Howard Feiertag

Instructor
Howard Feiertag
350 Wallace Hall, Virginia Tech
295 West Campus Drive
Blacksburg, VA 24061

This is a story of a man’s almost 60 years in the Hospitality business, who had never planned, or even thought of being in this business.  In fact, getting involved in hotels and conventions was a complete accident. Throughout his career he never had a job he did not like, and never applied for any employment. In all his years he had always been recruited by companies for employment.

It all started in July 1928, when Howard was born in Brooklyn, of immigrant parents who already had 9 children.  This was in an area pretty much described as “the melting pot” with residents, all poor, from many countries, languages, race, religions, where people lived in tenement houses, not homes. He had a very happy childhood being taken care of by older brothers and sisters.  In this family the work ethic was very important; everyone had a job to contribute to the family living conditions. 

Howard’s first job was at the age 12 when he worked daily 7-8 a.m. selling newspapers for two cents to people traveling to work, but stopping at his newsstand which was in front of a candy store. After a period of time he was moved into the store which had an open window where people, on their way to work would stop for a paper, cup of coffee and a cigarette being sold for a penny a piece. The next step for him was when he moved, further into the store to the lunch country where he helped serve breakfasts to customers.

Moving onto high school he continued to work but this time at a larger luncheonette serving early morning breakfast, sometimes in the after school hours he would work there making ice cream sundaes, sodas, etc. Towards the end of his High School days he was working evening hours helping to prepare dinner meals for customers.

Right after High School graduation, Howard volunteered for military service. This was in1945 just before the end of World War 2.  He had three brothers already serving in the army and he thought it was his responsibility to join as well. During his three year period of service he was trained in military police, served in a criminal investigation department, then on to become an investigator in the security and intelligence division. In 1948 he was discharged, but remained in the military reserves.

At this point he was ready to find a job and go to work, but he had no vision, or plan of what he was going to do to make a living. His Commanding Officer had told him that he needed to go to college. This was far from his mind. All during his high school period the discussion of going to college never came up in the family or at school. Many students, upon graduating went to a Trade school to learn about being a Plummer or Electrician, etc. Going to college was just never part of any discussion in school. Everyone thought you had to be rich to go to college.  Howard’s Commanding Office insisted, and took over the job of searching for an appropriate University where he could follow in what he had learned and did while in service. The C.O. did the paper work, wrote letters, etc., and was able to get Howard into The School of Public Service, with a major in Police Administration at Michigan State College.

Here was an opportunity for the Government to pay all expenses under the G.I. Bill, and even provided an allotment to Howard’s family, and a small wage for him. Howard also worked as a dormitory counsellor while at Michigan State. He was there from 1949 to 1952, graduated with Honors, and through his military reserve status was award a commission in the army reserves as a second lieutenant.

Here we go again, like “now, what am I going to do for a job”.  Right after graduation he was sent to Prison in Jackson, Michigan, the largest maximum security prison in the U.S.  Without him knowing it, one of his professors had already made arrangement for his employment.  He was now a prison counsellor.

This lasted a pretty short time, the Korean War had started and military reserves were called to active duty. Howard was ordered to report for duty with the assignment as Commanding Officer, 56th Military Police Prisoner of War Camp in Korea. Guess the military had it all figured out with Howard’s experience as an enlisted man in the Military Police, Degree in Police Administration, and working in a prison, it all added up to this new military assignment.

After two years, the war was over and Howard was ready to return to civilian life. Again, “now what do I do for a job”  After discharge he joined a friend who lived in Atlanta and thought he would get a job there. His friend’s father knew about Howard’s background and experience and offered him a job working for his Insurance Investigation firm. Within six months Howard became assistant manager of that office, then after that was promoted to manager of its Savannah, Georgia office. After a couple years he was promoted to run the company’s regional office in Charlotte, N C. It was in 1960 that he met his partner which started a wonderful, lifetime relationship. During his period in Charlotte Howard became pretty active in the community, belonging to organizations, taking on leadership roles in the location Chamber of Commerce, and became President of the Junior Chamber of Commerce.  It was already about 6 years with the company when his next move would have been to manage the NYC office. When the local newspaper ran the story of Howard resignation from the office Junior Chamber of Commerce’s Presidency, and move to NYC, he began to receive a number of phone calls and luncheon dates with propositions for employment in Charlotte, so to remain there. One call was from the Chamber of Commerce with an invitation to lunch to offer him the job as the first Convention Bureau manager for the city. The Chamber had been working to start a Convention Bureau and had been searching for someone to run it. Howard had absolutely no idea of what this was all about.  “How does one run a Convention Bureau?”

