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Raul Gomez joined Duetto earlier in the year as Director of Sales for Latin America and the Caribbean. With a background in hotels and a solid tech education, he is perfectly placed to introduce hotels in these regions to the benefits of using Duetto.
Originally set for Law School, Raul took a vacation job on the front desk at the local hotel and never looked back! Going on to juggle work with studying for a Computer Science degree, Raul has worked for some of the biggest names around, including Hilton, Nor1, and Oracle, before finally joining the Duetto family.
Here, he talks about what he loves about Duetto, the journey that led him here, how the hotels in his region are faring right now, and a little about what makes him tick.
Tell me a little about your hotel career.
Originally I wasn’t interested in hotels, I was at college all set for law school. Then I transferred schools from Southern Illinois back to Chicago and in the summer I took a job in a hotel working on the front desk. But I really enjoyed it and ended up staying on that path! Every time I tried leaving the hotel industry to go back and get into law I just kept learning new things and staying.
Eventually, I joined a Management Program with Hilton, where they’d send you on a management course and you’d go through every single department and understand and learn everything about it and how to run it. Then at the end, you decide which department you like the best and based on that, they find you the right position within the corporation.
Then I honed in on banquets for a time and became a Banquet Manager. I really enjoyed it and eventually, I noticed that I was really into the Sales aspect of it. Then I became Catering Manager before eventually switching over to Sales. I found my calling and moved to Orlando where I worked for a total of four hotels at a property called Rosen and Hotels.
I also went back to school and decided to get a Computer Science degree, and while I was doing that RMS Cloud gave me an opportunity to work for them, and so then I made the jump over to Tech.
So for a while there you were working full time in the hotel and studying for your Computer Science degree. How did you manage to fit everything in?
Well, it was full-on. I’d work during the day until around 5 or 6pm, take my classes in the evening and then do my home studies from about 10.30pm until 1am. I’d take a nap during my lunch hour in my car! That was my life for almost a year and it did start to run me down after a while, but for me, it was worth it. Fortunately, once I went to RMS Cloud they understood and let me work my role around my classes, giving me time off on class days to get some real rest.
Can you tell us a little about what you did at RMS Cloud?
I worked in sales for their PMS. It was a relatively small company and so we had to wear many hats and I gained a real education about every aspect of it. We had to learn everything about integration, how the API works and how the integration works.
We were, in essence, Sales Engineers and Sales Managers, and if I wasn’t tech savvy it would’ve been tough for me to make it there. Most of my colleagues either had a Computer Science degree or had very in-depth knowledge of technology.
Could you tell us a little about your journey from RMS to Duetto?
When I was at RMS Cloud, I was approached by a recruiter looking for someone that spoke Spanish, had opened Latin America before, and had some sort of tech background. They weren't necessarily looking for somebody that could code, but somebody that fully understood the tech. So to cut a long story short, the company was Nor1 who sells artificial intelligence upsell software. I had a fantastic time there, and everything I had learned at RMS Cloud I honed and sharpened a little bit more.
Nor1 eventually was purchased by Oracle, and so I moved over there, which was a great experience of being part of a larger organization.
And then Duetto came calling. I met with David Woolenberg, we had a brilliant conversation and my career with Duetto got started from there.
You’ve been with us for about three months now, and how’s it going so far?
I’ve loved it! One thing that’s really caught my attention is the fact that every single day since I started, one of my colleagues has reached out to me to see how my day is going, or to ask if they can help with anything. I think this is amazing as I really haven’t met anyone in person yet or had the usual experience of starting a new role, because of working from home. It’s made the transition that much more of a humbling experience.
So Duetto is living up to your expectations then?
Yes, absolutely! It’s funny because every company at some point claims that it treats its employees like family, and to some extent that is true. But with Duetto, it’s the first time I’ve truly felt that sentiment. One thing that puts that into perspective and really resonated with me was that David [Woolenbrg, CEO] once said to me that here, Sales isn’t one person, it’s a team. He said I should never be selling by myself because I have a team of people to help me. Everyone wants to help and wants to see you succeed.
What can you tell me about how hotels are faring right now and what are your expectations for your region as we attempt to move forward in the months and the year ahead?
Specific countries in Latin America are faring pretty well, particularly because of pent-up demand. The resort areas are really taking advantage of this post-pandemic era. Pent-up demand from the U.S. as well as other parts of Latin America is really driving tourism here again. On the books (OTB) right now for July and August show record numbers of reservations compared to pre-pandemic periods.
Not all of Latin America is faring so well however because some countries are slower with their vaccination programs, but places like Mexico, Costa Rica, and Colombia are doing very well. Brazil, Chile, and Argentina are still suffering a little bit.
The Caribbean is a little on the conservative end as well, due in part to their slower vaccination programs and the restrictions they’re still imposing. Also, they’re still trying to recover from the hurricanes of previous years, and now they’ve been hit by this pandemic. It’s tough for them.
Moving forward, I think Latin America is a very untapped resource, specifically outside of Mexico. You’ve got these large emerging markets, specifically Brazil and Colombia, who are doing this massive campaign push as a country.
So, is Latin America benefiting from the transatlantic travel block right now? Are you getting a lot of U.S. travellers ‘hopping’ over to Colombia and Mexico, boosting things for the region?
That's exactly right. They're benefiting from the fact that they don't have the COVID restrictions anymore and that they're a little bit more relaxed. A lot of these reservations were made prior to the restrictions even being lifted, so it was almost a guessing game at that point. A couple of months back when we still weren't sure when hotels were going to open, we already had hotels sitting at 70% to 80% occupancy on the books in these resorts.
So, outside of work, what do you enjoy doing?
I really enjoy woodworking. I make things like kitchen tables, coffee tables, charcuterie boards - anything I have enough lumber for! I also compete a lot in duathlon, not so much now because of the pandemic, but I did before. I also enjoy paddleboarding; it’s very calming just spending the day out on the lake.
And when travel finally does resume, where will you be jetting off to?
Either Paris, as I have some friends there, or Ireland. Specifically Waterford or Dublin. I just fell in love with the place and would love to go back.
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