Hotel Revenue: Is Bigger Data Really Better Data?

By Michael Schubach Strategic Deployments / Program Management Director, Infor Hospitality | August 27, 2017

The Digital Age is truly the era of knowing many things, but given our access to incessant tribal chatter across social platforms, the equal coexistence of facts and alternate facts along side news and fake news, one could rightly feel as though we humans may have access to more information than is necessary or even helpful. Despite such misgivings, I think we are better people because of our access to plentiful data. Nonetheless, I feel compelled to revive an analogy that was first offered to me when I was a Cub Scout: Data, particularly 'big data,' is like fire - used wisely it can light our way, allay our fears and give us warmth. Used foolishly, it can be destructive and devastating. The most useful objective, therefore, is not fire prevention but meaningful fire management - learning to discern the difference between quantity and quality, and react accordingly.

In the world of hospitality, the collection and use of data are the industry's game changers. Location, location, location is now everywhere on planet Earth, and the room product ranges from pup-tents through the royal suites set aside for the exclusive use of the Sultan of Brunei. Despite the dizzying panorama of possibility out there, the truth is that within any given price and service class there isn't a great deal of differentiation in products and amenities. We depend on data to deliver the differences that turn personal travel into opportunities to collect life experiences and unique memories, and to tailor personalized service; it's access to data that gives Millennials and business travelers efficient access to availability, price shopping and loyalty / reward points.

But all data is not created equally. As I look across the kinds of information that we use to find and serve our guests, I see four distinct data types, distinguished by their method of manufacture:

1. Active

When we specifically elicit information from a guest or customer, this is active data collection. We can either ask in person (What is your last name? Could you spell that for me, please?) or on a form, but either way we are telling the provider what we wish to record so that we may use that information in a manner that somehow benefits him or her - at least, that's the theory.

Active data is typically the best information you can retain; unless your respondent has something to hide or simply does not want you to have access to the requested information, what you get is accurate according to the best source possible. It's important to note, however, that even active data has a shelf life: last name, address, age (as distinct from birthdate), marital status, smoking preference, need for ADA accommodation or assistance can all come and go. "Eternally true" is not a property that we associate with guest data; there is a need to ask and reconfirm all kinds of data on a regular basis.

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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.