For many hotels, the road to total revenue management represents a journey already begun. For others, it truly is about starting. But the commitment to change is slow and plodding, and there is not yet consensus on just what the best route to take might be. The components of a total revenue management structure include everything from the job description of a revenue manager to the structure of a financial statement.
To begin, what exactly is Total RM? The concept of Total RM is not a new notion. Hotels have always endeavored to maximize the entire asset. The difference today is the desire by hotels and resorts to sophisticate their approach to profit maximization. In essence, total RM is simply about optimizing revenues and profits from all revenue streams (rooms, food and beverage, parking, spa, golf, retail, other activities). It is about finding the most profitable mix of business for the entire hotel asset. More often metrics such as gross operating profit per available room and profit per occupied group room are being tracked.
There are a number of characteristics that define the Total RM phenomenon, and hotels that take charge of these components will discover a distinct competitive advantage in otherwise fiercely competitive markets. In 2012, the extent that a hotel is practicing Total RM will define bottom-line successes.
A recent landmark study published by the HSMAI Foundation (Distribution Channel Analysis: A Guide for Hotels) describes a “mature U.S. lodging market” that has seen demand growth of hotel rooms over the past 20 years average only 1.6% a year and predicts there are “indications that this pattern is likely to continue for the foreseeable future.” The study also states that “When (average daily rate) growth was examined over time, the U.S. industry-wide ADR in 2010 was approximately $10 below the inflation-adjusted rate charged in 2000.”
Taking these realities into consideration, where else but with a Total RM approach will hotels see improvement in profitability?
There are many elements that make up Total RM as it is evolving today. The more obvious ones include tracking contribution (profitability) by market segment from a “total spend” perspective, and more involvement by the revenue manager in optimizing all revenue streams—in other words, moving away from a rooms-centric revenue management effort.
Here are some of the characteristics of a Total RM effort and the extent to which hotels are incorporating these practices into their overall revenue management programs:
- Profitability by market segment: Tracking contribution (profitability) by market segment from a “total spend” perspective is a key element of Total RM. Hoteliers believe they know instinctively what segments produce better flow-through, but often this information is anecdotal in nature and, at best, is confined to the rooms and/or food and beverage divisions, not ancillary revenues. Whereas most hotels track costs per occupied room in aggregate, few typically track costs/profits on a segment basis. And from the F&B perspective, although outlets are tracked separately from catering, aggregated data is typical, not data by segment. While some hoteliers are inventing their own methods to track individual market segment profitability, what a Total RM effort requires is an industry-wide consensus on permanent changes to the Uniform System of Accounts, changes that enable hotels to drill down into accurate market segment contribution. In this regard, annual budgets will be built by manipulating business mix to drive profitability.
- Expanded role for the revenue manager: Another obvious component of a Total RM program is increased involvement by the revenue manager in optimizing all revenue streams, allowing them to have both tactical and strategic influence on other revenue centers. At present, most revenue managers spend the majority of time on rooms revenue management. Although there’s communication with the F&B division and there’s more technology available to optimize group business, in terms of sheer hours, rooms division takes the lion’s share of most revenue management efforts. For Total RM to become a reality, demand management is needed that manages demand and profitability in tandem for every revenue stream in the hotel.
- Identify “net-net” rate levels: Another element of Total RM lies in identifying “net-net” rate levels by extracting associated costs unique to that rate. These costs are typically divided into two categories: internal and external. Examples of an external cost would be global distribution system fees and travel agent commissions. An example of an internal cost would be the F&B costs associated with a package or the costs of special benefits associated with a frequent guest program or consortia contract. More often now, hotels focus on “acquisition costs,” identified especially when comparing online-travel agencies bookings to brand.com bookings. But still, internal costs are less likely to be identified by market segment. The obvious advantage of knowing the “net-net” rate is being able to identify the most profitable rates as well as segments, room types, etc. Lower rates often become “second-class citizens” to revenue managers, front-desk teams and sales personnel, whereas higher rates appear better but don’t take into consideration all the associated costs.
- Track RevPAR by room type: Tracking RevPAR by room type by month to more clearly identify sub-optimal value propositions is another element of a Total RM approach. Although most property management systems provide this data, rarely is it put to good use as reliable business intelligence. It is amazing how much strategic information can be gained by looking at room type RevPARs by month. Lower RevPARs mean either volume or rate is out of alignment to demand realities, and small adjustments can be made to correct this.
- Drill-down displacement analysis: Another important component of Total RM is a greater reliance on detailed, drill-down displacement analysis to strategically select/deny business, including calculations on spend by revenue center. Hotels are generally taking much more time to conduct proper displacement analysis but not always to the “total spend” and “total profits generated” level. There certainly are good group modules available in some of the revenue management software systems, but for those hotels that operate without an RMS, properties should at least use the profit profile functionality in the sales/catering system or create a spreadsheet that takes all the revenue streams and profit ratios into account.
- New performance metrics: Another element of a good Total RM program is the systematic use of new metrics. An example is the metric catering revenue per occupied group room. Most hotels already track F&B covers per group room and establish minimum F&B levels in contracts, but creating metrics that track revenue and profit per occupied group room is a good start. Other metrics include: revenue per square foot, profit per square foot and revenue per available seat hour. In a Total RM environment, these metrics would appear on the monthly profit-and-loss statement. And once new performance metrics become a routine part of weekly revenue meetings, there’s typically much more focus on selecting business from a Total RM perspective.
