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 September 2019...

Hotel Group Meetings: Uncommon Destinations

The last few years have been good to the Hotel Group Meetings industry and that trend is expected to continue into 2019. Planners are brimming with confidence due to an expanding economy and increased job creation, which typically results in a boost in corporate meetings. Given this promising outlook, planners are trying to outdo themselves to satisfy the high expectations of their clients. One notable trend is to integrate unusual settings into the meeting experience, hosting groups at local zoos, aquariums, museums, event centers, or other outdoor facilities. The goal is to embrace uncommon destinations, rather than a typical hotel conference room, so that meetings can be memorable, unique and stimulating. This is also part of another trend which is to support all things local - from hosting events at landmark city venues; to catering through local restaurants, food trucks and microbreweries; to hosting off-site excursions like agri-tours, athletic events or scenic 5k routes. However, though the setting might be spectacular, there are still some bedrock components that must be provided to ensure a successful meeting. Free, high-speed Wi-Fi is still one of the most requested services. Planners have to make sure that a comprehensive communication infrastructure is in place so clients can easily connect - and stay connected - to the network throughout the entire meeting experience. Also, technology tools can be used to streamline the booking, registration, and check-in process, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) materials can be utilized to ensure seamless access to conference events. There are also numerous software tools that encourage audience participation, as well as integrating polls, Q&A, surveys and games into speakers' presentations. The September Hotel Business Review will examine issues relevant to group meetings and will report on what some hotels are doing to promote this sector of their operations.