This was his entry to the Hospitality Business in 1962.  Needless to say, he was most successful, even without knowing where to begin. About two years later, he received a call from the Manager if the Orlando, FL Chamber of Commerce. They wanted to talk to him about taking over the running of a Convention Bureau they wanted to start. Here we go again, no application or resume. So, he and his partner made the move to Orlando, FL. . However, it lasted a short time when he received a phone call from a NY Real Estate Company that purchased two hotels in Charlotte. He went up to meet those folks and they wanted him to be Director of Sales for the two hotels they were buying, with a five year contract, and nice income.  So that was the next move, back to Charlotte.  You need to understand that in all those three moves Howard never really applied for those jobs nor did he offer, nor was he asked for a resume.

So now it was back to Charlotte, with his partner. Being very successful in sales for the two hotels, when an incident developed at one of the hotels where Howard was accused of “stealing” business from a competing hotel. This is a most interesting story that you need Howard to explain to you. The hotel management company registering the complaint came to Charlotte to face Howard with their complaint. This ended up shortly thereafter with that Management Company asking Howard to join them as Director of Sales of the 22 hotels they owned and operated. The company was American Motor Inns. Again, there was no application for employment or resume.

It was around 1967, and the move was made to Roanoke, VA, home office for AMI. During the next 7 years a good deal of different things had happened. In 1970, Howard and his partner (at that time they were together for 10 years), went into the cattle farming business. They bought a farm outside of Roanoke, bought black angus steers and started a “feeder” operation, raising the steer calves from around 400 pounds to 800, then selling them on the market. It was quite a successful operation. At AMI Howard had started organizing sales teams at all of the properties, set up a standard system of sales operations for the company, hired and trained all the sales teams. He was promoted to Vice President of Sales and was given the marketing responsibilities for the company. In 1972, Howard, along with several meeting planners from the around the country organized a Meeting Planners Association which was intended to be a small club of planners. However, this was the beginning of Meeting Professionals International. Meanwhile during this period the company doubled its size in the number of hotels owned and operated. At that time Howard got involved in writing a monthly column for Travel Trade magazine which was a publication for Travel Agents. The theme of his monthly articles had to do with travel agents working with meeting planners to place business meetings.

All was going very well for Howard, as he always loved his work. Then came along another hotel management company just getting started in Memphis, TN….Howard was recruited again, no application or resume, just hired as Sr. V.P. Operations for Servico, a new company put together by three independent owners of hotels. So, the farm got sold, and move made to Memphis, TN.  This did not last but a year or so when Howard got a call from the President of his former company, AMI. “Ya gotta come back, everything is so screwed up”.  So, no questions asked, Howard got back to Roanoke, bought another farm raising Black Angus steers, and added a flock of sheep. Now he was Senior Vice President of Operations….There are many good stories Howard can tell about now operating 50 hotels including a new build in St. Thomas which he personally named Frenchman’s Reef.  I am sure many of you heard about that property.

So now, Howard gets back to Roanoke, buys another farm for cattle and sheep, and again, he and his partner do well in that business. During this period, back with American Motor Inns, he developed a subsidiary company for AMI helping motor coach tour companies locate appropriate housing at stops for their tours. He continued writing monthly columns for Travel Trade, but also started writing meeting planner columns for Corporate and Incentive Management magazine. In 1980 he started the Sales Clinic column for Hotel Management magazine and ran that monthly column for 35 years. At this time he was writing monthly columns for three publications. At one point he took over the 50 restaurants at the various hotel locations the company had operated because they were losing money.  He turned that around in one year. There were always happy times for Howard back in Roanoke with AMI. Things were also running very well on the farm.

In 1983 he was contacted by Servico, the hotel management company where he had gone to work in Memphis.  They now had their company headquarters located in West Palm Beach, FL,  and were operating 60 hotels. They wanted him to get back with them. Of course, this was the next move. Howard sold the farm, moved to Florida and took up operations as Sr. V. P. of operations for the company. This next chapter in his business life lasted 6 years when he was recruited by Mike Olsen, HTM Department Head at Virginia Tech to join the teaching staff in Blacksburg. In 1989 is when his teaching career started. Interestingly, again there was no application or resume. Of course, he and his partner got back into cattle and sheep farming, along with his teaching responsibilities, in Blacksburg, VA. In 2001 his lifetime partnership of 41 years ended with the death of his partner from a  massive heart attack.