- Track upgrades: For Total RM, it’s important to track upgrades methodically so that lost revenue opportunities are identified, monitored and mitigated. In most hotels this is not done routinely, and in this case the old adage holds true: You can’t manage what you don’t measure.
- Dynamic transient baseline: More often than not hotels establish static baselines with exceptions managed manually. A dynamic baseline approach is much more effective in optimizing demand. When the hotel updates the sales/catering system on a daily basis for close-in dates and weekly basis for medium- and longer-term dates, sales managers have the added advantage of selling with the most up-to-date data. This is especially important as booking windows shrink for all market segments.
- Dynamic pricing of catering menus: This is a trend that is becoming more and more evident in the industry and goes way beyond “holiday” pricing concepts or F&B minimums. Conference planning guides provide price ranges for banquet menus facilitating demand based pricing. Meeting room rental prices also transition from static pricing to demand pricing. For example, if one period of the day is in greater demand than another (either by day of week or month) then the price reflects the demand level accordingly.
- Unconstrained demand forecasting for catering: This concept is based on tracking pace and turndowns to determine total demand in as detailed a manner as is done for the rooms side of the business (e.g., based on availability, space not released, minimums not met, price resistance, etc.).
- Advanced menu engineering: In a Total RM environment, advanced menu engineering is conducted whereby price elasticity is tested menu item by menu item.
- Emerging participation in F&B benchmark reports: Although occupancy, ADR and RevPAR are the primary metrics tracked in benchmark reports, F&B statistics are emerging. This trend may be driven faster than expected due to the impact of Asia/Pacific hotels where F&B revenue and profit levels can exceed rooms division performance. At least for North America, hotels can submit performance data to STR and track metrics such F&B revenue per room sold. As Total RM emerges, this practice will become more widespread, providing hotels with an added measure of performance against the market.
This certainly is not a definitive list of the elements driving the Total RM trend. If any hotel is going to move to the very highest level in its revenue management effort, these types of initiatives must be considered. Regardless of the point at which your hotel may be in starting down the road to Total RM, it will take serious commitment to finish the journey and benefit from a more sophisticated approach to profit optimization.
Want to Learn More?
This topic will be addressed as part of the 10-part Revenue Management Webinar Series produced by the HSMAI University in partnership with HotelNewsNow and STR. Beginning February 21, 2012, and going through December, each month a webinar will cover various aspects of cutting edge revenue management in today's economy in conjunction with articles written by members of the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board. If you’re not able to attend a live program, archives are available. Also, these and other timely revenue management topics will be the focus of the HSMAI Revenue Optimization Conference, co-located with HITEC, June 25 in Baltimore.
Bonnie Buckhiester is the principal of Buckhiester Management USA Inc. Founded in 1995, Buckhiester Management offers RM development at all levels focusing on practical application rather than theory. Bonnie’s career in travel, tourism and hospitality is extensive and multidimensional including positions as Senior Vice President, Operations for a major North American hotel REIT; General Manager for two 4½-diamond hotels, and General Manager Operations for a major tour operator. Her diverse product knowledge of hotel, tour, cruise, air, rail and car rental inventories offers a unique cross-fertilization of industry strategies. She holds a Bachelor Degree from the University of Illinois, a Certification in Revenue Management from Cornell University and a Certification from the Hospitality Managers Development Course at Guelph University. She is also a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants and sits on HSMAI’s Revenue Management Advisory Board.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of HotelNewsNow.com or its parent company, Smith Travel Research and its affiliated companies. Columnists published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.
About the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board
The Revenue Management Advisory Board leverages insights, emerging trends, and industry innovations to guide the development of products and programs that optimize revenue for hotels.
• Chris K. Anderson, Ph.D., Professor, Cornell University
• Bonnie Buckhiester, Principal, Buckhiester Management USA
• Shelia Cosgrove, Director, Revenue Management Ops & Planning, Intercontinental Hotels Group
• Kathleen Cullen, CRME, Corporate Director of Revenue Strategies, Heritage Hotels and Resorts
• Sloan Dean, CRME, Vice President of Sales & Marketing, Interstate Hotels & Resorts
• Kent Duncan, CRME, Vice President, Sales and Revenue Strategy, Marcus Hotels & Resorts
• Jon Eliot, CRME, CHA and co-chair of the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board
• Tammy Farley, Principal, The Rainmaker Group
• Neal Fegan, Executive Director of Revenue Management, Fairmont Raffles Hotels International
• Rhett Hirko, CRME, Director of Revenue Analytics, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts International Operations
• Jay Hubbs, Director Hotel Supplier Relations, Expedia Partner Services Group / Hotwire
• Burl Hutchison, CRME, Director of Revenue Optimization, Sabre Hospitality Solutions
• Klaus Kohlmayr, Senior Director, Consulting, IDeaS Revenue Optimization
• John LeCoz, CRME, Regional Director of Revenue Management, Loews Hotels
• Mark Molinari, CRME, Corporate Vice President of Revenue Management and Distribution, Las Vegas Sands
• Orly Ripmaster, CRME, Senior Analyst, STR Analytics
• Scott Roby, CRME, Vice President, Revenue Management, Evolution Hospitality
• Chinmai Sharma, CRME, Vice President, Revenue Management, Wyndham Hotel Group
• Susan Spencer, Market Director - N. America, ChannelRUSH
• Trevor Stuart-Hill, CRME, President, Revenue Matters
• Paul Wood, CRME, CHBA, Vice President of Revenue Management, Greenwood Hospitality Group