With her nearly three decades of strategic thinking, data-driven decision-making, collaboration, and industry expertise, Monica Xuereb is something of a numbers ninja–she can see trends that others miss. It’s no wonder she was recently promoted to Chief Commercial Officer at Loews Hotels & Co, which owns and operates 26 hotels in the U.S. and Canada. As CCO, Xuereb leads the company’s commercial strategy, including oversight of revenue management, sales & marketing, catering & conference services, brand, communications, e-commerce, distribution, and the customer engagement center—sounds like a lot!
We chat with Monica about her career journey, the ever-evolving role of commercial strategy, and what she sees as the skills needed to succeed in this hot area of hotel management. Here’s herstory.
Let's go back to the beginning, how did you get into the hotel business and when did you transition into revenue management?
My first job was at the Front Desk at the Crowne Plaza in White Plains, NY. Later on, I worked in the reservations department at two Marriott hotels, one in Austin and one in NYC. I spent a year in Shanghai China opening the Ritz-Carlton there as the Director of Reservations. Revenue Management was just starting out and I had the opportunity to join one of the first Cluster Revenue Management offices for Marriott in New York City after my stint abroad. Marriott was at the forefront of revenue management with exciting tools, processes, and training. I had great teachers––Trish Ahlin and Maria Lowry––and a mentor Jean Cohen, who encouraged my interest in this field.
You worked your way up with Marriott and Ritz-Carlton, eventually overseeing the revenue strategy for 34 properties around the world. What are the key skills needed to be successful in this area?
I oversaw hotels in Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. Being aware of cultural differences and sensitivities was key to working closely with all the hotel teams and several owners. Being aware that what worked in the US did not necessarily translate abroad and you needed to be open-minded and think outside the box. Some of our hotels when I started did not know anything about revenue management and didn’t change rates or track their market share performance, I was very proud when I left the company that we had created a strong local revenue management culture and understanding at all the hotels.
What prompted you to leave Ritz and strike out on your own?
My position as Vice -President was eliminated during the Great Recession. Although it was devastating at the time, it turned out to be one of the best things that ever happened to me. I loved working for Marriott and Ritz-Carlton and I never would have left on my own. I needed to get kicked out of the nest to achieve my full potential. And I realized not only how much I had learned in my 17 years with Marriott but how many people I knew who had moved on to other companies in senior roles that wanted to hire me! I worked with many independent and small hotel chains internationally that didn’t have in-house commercial expertise and I really enjoyed helping and educating the teams there.
Was the risk worth it, to leave a comfortable corporate job to be an entrepreneur?
Although it was nerve-wracking, I had great advice and support from several mentors, especially Edward Mady. I promised myself that I would give it two years on my own and then decide whether I would take another corporate job. I ran a successful business for three and a half years, it was definitely worth it.
What lessons did you learn running your own business?
My own personal measurement of success was that every client I had, offered me a permanent job with their organization. It was important to me that I made an impact and provided value to my clients.
I was fortunate that I had more work than I could manage on my own but running your own business is a huge commitment and you are always looking for your next project. I was lucky to have engaged clients for multiple years but that’s not always easy to do.
Loews seduced you back in-house in 2013 when you joined as VP of Revenue Management. What are the three biggest changes you have had to navigate with the company over the last ten years?
Changes in leadership are always hard on the teams when they lead to massive changes in strategy.
Transitioning to a fully remote commercial organization due to the pandemic made us closer as we made greater efforts to stay connected.
Ensuring that there is growth and development for our team members is critical to retention, loyalty and satisfaction
The role of Chief Commercial Officer itself, is a relatively new position, what do you think has prompted hospitality to elevate this to a C-suite role?
As our COO John Cottrill says, there’s no bottom line without the top line. Bringing together Sales, Revenue Management, Marketing, Distribution, E-Commerce, Brand and Communications under one leader ensures a seamless and cohesive strategy for hospitality organizations. Growing the top line solves a lot of problems.
There is so much data today, is it easier or harder to make sense of it than when you first started out?
It’s not harder as long as you organize it well, it is consistent and easily accessible for the team that needs it to make decisions.
It seems with each passing year, the development of new technological solutions and the pace at which they come keeps increasing. If you had a crystal ball, what do you think will be the next big developments in terms of commercial strategy for hotel brands?
Personalized offerings, before and during your stay. Sustained and meaningful engagement after you leave.
Dynamic Food & Beverage Pricing – demand-based pricing is part of our life now yet we haven’t made great strides here
Use of bots to automate redundant work
Wow, I look forward to seeing those develop! What are the biggest challenges for the industry in terms of commercial strategy?
Balancing the need for customer data and privacy.
Integrated Technologies between all the diverse systems we use in hospitality
What are you most excited about with Loews Hotels right now?
Having a cohesive and collaborative commercial strategy that utilizes everyone’s talents
Trying things that haven’t been done before
What would be your advice for women looking to have a career in revenue management and commercial strategy?
Be curious, and diversify your experience. Search out people who will be your advocates. If you don’t understand something, ask someone to explain it to you. The data is important but you’ll need to speak with people to get context and the full picture.
Quickfire with Monica!
Was math your favorite subject in school?
Math was the only subject I wasn’t good at so it wasn’t my favorite. I studied many languages which developed my memory and logical skills, problem-solving and critical thinking, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills.
What is your morning routine?
Meditation, play with my dog, exercise, walk the dog then get ready for work.
What do you do for self-care / exercise?
Yoga, Strength training, boxing and being outside.
What is your "power breakfast" order at Loews Regency?
Oatmeal with berries and a cappuccino
What is your best travel hack?
Always sleep on the same side of the bed as you do at home