What does it take to stick with a company for 12 years, through thick and thin, great times and pandemic times? Surely it has to take something special. Something long lasting, something more than the norm. Having spoken to our talented and lovely Sales Director, Sharon Cowley (who is with Net Affinity for 12 years this month) it sounds like it does. As well as a natural love for the underlying values and essence of hospitality, Sharon also has love for the company she has worked tirelessly for, for more than a decade now. People are the backbone of hospitality, and of Net Affinity, too. When a place is filled with open, kind and intelligent people, how could you not love it?
Here's to Sharon who has helped make Net Affinity what it is today. Here's more from her on our company, our industry, and what the future holds.
What was the hospitality industry like when you started working at Net Affinity?
It was a great time for me personally as I had left the operational side of the hotel business and when I started working for Net Affinity, I embarked on a whole new career. Net Affinity enabled me to learn about the world of technology from a different perspective and it gave me a great buzz (and it still does!) It’s an ever-changing, fast paced and competitive environment. Many hotels at the time had standalone booking engines but really didn't pay huge attention to their websites – it was more of an 'online brochure'. Paid marketing just started to be a real thing and hotels relied quite heavily on the more traditional media channels and travel trade rather than paid marketing to drive business.
How has your own role changed shape over the years?
My role from the beginning has been Director of Sales, and initially it was about building up our portfolio of clients within the Irish market. Now, I am more focused on retaining our strong portfolio here in Ireland and growing the business across our other core markets too. Over the years, I have also been heavily involved in the development of our products and our team, but most of all, I have been focused on growing every aspect of our business and looking after clients well.
What do you like about working in the hospitality industry?
I love being part of the hospitality industry. I have been involved in it since I was 18 when I started studying at Shannon College of Hotel Management. I think to be in this industry, you need to be passionate about hotels and hospitality. Hospitality offers a wonderful career - it offers travel, access to a wide range of careers within the sector and more importantly, it has introduced me to the most wonderful clients, colleagues and lifelong friends - both near and far. It has also afforded me the opportunity to have a balanced family life while maintaining a very senior position at work.
What do you like about working in Net Affinity?
Net Affinity is a great place to work! We have a superb team of very dedicated professional individuals, and whilst it has been challenging at times, we always make it through together. Our most recent challenge (the dreaded pandemic) actually made the team unite together more than ever. I think we have come out stronger, closer and more focused than ever before. We work on a common goal but never lose sight of the fact that our people are what absolutely make us what we are. William Cotter, our Managing Director, has been the creator, shaper and keeper of our long standing team.
How do you think things have things changed over the years within the industry?
The main change over the years has been the increase in technologies that hotels use. Initially, hotels may have had a website with a booking engine and a front office system - but that would be it. Now, hotels use technology for pretty much everything. When I started in Net Affinity, virtually no hotels had a channel manager. Channel managers have probably been one of the greatest pieces of technology introduced from a distribution and timesaving perspective. Next came the integration of technologies - everything working cleanly together for a neater guest experience. The use of online marketing and channels such as Google Hotel Ads have also become absolute necessary. The 'now' is data, and with our brand new booking engine, we are providing clients with the best, most up-to-date user friendly data to help them make informed decisions on the spot that will positively impact growth in their business.
What do you think hoteliers need to focus on in the present?
I think right now, hoteliers need to focus on their teams - people make this business. We need to look after the people that we have in our businesses - help them to develop with the right training.
We also need to attract bright young talent to the industry. We need to show the benefits that a career in hospitality can give and show the many facets of the business that are available to graduates coming into the workplace. We need to work at grassroot level through secondary schools by providing talks from senior professionals in the industry, developing mentoring programs for people who are interested.
To book a demo of our booking engine, click here.