10 Influential Hospitality Leaders That You Should Be Following

One of the best ways to stay up on the hottest trends and best practices in your industry is by following industry leaders on their social media accounts. This is also an excellent strategy for finding inspiration and guidance for your own marketing efforts. Additionally, many of the most successful individuals in the hospitality industry also share advice and perspectives on managing their careers or work-life balance, which can help any professional thrive. Here are 10 of the brightest minds in the hospitality industry, in no particular order:

Stephanie Ricca

Follow Stephanie on Twitter: @HNN_Steph

Stephanie is the editorial director at Hotel News Now and has been a hotel trade journalist for more than 12 years. She is known for having impartial opinions and giving excellent analyses on the global hotel industry. In her role, she sets the content direction for Hotel News Now and its extensive suite of newsletters and web content. She also helps manage the multimedia editorial calendar. On her social media accounts, she shares interesting and insightful hotels and travel news. If you are a hotel owner or marketer, she is one you won’t want to miss.

The latest from Stephanie:

Bruce Faber

Follow Bruce on LinkedIn

Bruce has been in the hospitality industry since a young age – age 4, as a greeter in his grandmother’s restaurant, the Rathskeller in Chicago, Illinois. After graduating from school, Bruce began working for Levy Restaurants as a manager. Throughout his 9-year tenure with Levy Restaurants, he was promoted to General Manager and then Managing Partner. In 2008, Bruce joined the EHS Hospitality Group as the owner of the Chicago Market. Although he specializes in the Chicago market, his office also works with areas throughout the U.S. As an owner, he works to supply his clients with top talent in the hospitality industry. To keep a pulse on that talent, he maintains a comprehensive database of the industry’s top leaders at every level and shares their content from his social media channels. Consider Bruce’s channels a hospitality RSS-feed, with his own expertise mixed in from time-to-time.

The latest about Bruce:

Colby Hutchinson

Follow Colby on LinkedIn

If you get your inspiration from folks who started from the bottom – look no further than Colby Hutchinson. He has held nearly every position in the hospitality industry – from dishwasher to now serving as the director of customer experience and brand management administrator for Best Western Hotels and Resorts.

Follow him on LinkedIn, where he writes critiques and shares links to articles that relate to customer experience and marketing, as well as issues that could affect the entire hotel industry.

The latest from Colby:

Loren Gray

Follow Loren on Twitter: @lorengray

If you are on the revenue management side of the hospitality industry, Loren Gray is a must-follow. Loren is currently the founder of the Hospitality Digital Marketing agency. Previously, he was the Vice President of Digital Strategy for Standing Dog Interactive, which is an agency that focuses on integrating all aspects of digital marketing into one strategy. Before that, he was the director of e-commerce for Ocean Properties Ltd., which is one of the largest privately held hotel franchises in North America. He is an excellent resource for all things hospitality digital marketing and finance related.

He hosts a “Week in Hospitality Marketing” online show. The show covers tools and techniques, recent industry news and real-world case studies with actionable how-tos with the insights hospitality leaders need to know and how it could impact their business. This show is geared towards owners, managers, asset managers, as well as sales and marketing folks in the hospitality industry. Loren makes it a point to cover all verticals within the industry including restaurants, spas, hotels, and attractions. Loren reminds followers about the show each week on social media – so be sure to follow if you don’t want to miss an episode!

Playbacks for episodes are also available on a quarterly basis.

The latest about Loren:

Chip Conley

Follow Chip on Twitter: @ChipConley

If you’ve ever stayed at (or worked at, or owned) a boutique hotel, you owe some gratitude to Chip. Chip is one of the iconic founders of the modern boutique hotel movement, and he is an undisputed expert in the hospitality industry.

What makes Chip stand out is his ability to adapt very well to societal changes that impact the hospitality industry. He recognizes innovation and change within the industry before those changes become trendy.

In addition to boutique hotels, Chip is a strategic advisor for Airbnb. In addition to his expertise in hospitality, Chip also serves as a mentor and speaker for middle-aged businesspeople. As such an influential person within the hospitality industry, Chip’s account is a one to follow.

More about Chip:

Chris Willard

Follow Chris on LinkedIn

Chris Willard is the owner and director of marketing and hospitality for Crown Choice Inc. He also serves as Event Coordinator for Black Rose Hospitality. He has worked in several of the leading U.S. markets including New York City and Las Vegas, which has helped him develop a keen eye for detail. Chris also founded a non-profit organization, 2 Hands 2 Employ, that helps to educate and employ those who may need help in the hospitality industry. Part of the organization offers internships to help young professionals launch their careers in the hospitality industry – especially hotels and restaurants.

