Executive Interview: Barb Bowden, Complex Managing Director, Loews Sapphire Falls Resort and Loews Royal Pacific Resort at Universal Orlando
Hear from a revenue management pioneer about the evolving and exciting hospitality industry.
Q: How has your career in hospitality opened your world?
A: Without a doubt, I think my career in hospitality has opened my world just with the relationships that you build with so many different audiences; team members, colleagues, guests, meeting planners, those in professional associations. I think these relationships absolutely create a network literally all across the world.
Q: Where did you start and how did you get to where you are today?
A: I began right after college. My very first role was working at the front desk at the Buena Vista Palace Resort right outside of Disney in Orlando. After two years at the Buena Vista Palace, I joined the opening team of the Peabody Orlando and actually remained there for 27 years, beginning with various leadership roles, primarily in front office and reservations. Then in 2004, there was really kind of a change in my career path when I was tapped to create and implement the very first revenue management infrastructure that Peabody Hotel Group had. So that included creating the organizational structure, the strategy, technology, supporting processes and operations, which was a remarkable experience at that time. I think based upon that experience, I was then promoted to General Manager and, ultimately, Vice President General Manager of our newly expanded hotel. We had just expanded that hotel, so we were growing to 1600 rooms, 300,000 square feet of meeting space. So, really one of the largest convention hotels at the time. So, from there, I was absolutely thrilled to join the team here at Loews Hotels at Universal Orlando, currently serving as Complex Managing Director, overseeing the Loews Royal Pacific Resort and Loews Sapphire Fall Resort complex.
Q: You were in on the ground floor of this new side of hospitality called revenue management. Why is that part of the business so important?
A: Well, I think obviously at that time, the world was changing. You know, technology distribution, the way people were booking reservations. Everything that had to do with not only distribution but rate strategy, really looking at the entire overall organization just very differently than it had been done in the past. New technology was coming out at the time. That was kind of the beginning of a whole different way of looking at pricing and distribution back at that time.
Q: What kind of professional do you think is best suited to a role in hospitality, sales, marketing or revenue management?
A: First and foremost, I think we go back to kind of our roots as a service industry. Those with a passion to serve are absolutely a good fit for our industry. I think beyond that, those who are goal-oriented, and those who are committed to continuous improvement, data-driven, proactive communicators, those who really see and value partnerships, these are all kind of traits and characteristics that serve our industry well.
Q: Are there certain titles or roles or other industries that make the leap over to hospitality well?
A: I have seen so many different types of professionals transition to our industry. So I think from education, from finance, retail, there are so many different skill sets that transfer into our industry. And, typically, once they’re in our industry, that is it. No one wants to go back to the original profession.
Q: What might surprise people about what you do on a day-to-day basis?
A: I don’t think most people are aware of the many amazing career paths that are available in our industry. Many people know event planning or maybe front desk, but I don’t think people really understand all the wonderful career paths that are available from sales, marketing, revenue management to technology to engineering to safety and security, finance, PR, development, all the operational roles. And many people that I’ve talked to throughout my career are very surprised to kind of hear of the many different roles and interests, you know, and amazing careers that are available in our industry.
Q: What should a potential hospitality professional be looking for in a world-class employer?
A: A world-class employer always starts with a strong culture. In order to really be a great fit, you have to be passionate about the mission and the pillars of the organization that you’re working with and serving. You know, really look for culture and a culture you align with.
Q: Where do you see the industry heading and what does that mean for hospitality professionals as they start to chart their career path?
A: In our industry in hospitality, sales, marketing and revenue management, I think that technology, obviously, and analytics will continue to play a significant role. I think even more emphasis will probably be placed on the customer journey and, really, the ability to create quality customer relationships along with advanced technology and analytics. So, I think that continues to open a lot of doors as we look at the roles available in our industry.