On July 1, 2018, after serving almost 30 years on the faculty of the HTM Department at Virginia Tech,  a really big honor was bestowed upon him.  The name of the department in Pamplin College of Business had been renamed:  Howard Feiertag Department of Hospitality and Tourism Management, in recognition of his contributions to the hospitality industry as well as Virginia Tech.

He is the co-author of Lessons From The Field.....A Common Sense Approach to Effective Hotel Sales. His new book: Hospitality Sales and Marketing ...An Evolutionary Journey With Howard Feiertag is being published in 2019. 

Howard Feiertag was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, the youngest of 10 children. Worked in luncheonette throughout high school. Upon graduation in 1945 enlisted in the US Army, just prior to the ending of WW II.  Following three years of duty in Military Police and Military Intelligence he attended Michigan State University under the G.I. Bill.  He remained in Military Reserves and upon graduation received his commission as 2nd Lt.  For a short period he worked as a counsellor at Michigan State Prison, then called to active duty during the Korean War 1953-1955 where he was assigned as Commanding Office 56 Military Police Prisoner of War Camp.  After his two year tour of duty was employed as insurance investigator in Atlanta, Ga., then transferred to Savannah, GA, followed by being sent to Charlotte, NC.  In 1962 he was recruited by the Chamber of Commerce to be the first Manager of the new Charlotte Convention Bureau; followed by being recruited by Orlando Chamber of Commerce to be the first CVB Manager for their new bureau. He was then recruited to be Sales Manager for two Charlotte Hotels; followed by being recruited by American Motor Inns of Roanoke VA to do sales works for their 22 hotels. Over the years the company grew to 50 hotels and Howard grew into the job of Sr. V.P. of Operations.  In 1983 he was recruited by Servico, Inc. another hotel management company headquarters in West Palm Beach to be their Sr. V.P. of Operations for 60 hotels. In 1989 he was recruited by Mike Olsen, Department Head of the HRIM program at VT to join in on the teaching of undergraduates.

Courses taught

  • HTM 2334 Hospitality Sales
  • HTM 2474 Meetings Management

Conferences

Invited Talks

  • Countless talks and presentations over the years during 1980-2019

Professional Engagement

  • President, VA Chapter of HSMAI
  • President, NC Chapter HSMAI
  • Charter Member, Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
  • Sales Clinic Columnist for Hotel Management magazine, 1980-2015
  • Columnist for Travel Trade publication; Meetings and Convention publication; Corporate and Incentive Travel magazine.  
  • Have conducted workshops and training programs in Hong Kong, Tokyo, Austria, Canada, Ecuador, Brazil, Vancouver (BC), and a wide variety of cities in the U.S.

Education

  • BS, Michigan State College, East Lansing, MI, 1952

Certificates

  • Certified Meeting Professional (CMP
  • Certified Hospitality Marketing Executive (CHME)
  • Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA)

Awards

  • Hall of Fame , Hospitality Sales and Marketing International (HSMAI)
  • President’s Award, Meeting Professionals International (MPI)
  • Career Service Award, Virginia Society of Association Executives, 2012
  • Lifetime Achievement Award, Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), 2012
  • Excellence in Outreach Award, Virginia Tech, 2004
  • Fellow, American Hotel & Motel Association’s Educational Institute, 2001
  • Arthur Landstreet Award from the Educational Institute of the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 2001
  • Life-time Achievement Award, Convention Industry Council’s Hall of Leaders, 1999
  • Educator of the Year by the Professional Convention Management Association, 1998
  • Virginia Tech Student Choice Award, Student Alumni Associates, 1997

Industry Experiences

  • Senior VP of Operations, Servico, a hotel management company operating 60 hotels, 1983-1989 
  • Senior VP of Operations, American Motor Inns, a hotel management company operating 50 hotels, 1974-1983
  • Senior VP, Servico Management, 1973-1974
  • VP Sales and Marketing, American Motor Inns, 1967-1973
  • VP Sales, Two hotels in Charlotte, NC, 1965-1967
  • Manager, Orlando Convention Bureau, 1964-1965
  • Manager, Charlotte Convention Bureau, 1962-1964

Professional Engagement