global marketing, sales development and brand creative at Cendyn. He has over 22 years of international management experience, working with companies such as Cendyn, White Lodging, KSL Resorts & Capital, The Nature Conservancy and even established his own agency, Madhaus.
Michael’s specialties lie in marketing, ecommerce/digital and mobile implementations, all with a proven track record of success. He focuses on driving profitable growth through optimizing and increasing CLV and constantly reiterating creative marketing.
He currently sits on the national HSMAI marketing board, which he has been proactively involved for the past 8 years. Michael leads HSMAI’s San Diego office where he currently resides with his wife and two beautiful daughters.