With so much experience in the industry and a big heart, Chris is clearly one to follow, especially for those in the hotel and restaurant verticals.

The latest on Chris:

Lindsey Ueberroth

Follow Lindsey on Twitter: @lueberroth

Lindsey is the CEO of Preferred Hotels & Resorts and also a member of its Board of Directors. Lindsey became CEO in 2004, and since that time, she has helped solidify the company into an iconic hospitality brand. In 2015, Lindsey led the rebrand from Preferred Hotel Group to Preferred Hotel & Resorts, which lead to generating more than $1 billion in reservations revenue on behalf of its member hotels, which was a 15% increase over the prior year. This success led to Lindsey being named as one of the 30 most influential women in the hospitality industry. She has also been named one of the 10 most noteworthy hoteliers in the world by HOTELS magazine and one of the 20 most influential females in the lodging industry by Lodging Magazine.

She uses social media as a vehicle to promote sustainable travel and how to better embrace work-life balance.

The latest from Lindsey:

Edward Mady

Follow Edward on Twitter: @EdwardMady

Edward Mady is the top manager of one of the most iconic and well-known hotels in the world – The Beverly Hills Hotel. He has received countless awards, and is known for inspiring teams and delivering growth. In addition to being a hotel manager, he is a business coach and mentor. He is also a leading author and speaker who has been recognized by Harvard Business Review, Fast Company, and Forbes. In 2017, he was named Hotelier of the World by Hotels Magazine.

Edward uses social media to encourage teamwork in the industry. He encourages other hospitality professionals to utilize their teams for ideas and inspiration. He also makes sure his own team members are recognized and valued. If you are a leader or aspire to be one, Edward can be an excellent source of inspiration.

The latest from Edward:

Aliya Khan

Follow Aliya on Instagram: @aliyazk

If you’re looking for interior design inspiration in the hospitality industry, be sure to follow Aliya Khan. Aliya is the Vice President of Global Design Strategies for Marriott International. Prior to working for Marriott, Aliya was a designer for W Hotels and Aloft Hotels. She went on to work for Starwood Hotels as a Sr. Manager of Design and then was promoted to Director of Renovations. She then worked as Global Director of Design and Development at NeueHouse until taking her role at Marriott. In addition to her role at Marriott, she is a speaker at conferences.

She has lived in six cities of the world, and she brings that experience into her designs. She also has degrees in Architecture and Industrial Design. On her social media accounts, Aliya gives you a sneak peek into upcoming hotel projects as well as the inspiration she finds in the world around her.

The latest about Aliya:

Ian Schrager

Follow Ian on Instagram: @ianschrager

Ian Schrager is a hospitality visionary. He has worked as a nightclub owner, hotelier, designer, restauranteur, and more. Despite his extensive work in the hospitality industry, Ian considers himself as being in the entertainment business. He is also the co-founder of the world-famous Studio 54 nightclub. He is also known as one of the co-creators of the boutique hotel movement.

On his social accounts, he posts things that entertain him, spanning from the humorous and beautiful. He often posts images and videos that he not only likes, but that also inspires him and what you’ll find in his hotels.

The latest from Ian:

Final Thoughts

When looking to social media for inspiration, it is best to follow a wide mix of individuals who vary outside of your vertical, or your specialty within the vertical. We have chosen 10 who are fairly active on social media who come from a variety of backgrounds and positions within the industry. However, there are hundreds of other social media accounts relating to the hospitality industry that can also be a source of inspiration for you.

One of the best parts of working within the hospitality industry is that most professionals are willing to help and share information and ideas. By contributing to and following up on the thought-leading activity in the industry, you can ensure your success within the industry. Many of these professionals also share their personal struggles and advice for overcoming and managing those, and that can always be helpful, even if they are outside of your hospitality specialty.

5 Ways to Get the Most out of the National Restaurant Association Show and other Trade Shows

So, you’re going to be attending the National Restaurant Association Trade Show – how exciting! Consider yourself lucky to be partaking in such an opportunity. Trade shows are a great way to network, learn, meet new people, and overall enhance your expertise.

They look great on resumes, too. So, let’s dive into some ways you can make sure you get the most out of the next four days.

