Dyllis Hesse shares her passion for the travel industry, and insights on advancing equal leadership opportunities for women. We discuss how hotels can thrive unprecedented competition, market volatility and disruptive business models. We also touch on the technology trend most disruptive for travel.

Accenture Travel: You are managing director at Accenture, and have deep expertise in consumer goods, retail and travel industries. Tell us about your professional journey and what drives your passion for the travel industry.

Dyllis Hesse: My passion for the travel industry stems from my childhood years. I was born in Scotland and spent the first nine years of my childhood living in New York, California, Canada, and then travelling back and forth to the United Kingdom. My parents wanted me to see all different parts of the United States and Europe growing up—which I truly value now. My eyes were opened to the world—different cultures, scenery and people—I loved it. So when I started my professional career with Accenture, I welcomed travel. My career has meant I have lived in London, Germany and the United States, with lots of travel to India and other countries in Asia. Personally however, I love exploring new places—Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan are my favorite, and of course many European cities too. Now that I am working as the global client account lead for Accenture for one of our largest hospitality clients—I am excited to see the industry from the inside.

AT: Accenture's research1 finds the ratio of female to male managers is at a poor 17 women to every 50 men globally. Further, Women in Hospitality Leadership Report by Castell Project2 reveals only one in 22 women are CEOs, and one in nine are presidents. How can organizations advance equal leadership opportunities for women?

DH: We need to take personal ownership for doing more. Accenture as a firm has set a goal of achieving 50:50 gender equality by 2025, and we all need to do our part. For me that means not only making sure that every opportunity has a strong list of women and men, but more importantly mentoring and providing an example for younger generations within the firm. When I started back in London, there were no female role models that I aspired to be like. But now with three kids aged eight, five and two—and one of them a daughter—I need to show both to myself and my daughter that it is possible to have a successful career and have a successful family life. In Laura Vanderkam’s book I Know How She Does It, the author collected hour-by-hour time logs from 1,001 days in the lives of women who make at least $100,000 a year, and she found some surprising facts: These women worked less and slept more that what others anticipated, and not much more than the average worker earning three times less. However, this is not just about women. From my personal situation, if I did not have a very supportive husband, who takes a very hands on role with the kids, I would not be able to do what I do. So it is also about having an attitude that we are all valuable and can help create an environment where men and women can thrive. If we do this, we will all become stronger.

AT: How can hotels thrive amidst unprecedented competition, market volatility and disruptive business models in today's smart and connected world?

DH: Every industry, every company has huge threats in the form of digital competitors currently—startups and other companies are purposely going after what they see as trapped value. The key to success lies in the basics that have been around forever—stay close to your customers. Marriott, as an example, are using their scale and closeness with the customers/guests to figure out how they can continue to provide excellent service as well as new innovations. The evolving technology is also playing a significant role—AI, analytics and automation are empowering companies to serve travelers better and more efficiently, simultaneously allowing hotel associates to focus more of their time on enhancing and personalizing the guest experience.

AT: Which technology and trend do you see as the most disruptive for the hospitality industry and why?

DH: The technology trend I see most disruptive is "Get To Know Me" outlined in Accenture’s Technology Vision 2019. The technologies consumers choose are so integrated into their lives that they’ve become part of their identity. Travel companies that want a sustainable relationship with consumers need to move beyond the trip into travelers’ daily lives into the realm of hyper-relevance, become a living business and embrace constant change.

Our client, Marriott International, was one of the featured Salesforce Trailblazing companies at Dreamforce 2018 and they spoke about the power of data and applying it to enhance the guest experience by adjusting the hotel room temperature to their ideal temperature, putting out their favorite pillow type for their stay or even having the guest’s favorite drink on standby as they arrive to the hotel.

Consumer insight will be the lynchpin. Travel companies must develop methods that track how well they are appealing to the values of their consumer and how well they are helping them achieve their goals.

Word of caution though! There’s a line between “useful” and “creepy,” and what’s more, it varies for each person. It will be both critical and challenging for travel companies to determine the limits of personalization.

AT: What kind of a traveler are you?

DH: These days I travel primarily for work between Atlanta and the D.C. area, and visiting our other client sites around the globe. I am a curious traveler—on every trip I make a point of going outside to run, and see more of the surroundings rather than just the room or the office. I like to walk (if I can)—or take local transport. On a recent trip to India, my team thought I was crazy for wanting to walk around the block to the hotel and take an auto-rickshaw—I just loved the experience!

AT: What is your favorite travel destination?

DH: My husband and I travelled a lot before having kids. His brothers lived in Asia—Tokyo, Singapore, Penang, so we travelled a lot through the region. We stayed at amazing places, met such friendly people and had amazing food. I also loved visiting the temples in Cambodia and travelling through Vietnam. My favorite travel destination was Myanmar, before it got too popular, and anywhere undiscovered. But best of all of course is coming home to the smiles and welcoming arms of my three kids. That’s the best bit—to get the huge hugs and kisses from them when I return.

1 Accenture's research

2 Women in Hospitality Leadership Report by Castell Project

Dyllis Hesse

Managing Director – Accenture


Charita Leelayudth on thriving in disruption
Susan Doniz on encouraging women in aviation

Subscription Center
Stay in the know with our newsletter Stay in the know with our newsletter