It would be easy to assume that Sean Lynch was a ‘fair weather’ hotelier when he first entered the game. After all, he stepped into hospitality to help fund his university studies in meteorology. But there must have been something in the atmosphere that changed those plans!
Today, Sean is Vice President of Revenue Management for Graduate Hotels – a perfect environment where he has combined his love of hospitality with academia. As Sean explains it: “Graduate Hotels are anchored in a lot of the university markets in the United States, as well as the United Kingdom, in Cambridge and Oxford specifically. We are in very dynamic markets, typically right next to major universities from the west to the east coast.”
From a memorable manager-on-duty shift involving a live lobster in a guest room to the special feel a personalized stay brings, and the rewards of working in hospitality and getting it right despite a global pandemic! We catch up with Sean and discover why he loves working in hotels.
What was your first role in hospitality?
I worked the front desk in Boston Heights at a Comfort Inn while I was at the University of Akron.
What was it that attracted you to the hospitality industry?
I was going to college for meteorology and I never thought I'd be attracted to anything else besides meteorology, until I started to work part-time at a hotel, at the front desk. Eventually, I worked my way into sales, more of the operations side, and just fell in love with hospitality in general. I would say I was probably destined for hotels simply because of the fact I'm never fine with the status quo!
Can you tell us about your career journey so far?
So far, my career journey has taken me to many different destinations in the United States. The large majority of my career was with Great Wolf Resorts, where I worked at a lot of the different indoor water park resorts located in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Washington state. I also worked at the corporate office as corporate director of revenue management, and eventually moved out west, worked at Duetto for a couple of years in customer success, and then eventually made my way to Graduate Hotels for the last two and a half years in revenue management.
What has been your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge specific to revenue management has been the ever-changing climate of demand. You had the pandemic recently, but going back 12 years with the recession and 20 years ago with 9/11, it seems about every once in a decade that everything gets turned on end and becomes extremely difficult, but that's where I think a lot of our industry starts to thrive, coming up with new takes on the business, overturning technology, and just how we do things. And we do it a lot better coming out of each one of these crises.
What has been the biggest success or highlight of your career?
Right now – as vice president of revenue management at Graduate Hotels. In my early career I went from hospitality discipline to discipline. Then, about 12 years ago, I fell in love with revenue management, and that was one of those areas where I said, ‘This is me’. This is my career for the rest of my life.’ To be able to thrive in an industry and also have passion for what you do – that’s a success. Graduate Hotels is so dynamic, it's growing so quickly in unique university markets, that to be able to drive a lot of the strategy for such a great company is definitely one of my biggest accomplishments.
What has been your most memorable experience as a hotel guest and what made it so special?
We went for a long weekend getaway to one of the Graduate Hotels in Tucson, and when we walked into the room, there was the amenity, but they also had reservations lined up for us. They had already looked at my internal ‘likes’ sheet, and they had suggested the restaurant, had made reservations, knew when I was arriving, and just made it very special.
What was the strangest or funniest day you've ever had at work?
I was probably 25 years old. I was manager-on-duty at a hotel and guests can get quite creative when they have possibly overspent! And this said guest actually purchased a live lobster from the grocery store next door and said that this lobster was just inside her room when she checked in, except she forgot to cut the supermarket's rubber band off of its claw. And there was a receipt actually on the counter as I walked into the room. So, needless to say, there was no refund, but quite an embarrassing moment for her, but quite memorable for me, 15 years later!
If you hadn't gone into hotels, what else would you have done?
I absolutely would've followed my passion for meteorology. I do not regret going into hotels and not following my initial passion, just because it was such a tough market to get into, the job growth rate was constantly declining with technology. You didn't need five or six people to chase a tornado, right? So that's where I had to make some tough decisions while I was in college. And I was already working at a hotel, understood what the career path was, and just went for it.
What one piece of advice would you give to anyone considering a career in hospitality today?
I would say just do it! There have been challenges with the pandemic; any aspect of any industry is going to have its ups and downs. But there are very few industries as rewarding as hospitality. Whether you're in operations and you're taking care of the guests and just seeing the satisfaction, or they're constantly coming back; to revenue management and going through these difficult times and watching your business grow once again and staying on top of trends and making the best decisions. Or whether you're in sales or finance or any other discipline at a hotel, there's always going to be that rewarding factor that makes you appreciate the industry you're in.