1. Pre-Show Prep

Start by pulling out a sheet of paper and a pen. Write down what you want to get out of this trade show. Would you like to learn about a new machine? Would you like to flaunt your goods to some wholesalers? Do you hope to show off a new creation or invention? Are you trying to sell something…even your own company?

Know what you want so you can know who and what to look for. It’s totally okay to have more than one big goal, but the key is to plan and prioritize so that your time is spent wisely. The next few days will fly.

Will you be displaying at this particular trade show? If so, do go over your displays so that they are fitting to the target audience. Will you target wholesale purchasers? Restaurant clientele? Another group? If so, be sure that your display is set up to optimize inquiries and close sales.

And lastly, even though we are just hours away from this great event, be sure you let people know you will be there. Give them the booth number. Utilize social media and your website to get people in the loop!

2. Walk the Floor with Efficiency

If you missed a workout this week, fear not. Trade shows involve heaps of walking and talking to many people, and your arms may get a great workout from holding all the promotional products and “goody bags” you will be holding as a result of speaking to the folks you meet.

Be sure that you wear shoes that are professional but comfortable for long-term walking and standing.

Be sure that you locate the check-in station and grab your admission badge. This will lead you to the show’s entry. Upon walking it will be very overwhelming and exciting-after all, this one is huge!

One strategy is to start on your preferred side-left for some, right for others-and then work your way down each aisle.

You should bring a pad of paper or even your tablet and make a note of each booth that you would like to investigate further. If you are extra creative, you might draw yourself a map notating each booth that interests you.

It may help to walk with a seasoned fellow employee-often, they can show you which booths are worth checking out and which should be skipped. Trade shows often group together vendors of specific industries into their own clusters, so keep that in mind as you do your walk.

You will no doubt begin to notice the salespeople stationed outside of the booths, waving and greeting you, handing out colorful brochures. Do not stop just yet to talk; you will waste too much time.

Keep observing and noting the booths as you go, and if you MUST stop and see a booth, try to do it while the sales reps are busy with another person or you cannot be seen by them. The idea here is to walk steadily so that you cover as much ground as you can and figure out what MUST be seen so that your goals are fulfilled.

After your first walkthrough has been completed, get some water and lunch or even a light snack. As you replenish your energy, pull out your notes and make yourself a plan of action. Write down your must-see booths to complete on this first day, and then bump the rest to the second or third days.

Once you’ve created a plan for yourself, get back out there. Find a booth giving away a bag of some sort (unless you got one at the start of the show) and go forth to fill it with brochures and info from the companies you are most interested in.

3. Networking at The Trade Show

Trade shows can be pretty stressful! Don’t let that stress show onto your face. Looking stressed out might make you seem unapproachable, and you don’t want to miss those opportunities.

Don’t approach people as “marks” or someone to simply sell something to. People will see you and know to avoid you. Instead, go as a means to make friends, shake some hands and talk about your product freely and easily.

And don’t be afraid to get personal with it! You might even distribute a small card that outlines your business’s core ideas and philosophies. This is not the same as a mission statement-rather it is the practices by which your business operates.

You might ask the question. “If everybody operated as X Co. did the world would look like…” and then the card has your answer. Hand these out along with your business card and you have a memorable method of networking!

Make sure you keep that trusty pen and paper nearby, too. Write down book titles, articles recommended to you, names, phone numbers, and more. These resources given to you might just have the next great idea you need to boost your business.

Don’t be afraid to talk to people, tell them stories about yourself or your business, and ask as many questions as you like. You can even use icebreaker questions to get the ball rolling, like “Hey, I saw you over at X Booth. What did you think of the….”

Just relax and be yourself-the rest will fall into place.

4. Standing Out at The Trade Show

Chances are you have already planned your giveaways but make them unusual for max impact. You can give away anything from Rubik’s cubes to crazy socks or even balloons. If possible, try to engage your passers-by in a contest.

You might do a contest for a big prize or even create a game where passers-by spin a wheel to win some candy or other small prizes while learning about your company. You might even do something unusual or fun to attract visitors: bringing in props for a photo booth or even renting a VR headset to show off what you can offer to visitors is a fun idea.

And those waving tube air dancers have become something of a meme lately, so visitors may just enjoy stopping to smile about it and learn about your product in the process.

Another great thing you can do is have fun with it. Too often, we view trade shows as an extension of our work, meant to be serious and gain customers and knowledge. This is true and professionalism should be exercised at all times, but it’s okay to have fun too.

