Revpar Media Founder, Calvin Tilokee, on Bringing Together the Hospitality Community

Advice From Employers / April 11, 2022

If you work in the hospitality industry and have social media, you have likely seen a meme about an unruly guest, the struggles of making it through budget season, or more recently, the struggles of wearing a mask with glasses as a front desk agent. Revparblems, the account behind the much needed laughs we all relate to is the work of Calvin Tilokee

In 2020, just as the pandemic shut down the hospitality industry, Calvin found himself having to pivot his career after being laid off from his role in revenue management, and so Revpar Media was born. From there, Calvin has also started his own career coaching business, The Growth Spot, where he has mentored people from Vice President to Regional Director roles, and is also the host of the Revenue HACKS podcast. 

Hcareers recently spoke with Calvin about how his 20 years of hospitality experience is helping Revpar Media bring hospitality professionals together, especially through the pandemic. 

What is your current role and how is it related to the hospitality industry?

I am the Founder and CEO of Revpar Media which is a social media management agency for hotels that I started during the pandemic. Similarly to many others in the industry, I was laid off in 2020, and I always had an aptitude for social media and the more creative side of revenue management, which is what I was doing pre-pandemic.

Revpar Media came out of what I saw as a need for the industry, because a lot of agencies and freelancers don’t have first hand experience of working in hospitality, and don’t know the power social media can have in driving business to hotels and restaurants when it’s done right. Combining that with the analytical and strategic part of my brain that I used in revenue management makes me and Revpar Media unique.

What made you want to join the hospitality industry when began your career

Hospitality and travel have always been an interest of mine. I’ve had a passport since the age of 1, and with my family being from the Caribbeans, I traveled back and forth a lot at an early age. 

My parents had a timeshare in the Caribbean and that was my first experience in hotels and resorts. I remember when I was 12 or 13, I was babysitting my younger brother while my parents went to the casinos and there was never anything to do for kids at the resort. When I told my dad that he asked me “well, what would you do differently?” He didn’t realize that that question would have an impact on my career path, because that kicked off my interest in hotels and hospitality. 

When I went to college, I originally picked biology but after meeting hospitality majors, I wanted to be able to have all of the hands-on learning experience they were getting through the on-campus hotel. You could take a class on operations and work a shift the same day, or help put on cooking classes and gain restaurant experience.

I was drawn to hospitality because I love meeting people and hearing their stories. Every day is the same but also never the same. Your daily functions may be the same but everyone coming through creates a new interaction. It really keeps you on your toes.

What was your first job in the hospitality industry?

I started as a host and a Marriott bartender before college, but once I joined the hospitality program in college I gained experience in every type of position and department including housekeeping, front desk, operations and more. 

My first official job after graduating was as a reservations manager at a Hilton.

What is the best piece of career advice you were given that truly impacted you in your work life?

Never stop learning. You never want to get to a point where you feel like you know it all, in work or outside of work. We are constantly changing with the world around us. Stay relevant by being open to learning new things.

What was your career path to your current positions; social media influencer and career coach?

I spent some time in all departments of hospitality. I started in hotels and switched to restaurants where I learned that F&B wasn’t for me so I went back to hotels and ultimately stayed in revenue.  I’ve worked in all types of properties and locations so I encountered all kinds of guests, problems, solutions and experiences, which has helped me create really relatable content for all hospitality roles. 

For career coaching, people always told me that I should be a teacher, and career coaching allows me to flex that muscle. I want to help people get out of their own way and avoid making unnecessary mistakes. A great career coach is willing to tell someone what they don’t want to hear or what others are unwilling to say in a constructive way. 

I’ve been fortunate to have had great career coaches in my own life, and I want to do the same for others.

How did you build up the community you have on social media? How do you think it has helped the industry and its workers?

Consistency in the content was a major factor in building the community to what it is now, and what it continues growing into. My goal has always been to build a community where people can turn to for support and advice, whether you’re a front desk agent in California, or a chef in Michigan or a general manager in Shanghai. The idea was always, “let’s have a laugh at the things that stress us out”, and as an added bonus, many have mentioned they’ve learned more about hotels and revenue through the content.

The best thing about having the community is getting to meet new people. One of the coolest experiences of that was when I was in Barcelona and I was sharing posts of the trip on Instagram stories and some of the community members reached out and we met up for drinks. It was such a great experience to realize the reach of the page and that people enjoy and relate to the content enough to want to get together in person.  

As I mentioned, the page was built on mainly providing comic relief for those in the industry going through similar experiences that we all share when you work in the industry. During the pandemic, the page grew by 2-3,000 and I think that was a moment in time where so many people from the industry needed a place to detach from the stress we were all experiencing.  

I try to use the page to help any followers who reach out to me with questions or concerns. For example, someone might reach out and ask if I’ve ever seen a property do something specific and I’ll put a poll out and start a discussion. I also share job postings, or offer some career advice where I can. We all need to help each other out. 

How would you like to see the industry change post-pandemic?

Tying back into my best piece of career advice is that the industry should also never stop learning and adapting. Hospitality has a tendency to be slow changing with technology and the times. I’m hopeful but not fully confident that the industry will adapt to all of the technology that came out of the pandemic. 

For example, the QR code recently made a great comeback in restaurants and hotels to limit the amount of contact and as a bonus cuts down paper waste and operational costs, but it took a pandemic for the industry to fully embrace it rather than adopting it in 1994, when it was first introduced. Of course there are certain establishments, like a fine-dining restaurant where a QR code won’t be as welcome, but it’s now an option for all. 

I’m also seeing it in remote work, where the industry isn’t embracing it where possible but remote work won’t be going away. Those who are in sales, marketing, or revenue management are perfectly capable of working from home, saving the commute time to be with family or take some self care time and then focus on productivity during work hours.

What should industry professionals look for in a mentor, and how can they find a mentor?

Look for someone who is where you want to be, or had a similar career path as yours. Also, ask a lot of questions once you find that person or persons. When you do finally find a mentor, ask them if there is anything that you can take off their plate. It’ll give you some hands-on learning experience, and prepare you to take on more responsibilities as you grow in your career. 

Ask deeper questions about what you are doing as well, and not just doing something for the sake of doing something. Ask why a report is important, or what information it gives a team. How a specific task helps the property operate well, or even ask what the point of a task is if you don’t really understand. These all give you the opportunity to really learn the ins and outs of the industry, but also could identify ways you can make the industry better by creating a new process, or a new way of doing something.

Ask more questions to different people and you’ll find the people who are willing to teach. 

What is your biggest piece of advice for diverse candidates getting into the hospitality industry?

Just focus on doing the best job that you can. I’ve always approached my career as I’m coming into a job to do the best work possible. 

Act like you belong. I’ve always told myself, I belong in the room because I am here and my work has spoken for itself and I’ve earned the right to be here.

More About Calvin

During a 20 year hotel career, Calvin has amassed a diverse skill set spanning multiple brands and markets, including Hilton, Marriott, IHG, Starwood, and Independent properties. Additionally, Calvin’s passion for people has spilled over into career coaching. As with revenue and social media, building a successful career takes a strategic approach. Over the years, Calvin’s guidance has helped mentor people to Vice President and Regional Director roles.