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Personalizing the Guest Experience

Shari Chang, VP Sales and Marketing at Aston Hotels and Resorts
Gil Haddi
April 22nd, 2014
Working in the idyllic Island of Hawaii, Shari Chang speaks passionately about her freedom to pioneer new ideas in the travel and leisure industries in Hawaii and take Aston Hotels & Resorts to new levels of innovative hospitality. Having her own marketing company for 18 years, Shari is well versed in her role as the Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing at Aston Hotels, and is the go-to for expertise in tourism and hospitality marketing. Shari earned her post on the Hawaii Tourism Authority Board directly from the governor of the state when she gave him a demonstration on her cutting-edge destination training program and she currently shares her knowledge with young professional from countries all over the world through classes she teaches on a volunteer basis.

Three questions with Shari Chang:

1. How does your team generate new ideas?


In this high-touch industry, we want to integrate innovative technology, yet we also want to have a personal touch with our customers. We don't always have to develop the idea, but if we find something we like, we will try to adapt it to our own product.

We tackle a wide variety of disciplines in our weekly meetings in order to analyze trends in the industry and sound out ideas about different strategies we could employ and different ideas we've come across. For example, our Mobile Concierge program was sparked from a small idea that we had seen somewhere and we found a company that would customize it for one of our boutique hotels. We're constantly monitoring competitive information and various economic reports as well as networking and talking to people in the industry. It becomes important to take a thorough look at all the ideas we come across and spot the best ones.

2. What challenges do you face when innovating?

Cost for acquisition can be a challenge. When it is clear that an idea will pay off in the long run, we have to educate all disciplines that the investment will eventually pay for itself. It is important to us to try and keep up with everything that's out there but dealing with change is also a challenge, especially when it comes to new technology. We need to be able to adapt to working with different technology especially if it will improve the consumer experience because that will, in turn, improve our product and our work experience as well.

We have an edge over our competition because we are the brain trust right here - we are the ones who define the brand. This works in our benefit, giving us a lot more freedom to try new things and innovate.

3. How will Aston Hotels continue to be a leader in innovation?

We've always been on the ball with new technology, beta-testing products that other hospitality brands haven't even considered yet. As the leaders of our company, we have to keep encouraging our teams to find ideas outside of the norms in the industry, for example, we're currently looking into new ways to target consumers through their intent rather than just through their personas and behaviors.

The great thing about this industry is that there's something new every day and we encourage our teams to stay on top of everything so that we can discover new ventures and new directions in which we can go.
References: linkedin, astonhotels