It’s okay to have an interactive booth, get excited about what you’re selling, and give a few high-fives as you go. If somebody leaves your space with a smile and a good feeling, you’re already winning.

You can also do some last-minute emailing as a means of getting more visitors to your space: if you know the contact info of some folks you’d love to meet, shoot them an email. Chances are they would love the invitation, and many will stop by.

5. After the Show

Okay, the show has ended, and the display has been packed up. Now what?

Don’t hold off on following up. Connect with your people via email or phone call right away after the show has ended. This keeps the lead in your sight and refreshes their memory, too. Nurture all your leads with the highest of care.

Do not neglect social media, either. Be sure to connect with your leads on LinkedIn, Facebook and Instagram, among others. This keeps you up to date with what they are doing, and you can show off your stuff to other people, too.

Be sure that you dress up your social media posts with photos, links and of course videos. This shows your leads all you are capable of and makes it easier for them to relate. And of course, make sure all your correspondences with leads are personal! If something feels like a form letter, it is tossed aside or deleted right away.

Make it special, because you care and so does the lead. You should also add in a call to action-think of it like an arrow aimed right at your lead that urges them to take action and call you up about what you can do for them right away.

Get Ready…

The next few days are a chance to learn, connect, and take with you some fresh knowledge and ideas about your industry.

So long as you go into it with a plan of action, there will be some of the most productive and fruitful you’ve ever had when it comes to industry events. Relax, take notes, and have confidence in what you do. The rewards will surely come.

Want to connect with me during the NRA Show this year? Email me at jeremy@longitudebranding.com!

A Failed Experiment? How the “The Payless Experiment” by Payless Missed the Mark

In a recent publicity stunt, Payless Shoes created a faux-luxury shoe brand, “Palessi,” and hosted a fake grand opening event where they invited fashionistas straight off the streets of Santa Monica Boulevard, and tricked them into buying $20 shoes for $600+. This was cleverly named, “The Payless Experiment.” Unfortunately, I think this experiment failed.

History of Payless

This isn’t the first attempt for a budget-focused brand to try and defend the value they offer. And it comes as no surprise that Payless is attempting to gain new customers in light of their recently filing for bankruptcy, and closing 1,000 stores.

Payless was once the place to shop for discount shoes. But has failed to bring in a steady stream of customers.

These things didn’t happen last year just because consumers suddenly decided to heed the fashion advice of hipsters on Instagram. Payless, like many other brick-and-mortar stores, fell victim to the takeover of online shopping retailers such as Amazon, Zappos, and the like.

These things didn’t happen last year just because consumers suddenly decided to heed the fashion advice of hipsters on Instagram

However, the misfortune of their decline isn’t only due to outside influences and competition. I would also say that it’s the result of missing the opportunity to make a pivot in the right direction, at the right time, with the right strategy. This is evident in the fact that their stores typically feel like an eye doctor’s office, their logo looks like a computer company from 2003, and more recently – “The Payless Experiment.”

What’s the Purpose?

There is a certain desperate feeling that I sensed as I watched this 30-second commercial. Almost like a last-ditch effort to patch a sinking ship. With the captain at the helm, ordering his seamen to patch holes in the hull with duct tape.

Prank videos like these can be funny, and good for a little laugh every now and then, but if you look deeper, it’s actually sort of disturbing to get a glimpse into how little Payless seems to know about consumers. I think the way they produced this video could almost come across as insulting to their customers.

At its core, this video was using projection as a defense mechanism.

Projection is a form of defense in which unwanted feelings are displaced onto another person, where they then appear as a threat from the external world. A common form of projection occurs when an individual, threatened by his own angry feelings, accuses another of harboring hostile thoughts.

So in the case of “The Payless Experiment,” the argument could be made that those at the helm of Payless have unwanted feelings about how their brand is perceived in the market. Rightfully so in light of their bankruptcy and store closings. As a result, they feel threatened. Because of this feeling, they accuse fashionistas, “high-fashion” consumers, and basically anyone who doesn’t want a $20 pair of shoes from Payless of being dumb for how they decide to spend their money.

Like it or not, people purchase products and services based on how it makes them feel, how it connects to their core values, and how they believe it will solve their problems. This is a basic principle of branding. So, of course, it should come as no surprise that someone shopping on Santa Monica Boulevard wants to experience the feeling of buying the latest designer shoe straight from a runway in LA, and they’re willing to spend $500+ on a pair of shoes. On the flip side, someone shopping on a tight budget would want to experience the great feeling of spending $20 with a BOGO deal and getting two pairs of shoes for the price of one.

