Neil W. Ostergren, CHME, a longtime ‘master of hotel marketing’ and past chair of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), died October 6 in New York. He was 84 years old.
Neil’s inspiring enthusiasm, unique approaches to hospitality marketing, and his gift for building and maintaining extraordinary relationships could be seen throughout his long and distinguished career of more than 50 years. Neil held marketing positions with Roger Smith Hotels, Hilton International, Americana Hotels, and Wyndham Hotels; consulted internationally for Quatro Rodas Hotels in Brazil and the Ministry of Tourism in the Dominican Republic; and was involved with a variety of hotel and travel clients at two marketing agencies, Chenault and Robinson, Yesawich & Pepperdine.
“Neil was an accomplished and passionate professional who was clearly one of the early pioneers in the evolution of hotel sales to contemporary hotel marketing,” said Peter Yesawich, principal of MMGY Global. “He was also a mentor, supporter, and immensely helpful colleague of mine, for which I will be forever grateful. He will be missed.”
Neil’s dedication to advancing the growth of the hotel and travel industry was perhaps best reflected in his countless contributions to HSMAI. An active member of HSMAI since 1960, he went on to serve as chair of HSMAI, president of its Greater New York Chapter, and chair of the HSMAI Foundation. Post-retirement, Neil remained active in HSMAI, including as a consultant for the association’s annual Adrian Awards competition and black-tie gala, recognizing achievements in hospitality advertising, digital marketing, and public relations. Neil’s lasting legacy, though, is 75 Years of Service and Achievement, a 216-page commemorative book he co-authored with David C. Dorf, CHME, on the history of the hospitality sales and marketing profession and HSMAI. Filled with astute observations, stirring reflections, and humorous anecdotes, the tome celebrates industry milestones and pays tribute to HSMAI’s leaders throughout its evolution as an association.
“Neil was the consummate professional in both marketing and advertising—much of it ahead of others who received more accolades after leaving the industry,” said friend and former colleague Mike Leven, chairman and chief executive officer of Georgia Aquarium. “He remained active with HSMAI to the end and his last work was to help others—especially young people. Though he never received the praise he deserved, those who knew him acknowledged his special gifts and his friendship.”
Widely regarded as an authority on a range of hospitality subjects, Neil wrote for a variety of publications and was active in the Travel and Tourism Government Affairs Council; the Academy of Travel & Tourism; and the New York University Tisch Center for Hospitality, Tourism, and Sports Management Advisory Board. He was also one of President Bill Clinton’s first 42 delegate appointments to the White House Conference on Travel and Tourism.
“Neil’s legacy with HSMAI is unprecedented,” said Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHA, president and CEO of HSMAI. “His passion for ‘his’ association had no boundaries. He was a kind man with a big heart and an undying love for HSMAI.”
A recipient of HSMAI’s Albert E. Koehl Award, Northwest Airlines' Distinguished World Traveler Award, and Murdoch Magazines’ Hotel Marketing Executive of the Year Award, Neil was inducted into the HSMAI Hall of Fame in 1998.
Donations can be made in Neil Ostergren’s memory to a new HSMAI student leadership fund which has been established to support HSMAI’s Collegiate Chapters. Check donations may be sent to HSMAI, Attn: Mandie Hart, 7918 Jones Branch Dr., Suite 300, McLean, VA 22102. Credit card donations can be called in to Mandie at 703-506-2025.