Always looking to improve how it serves clients around the country and the world, San Francisco Travel has added a new Manager of Convention Sales, Sidney Lovett Hunter, focused on self-contained meetings throughout the Bay Area and Northern California. A Central Coast native and alumnae of San Jose State University, she joins San Francisco Travel after 20-plus years of experience with Hyatt Hotels. While she’s been busy reacquainting herself with the city and old colleagues around the area, we caught up with her to chat about the self-contained market, how excited she is to be back in the Bay Area and the tough choices she faces when it comes to picking a place to have lunch near the new San Francisco Travel offices at One Front Street.
Is the self-contained segment a different sales proposition from working with conventions or associations?
The way I look at it, it’s really more of a consultative role with the client to assist them in finding the right hotel for their meeting. The process is still collecting leads and working with relationships I’ve built in northern California. I work with the client’s objectives to figure out what their needs are and recommend the appropriate hotels here in the city or nearby. We have partnerships with hotels in San Jose, Santa Clara, Napa, Sonoma, Monterey as well as Oakland and Berkeley. I’m working with all of our hotel partners to ensure the best fit for the hotel and the client.
When it comes to these types of groups, what is it that sets San Francisco apart from other destinations?
There’s just so much — the arts, the culture, the dining experience, the museums, the weather. San Francisco is iconic in the United States, so when they want to be on the West Coast, most of our clients want to be in San Francisco. It has great appeal. Records show attendance numbers here exceed turnout in a lot of other destinations.
Were you already familiar with San Francisco prior to accepting the job?
I grew up in Monterey, so as a child this was very much our family vacation destination. Every time we came to San Francisco our getaways were always different because we always did different things, but at the end of the vacation, it was always San Francisco. I find it interesting that that’s how we position San Francisco: Never the same. Always San Francisco. It’s so true… I went to school at San Jose State. In 1995, I worked in the Bay Area, and then I was relocated to San Diego. It’s been 15 years, and I’m thrilled to be back and working with amazing clients and a great team of professionals at San Francisco Travel and selling a beautiful destination.
How does your background in hotel sales help you with this new role?
The background I’ve had has really helped to position me even better for working with a destination. I think there are a lot of common threads, especially when it comes to revenue management, collaboration and relationship skills. That’s one of the many things I really take pride in is having strong relationships, especially in this industry. It’s about connecting with people, collaborating, and listening to the client’s needs and objectives.
So, now that you’re back in the Bay Area, have you started finding some new favorite restaurants?
Oh, my goodness, I have. It’s fun to explore different regions here in San Francisco; each area is distinctively different. I am a ‘foodie’ and our offices are located close to the Ferry Building and I’m really enjoying a lot of the freshness and restaurant options. It’s important to be able to make suggestions to my clients when they come to San Francisco. We have so much to pick from — and great wines, too, because we’re so close to wine country. We truly are spoiled here in San Francisco!