Tim Hemphill, Skålleague of the Month - November'21


Tim Hemphill

Skålleague of the Month - November'21

Skål International New Orleans, U.S.A.

We are happy to feature Skål International New Orleans Board Member and Past Skål International USA VP of Membership Tim Hemphill as Skålleague of the Month. 

Tim has been one of the major players in the #comeback of the Skål International New Orleans club and its current trendsetter status in New Orleans for the Travel and Tourism Industry. 

This month, the theme is #thecomeback, so we asked Tim to share the process of their comeback with global Skål International membership and how they reclaimed the status of being the trendsetter in the industry.

Now nearly eight years ago, the board of Skål International New Orleans, including selected club members, convened a retreat determined to chart a future course for a club with a great history but characteristic of many clubs around the U.S.; falling membership with matching lack of enthusiasm to carry on. The retreat had three goals:

  1. Create a commitment from board members to the overall direction of the club.

  2. Develop a “rally point” for the group to work toward.

  3. Clearly define the purpose of the club.

The retreat was facilitated by a professional to keep the participants on task and stimulate participation and discussion.

For these efforts to succeed a ‘Mission Statement’ was crafted during the retreat that was to guide every decision made by the Board from that point forward:

Skål International New Orleans is the forum of choice for select senior level executives to build relationships, share in conviviality, interact with peers and to support the visitor and travel industry.

Using this as a guide, a healthy list of prospective members at the executive level emerged, a vision of how many members and whom the club would have in three years and establishing a proper mix of social and business meetings to set the club apart from other industry organizations. All retreat participants were required to describe what they thought the club should look like in three years.

The success of the retreat is evidenced in today’s membership which is nearing 100, and capped, from 41 active members in 2013 and having a net gain in members over the pandemic. Two important elements built the momentum to get the club where it is today, a sustained and methodical growth in senior level executives and producing an annual event that established the club’s credibility and built awareness, both were equally important to the other.

The referenced event is the Skål International New Orleans Annual Industry Update that now attracts over 400 hospitality professionals and has featured keynotes from national industry leaders and a panel of local executives.

Our monthly meetings are the liveliest of any organization in New Orleans, regularly drawing over 60% of the membership, from operating meeting to meeting financially, to now having a modest treasury and contributing to the local Hospitality, Restaurant and Tourism School at the University of New Orleans. 

The club continues to evolve, most recently establishing new guidelines for how many members, at what level, from which segment, and specifically how new members are proposed.  We have most all big box hotel general managers as members as well most other sizes represented in more in the member pipeline.  Senior executives from the DMO, airport, convention center and all local travel and tourism associations are members.

In reflection, all of the retreat goals have now been met or exceeded. Credit for this success is due to a small group of dedicated members who were determined to find an unmet need in the local hospitality industry.  The club is known as a monthly place for senior level executives to associate with their peers free of sales pitches, politics or any particular obligation.

This process could be a prescription for clubs needing to find an opportunity to hit the reset button. It worked for Skål International New Orleans. My Skål experience started with the Orlando club where I learned the value of making industry friends and appreciating that every club can have a unique role to play within its destination.