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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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.