Diving Into Development

Julienne Smith, Chief Development Officer, Americas, IHG Hotels & Resorts

What initially inspired you to get into the hospitality business? I worked my way through college and early in my career to supplement income within the restaurant industry. A few years post college, I landed an entry-level development role with a major brand company and have been in that space ever since. In my foundational roles within hotel development, I gained first-hand exposure to hotel owners’ entrepreneurial mindsets. This early experience underscored the significance of market intelligence, relationship management, and strategic negotiation—a foundation upon which I’ve built my career.

Who were some of your mentors or role models, male or female, and what were their most valuable lessons? Joel Eisemann, former IHG Americas Chief Development Officer, has been a pivotal role model in my career. He stands out for his emphasis on diligence, steadfast commitment, and maintaining an owner perspective. His guidance has reinforced the importance of resilience in driving success in hospitality.

What’s your outlook for the future with regards to diversity and inclusion within hospitality? As organizations, we need to continue prioritizing diversity internally and externally. Within IHG, we have a strong commitment to grow underrepresented leaders through programs and support networks. Externally, we collaborate with organizations like Women in Hospitality Leadership Alliance that are dedicated to advancing women in hospitality and have internship programs with our HBCUs in Atlanta. Our community of associates (and owners) should be as diverse as the guests we serve every day.

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