Revenue managers have to cut through the noise and find the technology tools that work best for them, a panel of revenue management experts said Thursday during HAMA’s fall meeting.
ORLANDO, Florida—Today’s revenue managers are faced with a dizzying array of new technology aimed at making their jobs easier. Sifting through that technology and implementing the correct techniques can help boost a property’s top line, panelists said Thursday during the Hospitality Asset Managers Association’s fall meeting.
The revenue management experts on the panel pointed to a wide range of new and evolving technology, including analytics tools, big data programs and booking software that can help add incremental revenue.
The revenue management discipline is evolving into a search discipline, said Ash Kapur, VP of revenue management and distribution at Starwood Capital Group. Revenue managers need to be monitoring the dates people are booking travel. The use of software that pulls in airline data can help accomplish that goal.
“That will help us plan out the next 12 to 24 months,” he said.
Kapur said hoteliers also need to use big data programs that remember a guest’s past behavior and anticipate that customer’s needs.
“Our job is to price to what our customers are looking for,” said Dominic Mourreale, a director of revenue management at Hilton Worldwide.
While using airline data can be a good thing, mimicking airlines step-for-step can be dangerous, the panelists said.
“It’s funny that we are emulating an industry that is the least profitable,” Kapur said.
Hoteliers should think twice before providing separate lanes for members of a particular brand’s loyalty program while everyone else waits in another line.
“From the minute you step into the hotel, it’s like you are saying, ‘Mike, we like you, you wait here. Ash, we hate you, you go there,’” Kapur said.
Instead, hoteliers should focus on using past guest data to help predict future behavior rather than worry about sorting everyone into different check-in lanes.
“The next step in revenue management is using the controlled data we have of guest preferences,” Kapur said.
Asking guests if they want to be upgraded is one area where hoteliers might want to act like the airline industry, the panelists said.
Mourreale said hoteliers should try to propose possible upgrades as frequently as possible during the booking process. “Curate the stay before the customer comes in.”
In regard to best practices around the use of online travel agencies, Mourreale said the OTAs aren’t necessarily a bad thing for hotels.
“When you look at OTAs, it really does come down to how are you using them and how do you view them?” he said, adding OTAs can help in the marketing of a hotel.
Also, he said consumers enjoy being presented with a variety of choices with which to book their stay. They’ll window shop the OTAs, but often will go to brand.com to buy their room.
For instance, he said he’s noticed hotels that have a prime listing on OTA sites see a spike in booking activity via other channels.
“Look at OTAs as a channel to yield,” said Michael Schugt, principal at True North Leadership.
Technology can also help add group revenue for a hotel, Schugt said.
He said the company has seen properties in which concierge rooms and meeting rooms sit un-utilized for long periods of time. He said hoteliers should look into software that allows groups to pay an hourly rate to book these rooms. The younger generation seems to especially appreciate this capability.
“Today’s millennials, they don’t want to talk to anybody,” he said. “They want to go online.”
This technology has been used to book meeting spaces for as much as $250 per hour during the past year, Schugt said.