Revenue leaders: Data should tell a story
Revenue leaders: Data should tell a story
10 JULY 2018 8:15 AM

Hoteliers have more access to data and information than ever before, but revenue managers and strategists have a responsibility to synthesize and visualize that information in ways that are useful to other stakeholders.

HOUSTON—There is more data available for hoteliers to analyze and synthesize than ever before, but that also means it takes more for revenue experts to wrap their arms around just what the data is telling them, according to a panel of experts.

Speaking with Hotel News Now in conjunction with HSMAI’s recent Revenue Optimization Conference, a panel of revenue leaders at various hotel companies said they’re putting a lot of effort into translating different data streams to help themselves and their stakeholders like owners to understand what’s really going on.

Tim Wiersma, VP of revenue management at Red Roof, noted there are useful forms of new data, some of which is forward-looking, but it needs to be translated in a useful way for everyone on-property.

“The more concisely we can interpret that information, the more proactive and effective our strategy will be,” he said. “That’s what we’re working towards. We’re refining that funnel of information to make decisions in the future.”

He said it’s key that revenue managers share information in the right way, otherwise owners might see bits and pieces and come to the wrong conclusions.

Kathleen Cullen, SVP of revenue and distribution for Two Roads Hospitality, said revenue strategists must walk a line. She noted that having too much data not processed in the right way leads to “analysis paralysis” but you also “can’t look at something in a silo because that’s not the full picture.”

She said pace is a good example of something that can be misleading when considered on its own even though it’s a “good indicator of how something is going.”

“But if pace is down, that’s not necessarily a bad thing,” she said, noting it could dip because external market factors or because a property is making a conscious shift away from what she described as “bad business.”

Calvin Anderson, chief of revenue optimization for RLH Corporation, said data visualization tools help immensely, but it can take some time to get used to. He said new hires at RLHC often find the amount of data presented to them “overwhelming,” but he said often it’s an exercise in looking at the big picture and learning how to sort through it for useful insights.

“My sharp feedback (to new hires) is before when looking at a report you were looking down the funnel at one picture or thought, but you need to understand the entire scope then learn how to navigate that scope,” he said.

Linda Gulrajani, VP of revenue strategy and distribution for Marcus Hotels & Resorts, said visualization tools are key for translating things to owners or other parties who might not be data-oriented in the same way as revenue managers.

“It allows you to be more knowledgeable and tell a story,” she said. “That allows you to sit at the table with the owner and have a frank conversation, whether it’s good or bad.”

She noted that isn’t the case when things are housed only in spreadsheets.

Bob Gilbert, president and CEO of HSMAI, said different companies within his organization are at different points in incorporating methods to interpret and visualize data. He said the ownership and asset-management communities are definitely supportive of the shift, though.

“They talk about the critical need for transparency between revenue strategists and owners,” he said. “They’re like two peas in a pod.”

Important metrics
Experts said there are various metrics they now look at beyond the traditional hotel industry key performance indicators.

Cullen said she often looks to customer acquisition costs.

“We’ve put a lot of work into how we’re tracking that information and how we’re looking at it,” she said, noting it’s important so that their strategies drive profitability.

Gulrajani said she tries to look at more inclusive revenue streams than just revenue per available room, so she will look at banquet revenue to “help us understand F&B’s contribution.”

Anderson said he’s taken to looking at the incrementality index to understand how hard it is to sell on given days.

Wiersma said he likes to look to “transient rate efficiency” because it tells him “how many retail rates are selling versus discounting.”

“It helps us understand how channels are acting within a booking cycle,” he said.

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