Belinda Hindmarsh was recently promoted to a new role as SVP, Chief Operating Officer of RoomIt and China. She will spearhead the commercial development of RoomIt, CWT’s global hotel distribution division, CWT’s operations in China. In her 20+ career Belinda has held various international roles in marketing, supplier management and commercial roles in the travel space.
We chat to Belinda about developments that will shape the hotel industry, the challenges of working abroad and the strong women who inspire her.
Can you tell us about your role?
Since I joined CWT in 2018 to lead the global sales effectiveness team, I have had the pleasure to work with many teams across the company in several roles. At the beginning of this new year I moved back to a familiar space: working with the hotel team RoomIt and the China team. In my former role I was already working closely with both teams, leading market development of our strategic markets, including China. Prior to joining CWT, I spent over a decade with the Expedia Group, largely in hotel related roles, hence moving back to be part of the RoomIt teams feels a lot like “returning home” to something I know and love. Earlier in my career I worked as a Station Manager running airline operations for Aer Lingus in various countries across Europe. This role brought me to Rome, where I eventually settled down and established my family life.
What are the most important trends and developments that will shape the hotel sector in 2022 and beyond?
The hotel industry is destined to evolve as business travelers return to the road, bringing new dynamics and challenges to solve for. For one, average daily rates are forecasted to rise with reduced capacity and hotels tackling operating price increases and staffing shortages. Personalization and customer loyalty will both play a key role in customer acquisition and retention. It will be an important year for hotels to rethink what services their corporate guests are looking for and how to meet the needs of the new corporate traveller.
For example, two changes I have noticed in the last 6 months on the road stand out. Firstly, the increased frequency of guests that no longer rely on the hotel to provide food and beverage services. More and more guests use their delivery apps to have their favourite snacks and drinks delivered directly to the hotel. This definitely has an impact on the hotel F&B balance sheet and for some hotels resulted in the creation of dedicated delivery areas with the concierge outside the hotel or at reception.
Secondly, fewer guests are requiring a daily housekeeping service including fresh towels. This is to avoid further risk of COVID infection. This second trend has a positive impact for hotels, reducing housekeeping costs and also supporting hotel sustainability objectives. It will be interesting to see how hotels will continue to evolve their service offering this year for corporate travellers and leverage their loyalty programs and personalization to stay aligned with. What their customers need and expectations are.
How do you maintain a good work-life balance?
Rome may be an amazing city for tourism, but it is not exactly a major business hub. At times this has presented its challenges in establishing a sane work life balance, particularly in the early years after my daughter and son were born. If I look back, constant re-establishing of routines and some sacrifices were made to allow me to continue to work in the international job market. That said, I was mostly lucky to have had leaders who believed in me and gave me the space and freedom to manage my weeks as needed and focused on impact and results versus where I was located. Having honest upfront conversations is important and has made being a working commuter for over 18 years now, that much easier! Holidays would be the second call out for a good work-life balance. I am a big believer that we are all more innovative, effective, and healthy if we take time out each year to disconnect.
Who motivates or inspires you in your professional and/or personal life?
There isn’t one particular person that inspires me, it is the stories of many, that continue to inspire me on a regular basis. Just this week I learnt about Rwandan referee Salima Mukansanga who is making history as the first woman to officiate an African Cup of Nations football game. There are many others who spring to mind too. Nadia Nadim for instance, who escaped from Afghanistan to Denmark, learnt to play football in a refugee camp and today plays for the Danish women’s national team. In short, there are many role model women, from all walks of life, who have had to overcome major obstacles to do what they wanted to do or what they believed in. It can take courage and resilience to do the things you truly desire and to be who you want to be. Those who make it happen, always leave me inspired.