Neither one is wrong.

This video demonizes the first group, while inadvertently insulting the second group. There’s no need to defend shoppers who shop on budget alone, and there’s no benefit to demonizing luxury consumers who will pay premiums for a different experience. Bottom line, this video is unnecessary.

Lack of Brand Awareness

As mentioned above, this video alienates both their target customers as well as consumers who would never be seen dead at Payless. So it’s a lose-lose for Payless. The truth of the matter, so it seems, is that Payless either 1: doesn’t understand who their actual customers are or 2: doesn’t know how to attract their new desired demographic. Or it could be both.

This experiment doesn’t support their own stated position either. Their market position is literally in their name, “Payless.” Pay. Less.

Anyone who shops at their stores is concerned about one thing, and one thing alone – price.

However, with this video, Payless took a different approach it seems. Focusing primarily on style and quality, the main message seems to drive home the idea that Payless has high-end shoes that rival any expensive designer shoe quality and style. A message that likely doesn’t resonate with, nor matters, to the consumer who enjoy shopping at Payless.

If they are trying to attract a new audience of high-fashion shoppers this experiment has failed. Payless trying to seduce a luxury shopper is just not realistic. This shows a lack of self-awareness on behalf of Payless and the marketing team involved.

This experiment also failed if they were attempting to attract a younger, Instagram, millennial audience. Millennials are one of the biggest demographics of coupon cutters, and penny pinchers in the world. The budget for this video would have been better spent on ads targeting millennials with crazy good deals, and BOGO offers or investing into a better brand strategy.


It’s vital for any brand, no matter the size, to know their customers, know what makes them unique, and be comfortable in your skin. This is the purpose of a brand strategy, and “The Payless Experiment” is a prime example of what can go wrong if you don’t have a strong foundation in place.

This stunt only goes to show that Payless isn’t happy with their perceptions, and is attempting to change that. However, the approach they took with this stunt I think at best had no-impact, or at worse, a negative impact. The only redeeming factor is that it’s received a lot of publicity, and as the saying goes – any publicity is good publicity.


Do you agree or disagree? Would love to hear your thoughts. Email me directly at jeremy@longitudebranding.com

Rebranding Longitude°

Longitude° has evolved a lot over the past few years. With change comes the question of whether your identity is reflecting the brand correctly. Just as a person dresses and acts in a way that reflects their values and motivations, an authentic company should make sure that the inner workings and outer appearance align.



The strategic shift

In the past year, the focus of Longitude° has changed from just brand identity design to a strategy-first approach. In working with clients, I have seen the tremendous value of the brand strategy workshops. Moving forward, Longitude° will put a much greater focus on brand strategy.

Helping companies understand who they are, who their audience is and how to communicate properly is a necessary and vital step in a successful design process.

What does this look like practically? Before the pencil hits the sketchbook there is a strategic process that clients must go through. This is usually accomplished through strategy workshops. Together, we walk through exercises and worksheets to define aspects of the brand. Desired perceptions, brand values, ideal customer, positioning statement, pillars of positioning, value proposition and validation research.

Over the past year, clients have been experiencing the results of this process and it has added so much value for their organizations.

The design solution

Design is a tool. It is not decoration or a necessary evil. It is properly using visual aids to evoke emotions, communicate values and reflect your strategy.

The previous logo and identity no longer communicated the proper message and position. I knew that a change was coming and have been working towards this for a while.

The name Longitude° was born out of the desire to help brands understand where they are, where they want to get, and partner with them along that journey. This mission has not changed; it’s only become more clear. For this reason, the name Longitude° will remain.

The new wordmark is set in a serif font that looks more like a mature strategic consultancy. It is intended to communicate a higher level of detail and purpose. The new mark is set in dark gray instead of blue. This color should look more sophisticated and more versatile when presented alongside other brands.

The new brand mark is a simple set of lines based on the lines of latitude and longitude. The goal is to be simple, refined and meaningful.



In the past eight years, Longitude° has been privileged to work with brands all over the world. I’m excited to continue growing alongside you and making the world a more enjoyable place.

-Dustin Myers



Dustin Myers is a brand strategist and designer who has owned and operated Longitude° since 2010. He has had the privilege of consulting with brands all over the world, helping their businesses grow through clear communication. He lives in Springfield, MO with his wife Lauren and their three children.

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