Best Practices in Hotel Financial Management

By Jed Heller President, The Providence Group | October 28, 2008

Sound financial management is at the core of any successful business. Of course, having a product or service in high demand, priced attractively for the target market, and delivered in an efficient, customer centric manner doesn't hurt either. But, even with all of the right market demographics, there is no guarantee of success. Rather, I believe you will find that the most successful hotels, like any other business, rely on fundamental financial management principles to enable them to manage their property profitably.

By following basic accounting principles, hotel owners and managers have the information they need to identify trends before they can have a negative impact on the business. They can reduce expenses, readily accommodate anticipated peak business times, and scale back operations during slow periods. Rather than relying on intuition and reacting to events, successful owners have the financial facts they need on a daily basis to proactively make the right decisions at the right time.

Staying on top of the hotel financials also provides an accurate measurement of management performance in every operational area and gives owners a mechanism to see where they stand against the competition.

The keys to financial success include an annual budget, detailed financial tracking model, ongoing audits, and reporting structure that keep profit and loss information at the manager's fingertips. Financial success is also driven by accountability, making employees and managers responsible for achieving financial goals in their respective functional area. Owners must have in place the personnel capable of dissecting the financial information and acting on it in a timely and proficient manner. Without this information, it is quite possible to have an area of deficient performance that goes unrecognized and creates a drain on profits.

Create an Annual Budget

The annual budget provides the complete financial picture of the property and contains the information needed to measure financial status at any time during the year. Based on past performance and goals for the current year, the budget captures projected expenses and anticipated revenue over a 12 month period. The budget covers every operational area: administration, property expenses, taxes, energy costs, capital equipment, telecommunications, maintenance, supplies, utilities, payroll and marketing. The budget also projects revenue based on expected occupancy and rates and estimates sales quotas for each sales person. Once figures are collected and documented, the budget will tell the story as to whether financial goals can be reached and where and how adjustments can be made to achieve profitability goals.

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.