Hotel Revenue Management: Balancing People and Processes

By Mark Ricketts President & Chief Operating Officer, McNeill Hotels | October 08, 2017

While there are many service industries, hospitality is certainly one of the most complex. The closest comparison may be a cruise ship, or, to a certain extent, air travel. But for something firmly rooted at all times to the ground, we'll take bragging rights.

We are providing an extremely intimate service, lodging, within the confines of what is nothing more ambitious than running a small city. The modern hotel comprises housing; utilities and other infrastructure; security; an employment force; a commons, i.e. lobby; and, oftentimes, food, beverage and recreation. We bring together under one roof people from all walks of life, with varying needs, expectations and personalities, everyone from a business executive stressed over tomorrow's important meeting to a senior couple celebrating their 50th anniversary.

The analytical side of the hospitality business is also extremely complex. At the heart of the income side of operations is deciding at what price to offer a room (of which we have a fixed number) and the allocation of them, which rooms and for how long.

It's no easy chore. There are so many factors over which operators have no real control. These include everything from weather events, flight cancellations, or changes in plans by prospective guests to expansions and contractions of supply in certain markets or the pricing strategies of competitors.

Perhaps, one of the newer twists for us is the complexity of assessing and interacting with not just our competitors, but, also, our guests. In today's digital age, with the Internet and social media, smart apps and OTAs, there really is a three-way conversation going on between our property, which includes our brand partners; our competitors and our guests.

Certainly, the cost of acquiring reservations is an ongoing industry concern. Additionally, the power that consumers seem to wield at times can be challenging or disconcerting. In particular, the plethora of access points for consumers to make a reservation and the freedom with which they can post reviews or social media comments on the Internet can make us feel less in control.

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Coming up in January 2019...

Mobile Technology: The Future is Now

Mobile Technology continues to advance at a relentless pace and the hotel industry continues to adapt. Hotel guests have shown a strong preference for mobile self-service - from checking-in/out at a hotel kiosk, to ordering room service, making dinner reservations, booking spa treatments, and managing laundry/dry cleaning services. And they also enjoy the convenience of paying for these services with smart phone mobile payments. In addition, some hotels have adopted a “concierge in your pocket” concept. Through a proprietary hotel app, guests can access useful information such as local entertainment venues, tourist attractions, event calendars, and medical facilities and services. In-room entertainment continues to be a key factor, as guests insist on the capacity to plug in their own mobile devices to customize their entertainment choices. Mobile technology also allows for greater marketing opportunities. For example, many hotels have adopted the use of “push notifications” - sending promotions, discounts and special event messages to guests based on their property location, purchase history, profiles, etc. Near field communication (NFC) technology is also being utilized to support applications such as opening room doors, earning loyalty points, renting a bike, accessing a rental car, and more. Finally, some hotels have adopted more futuristic technology. Robots are in use that have the ability to move between floors to deliver room service requests for all kinds of items - food, beverages, towels, toothbrushes, chargers and snacks. And infrared scanners are being used by housekeeping staff that can detect body heat within a room, alerting staff that the room is occupied and they should come back at a later time. The January Hotel Business Review will report on what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in this exciting mobile technology space.