Technology Shaping Revenue Management

By Denise Broussard Senior Vice President Revenue Management & eCommerce, Interstate Hotels & Resorts | October 12, 2014

As technology is rapidly evolving, the hotel industry is fighting an ever-changing battle to keep up, working to bring an ease of communication with travelers and maintain a positive image with customers. Heightened dramatically in the last several years, social media has become more prominent with guest reviews, ownership and content. Typically, a hotel’s senior leadership is focused on overall reputation management, with the revenue management team optimizing all user-generated content, including social media outlets.

Revenue Managers are constantly looking for new and innovative ways to connect with guests to ensure a positive guest experience. Keeping up with the technology landscape guarantees hotels are able to interact with guests to ascertain a pleasurable and welcoming travel endeavor. With 440 hotels spanning 12 countries, the revenue management team at Interstate Hotels & Resorts – the leading U.S.-based global hotel management company – is cultivating the rapidly evolving technology trends to engage customers through various social media posts, community interaction, hotel events, local events and special events.

Maximizing revenue management results starts with formulating solid strategies based on experience and know-how; Interstate’s depth of talent in this discipline – including Revenue Managers and corporate regional directors of revenue management (RDRM) – comes from operating a geographic and brand diverse portfolio. Interstate associates have a depth of experience in channels, systems across brands, asset types, markets and more. In addition, the Company’s corporate RDRMs have access to Interstate’s proprietary business intelligence knowledge base (IHR1), providing insights into market performance across a broad spectrum of lodging segments and markets.

Importance of Mobile

With technology at the forefront, the industry has seen increases in mobile booking, as its growth is shortening booking windows and increasing the amount of on-the-go travelers who need and want access at their fingertips. Expedia.com reported one in five of those booking travel using the site book via mobile devices. Additionally, tablets produced 200 percent more room nights and 430 percent more revenue than any other mobile device from January to November 2012, according to HeBS Digital. The mobile booking method, along with the instant access of how guests are finding and reserving hotels, and the timeframe in which they are making reservations, has extremely impacted revenue management, as nearly 76 percent of mobile bookings occur within the same day or within one to two days of arrival.
The ever-evolving technology is putting instant access into guests’ hands with a plethora of choices on available meta-search sites and consolidated hotel sites – the Trivagos and the Kayaks of the world – comparative at all times. Furthermore, visibility on particular mobile sites is made possible with responsive designs that are available on all devices, at all times. These sites are constructed with the right configuration of a web design on the device that is primarily geared toward a ‘book now’ button to entice guests to book for that spontaneous, timely booking.

Revenue Managers/Directors are part of the hotel executive team, working in concert with other hotel management to optimize the mix, increasing top line revenues for all market segments, which positively impacts RevPAR index and the bottom line. Ultimately increasing direct bookings, and social media provides an incredible opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with a guest or potential guest.

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.