Technology helps hoteliers manage remotely
 
Technology helps hoteliers manage remotely
01 AUGUST 2013 10:49 AM

Offsite hotel owners log in daily to monitor performance reports and both owners and managers can check in on tasks like pricing, distribution and reputation management in real time.

GLOBAL REPORT—With the advancement of technology—such as smartphones, tablets, improved Internet access and application-based tools—today’s hotel owners and managers can keep their finger on the pulse of their hotels remotely.

For example, hotel owners often log in daily to monitor reports for occupancy, average daily rate and revenue per available room as well as profit-and-loss statements—often for multiple hotels or portfolios. While GMs spend most of their time on property, district managers often monitor the three key performance metrics in real time for multiple properties.

The access to property-level information while on the go is only increasing as both owners and managers today can check in on tasks like pricing, distribution and reputation management. While laptops and cloud-based solutions are still the predominant medium, more mobile applications are emerging daily to make this data even more accessible.

“I can change the temperature in the hotel ballroom by 3 degrees from a mobile app when the mother of the bride says it’s a little stuffy,” said Scott Youngblood, GM at The Hilton Minneapolis St. Paul Airport, Mall of America. “I can review our Star Reports via an app so we’re having those meetings offsite.”

Youngblood said remote technology gives him the opportunity to be more flexible.

“Ten years ago we were upset about the amount of email we were starting to receive and the amount of computer work we were spending time on in offices. That’s not in our coding as a GM,” he said. “The ability to stay active and engaged with guests without compromising is revolutionary.”

Denihan Hospitality Group’s business intelligence and data warehouse teams format various daily reports for mobile devices so employees can quickly “find outliers and opportunities,” said Susan Weigel, VP of revenue management and distribution.

The ability to quickly access data is especially important when related to pace and variances to budgets and forecasts across all revenues, she said.

Who’s checking in?
It’s owners rather than managers looking to view reports away from the property. While management company Chesapeake Hospitality may hold the occasional meeting to update its owners, Joseph Smith, executive VP, said owners could potentially have five or six properties they oversee.

“They might be in a whole different city,” Smith said. “They want access and information in real time about what’s going on at their properties.”

Smith himself uses Microsoft Sharepoint to keep tabs on operations at 24 hotels.

“My first thing I do every morning is log in to Sharepoint,” he said. “I have my own set of alerts and reports I’ve programmed and they’re already loaded for me. So I know overnight where we are and where we stand.”

Smith said occupancy and ADR are the two data pieces most commonly monitored remotely, especially by owners. “The other thing is how we’re doing (in relation) to budget and how they’re doing to forecast,” he said. “When the ADR or occupancy changes it’s all about cash flow so they’re always planning on how they’re going to move money around.”

Whether the metrics are up or down, Smith said he’ll hear from remote owners day or night, often by text message. “They’ll write: ‘We just got the daily, what happened last night?’ or ‘Great night last night. Wow, we’ve sold out again,’” Smith said.

Youngblood said he uses a mobile app from Revinate to monitor his hotel’s social media engagement. He said he receives alerts anytime a new review is posted about the Hilton, whether he’s “on the floors working with my team or at my kid’s basketball game on the weekend.”

“To log in to the Web-based site to take action can sometimes be cumbersome,” he said. “I like to have the ability to receive alerts, research and respond to travelers concerns on the app.”

Youngblood said he’ll often assign tasks to members of his team while offsite.

“It’s hard to read a review in a boardroom a week after it has been published,” he said. “While you still need to have that meeting for strategic purposes, we’re now able to receive alerts and take action with reviews.”

Denihan uses a Citrix system that allows the group to “remote” into their business intelligence application, which employees often do from iPads during meetings or while working remotely. The management firm is in the midst of a “proof of concept” with Duetto Research regarding the company’s revenue-management solution, which will include mobile/tablet options.

“Almost everyone at Denihan uses these tools, but not surprisingly revenue management, operations and finance are probably the largest and most frequent user base,” Weigel said.

Challenges
Increasing mobility does bring some challenges.

Smith said when communications were handwritten—and even with email—there is hard-copy evidence and a paper trail. With text, he said, printing is just not convenient and there are times when hoteliers put their phone away, forgetting to take action.

“That can get a little out of hand at times—everyone nowadays is multitasking,” he said.

What has changed about a younger generation of hotel owners, Smith said, is that they’re always connected.

“In the old days the owners wouldn’t think of calling you up at 10 p.m.,” he said. “However, it’s not unusual for me to get a text at 10 p.m. The younger generation of owners is very technology adept and likes do to everything in real time.”

Youngblood said while staying connected via technology may keep owners and managers working more hours outside the office, technology will “only keep you as attached as you want to be.”

“If I receive a review that has a customer service concern, I have the ability to forward that to the appropriate manager right away,” he said. “That doesn’t take me away from a basketball game for three minutes, it takes me away from a basketball game for 30 seconds.”

“Remote access allows people to work smarter and really being able to focus on the highest priority items more timely,” Weigel said. “It also allows for greater efficiency as the easy things can be done quickly. It allows for more flexibility and greater job satisfaction.”

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