Will Analytics be a Game-changer for Hospitality Companies?

By Kelly McGuire Vice President, Advanced Analytics, Wyndham Destination Network | March 17, 2013

Despite encouraging signs that the recession is well behind us, revenue, costs and profits are still under close scrutiny. Achieving a competitive edge, while at the same time "doing more with less" is a daily challenge for hospitality executives. Revenue management "changed the game" for hospitality when it came on the scene 20 years ago. By applying analytics the specific problem of room pricing, hotels were able to increase room revenue without increasing room cost. It's time to change the game again. To stay ahead, executives need to build this kind of fact-based decision making into the corporate DNA.

The Challenge

Hospitality executives struggle to maintain the balance between providing that memorable experience that keeps guests coming back (and telling their friends) and meeting their revenue and profit responsibilities to stakeholders, owners and franchisors. For many companies, it feels like standing on a teeter-totter (or see-saw, if you like), as shown below. If you put too much weight on the customer experience, your revenue and profit will suffer; for example, when you give away a dinner or free bottle of wine without considering whether the room price makes up for the cost. The reverse is also true, like when you cut staff to save labor costs, but create long lines at check-in. You are constantly making adjustments back and forth to achieve that stability, and always in danger of tipping the scale. Analytics can help.

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Achieving the Balance

Revenue managers have had great success in driving revenue using predictive analytics like forecasting and optimization, but by its nature, revenue management only focuses on the revenue and profits side. Without an eye to the customer experience, there is a danger of alienating loyal guests by not having rooms for them or of misinterpreting the property's value proposition, and not bundling the right experiences into a discount package. Incorporating guest preferences into room offers, or customer lifetime value into the revenue management optimization can shore up that relationship between experience and profits, restoring balance.

Optimization is not just for room rates. The marketing department can use optimization to come up with the best contact strategy for promotions, considering response rates, guest contact preferences, prevailing rates, demand forecasts, all available promotions and the cost to deploy those promotions. Using this technique, you are maximizing the return from marketing efforts while respecting your guests' preferences about how often they want to be contacted and with what types of offers. Further, you can ensure that you send out the right number of offers to fill the hotel without having to turn customers who wanted to redeem the offer away. As organizations continue to adopt analytics department by department, opportunities will continue to arise to find that balance.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.