OCTOBER FOCUS

Revenue Management: Maximizing Profit

 

The Post-Pandemic Hotel Revenue Survival Guide

By Cassie Bond Vice President of Revenue Strategy, Chesapeake Hospitality | October 25, 2020

With the immediate impact of the crisis behind us, revenue management experts are working to endure-and prepare-for what's now and what's next

While there has been a great deal of analysis and discussion about the ways in which the coronavirus pandemic has affected the hotel industry, much of that conversation took place in the weeks and months following the first initial shutdowns in March.

It didn't take long for the tumult and disruption of the crisis to become the new normal. As more time has passed, there has been less discussion about what hotel owners and operators are doing over time to evolve, adapt, and keep moving forward in a positive and productive manner. The current period, however, is no less critical than in the early days of the pandemic, where hotel management companies were working to maintain operational viability, positivity, and productivity amidst the uncertainty of tentative reopenings and an as-yet-uncertain public health landscape.

Striking the right balance between what now? and what next? is vital. Making sure that your personnel and your properties aren't just keeping their heads above water, but starting to swim in the right direction, is absolutely essential for not only minimizing short-term losses, but maximizing long-term gains in a post-pandemic future.

Here is how some leading hotel management professionals and revenue management experts are working to do just that:

1. Maintain Perspective

While optimism is invaluable, realism is a necessity. Recognize that we are in the early stages of what is projected to be a five-year period of recovery. While there are some promising green shoots and signs of slight recovery in some markets, the road back is due to be fraught with ups and downs. Make sure you are using that time wisely. With most major events, demand-generators, and large groups having canceled, and most corporate travel suspended for the remainder of 2020 and into the first quarter of 2021, now is the time to focus on doing what matters most and staying true to owners, clients and employees.

In practice, that doesn't mean letting standards slide but staying on your "A" game, avoiding complacency at all costs, and using this time to ensure your existing processes and procedures are optimized for peak performance. That applies to all departments, but is especially critical for revenue managers, who need to make a point to stay aggressive and maintain their competitive edge. That requires both endurance and persistence. But those that can stay focused and make the best use of their time will vault to the head of the pack at a time when turmoil and uncertainty is creating not just new challenges, but also new opportunities.

2. Keep the Team Motivated

Keeping your team motivated in a fully remote environment is a challenge that isn't unique to the hospitality sector, but it is an urgent priority, nonetheless. There are myriad ways to establish a routine that will help promote positivity and reinforce critical connections. Those include:

  • Hold weekly department Zoom or virtual/video call meetings to review highlights and to share and monitor hotel trends. This facilitates sharing of ideas and collaboration, as well as providing an opportunity to resolve any challenges that may arise.
  • Hold individual weekly touchpoint calls: 15-to-30-minute check-ins that keep leadership in touch with each revenue manager. These can be an opportunity to connect on current priorities and schedules, get feedback on current roles and responsibilities, and find ways to make things smoother and more efficient for everyone.
  • Make frequent use of your department Teams Chat platforms and other connectivity tools. These platforms are an ideal place to exchanges messages and share information about anything and everything going on in the revenue management world.
  • Hold regular (perhaps bi-weekly) professional/personal development (i.e. book club) zoom meetings or other social activities. These social events keep everyone more connected on a more personal level, building trust and comradery, boosting morale, breaking up the normal work routine, and giving everyone something fun to look forward to.
  • Keep reviewing and evaluating property assignments, workloads, and reporting formats and deadlines to ensure each department is operating at maximum effectiveness and performance level.
  • Find ways to help your team switch up their daily/weekly routines to keep things fresh. One way to do that is to allow a high degree of flexibility and autonomy in setting schedules and tasks.
  • Provide consistent communication and feedback, making sure that no one feels they are working in a silo. Let your team know they have a strong support network that understands what they are going through and can help in any way possible.

3. Understand and Adapt to Evolving Expectations

At a time when owner expectations and needs are changing so profoundly, the ability to adapt and be transparent is a critical skillset. While many owners may not have had much involvement in the pre-COVID world, we are now seeing a heightened level of engagement as owners and lenders navigate the crisis; particularly important is the need for accurate forecasting. Owners increasingly want to hear and understand strategies and day-to-day booking trends.

More owners are sitting in on a revenue meetings, or requesting more frequent email updates or additional check-ins. This new level of involvement almost certainly stems from cash flow concerns and continuing revenue uncertainty. Unfortunately, there are no easy answers to most owners' questions. There are simply too many unknowns. It is incumbent upon hotel management professionals and revenue experts to be open and transparent with our strategy discussions, forecasts, booking pace, trends and highlights. That transparency can ease worries by helping owners see the connection between revenue management strategies and current and future performance, and help instill confidence that revenue and sales teams are taking all appropriate measures to boost revenue and adapt to a shifting hospitality landscape.

4. "Re-Teach" Automated Revenue Management Systems

The unprecedented events of 2020 are clearly the exception, not the rule. Which is why it is critically important to update the artificial intelligence data in your automated revenue management system to recognize that fact-and to account for current anomalies to integrate new information into future projections. Systems should be updated with all new information from the moment the pandemic started through the ongoing road to recovery. Systems must be frequently influenced (not just overridden) to understand what has happened to demand and what the future is expected to look like.

Future outlook, competitive landscape, pricing strategies and segmentation demands will change frequently in the current volatile environment-and systems must be updated accordingly.  Without this critical context, your system will have no way of "understanding" the catastrophic change in demand, segmentation and business levels. Hotels with insufficient support and/or revenue management staffing to make these critical system updates will be relying on uninfluenced and non-updated systems to make pricing and strategy decisions, and consequently will not be set up for future success. Our revenue systems need expertise and guidance now more than ever.

5. Understand the Competition

Continue to make yourself a competitive set expert-despite the continually evolving pandemic changes. Many markets look completely different today than they did prior to pandemic-related shutdowns and disruptions. Some hotels have closed permanently, demand generators have changed and/or no longer exist, businesses have shut down or relocated, target business segments have changed, and hotel staffing, amenities and offerings potentially have changed. The net result is that your property may not be competing with the same set of hotels as it did prior to the pandemic.

Competitive sets could be changing from even what we saw in April and May and could look very different again for the fourth quarter of this year and into 2021. Understanding those changes, discussing them as a revenue team, and adjusting your strategy accordingly will be vital. Revenue managers have to remain market experts, fully cognizant of any changes that are occurring in supply and demand--who they are realistically competing against? Understanding your true competition-as well as the business demand/segmentation changes in your market(s)-helps to create and execute effective revenue management, sales, marketing and eCommerce strategies.

6. Fish Where the Fish Are

Recognize what segments are booking and take advantage. Every market is different, and booking trends are changing constantly from month to month. Revenue managers should be watching these specific trends and developing strategic action plans for those key segments that are booking into their markets. These trends can look very different than in the relatively recent past.

For example, a typical scenario in today's environment might see a market with less consortium, national and local corporate booking into a market, and a boost in leisure numbers (especially from local and/or drive feeder markets) through retail, discounts and packages bookings-even on weekdays. This means that not only have the primary booking segments changed, but so have day-of-week stay patterns, booking lead times, room type pricing differentials and even booking channel contributors. For hotels in that market, that could mean less GDS production, but more Direct Web/Mobile and Online Travel Agency production. Revenue managers must be proactive and adjust their strategies to focus on shifting share in these new segments and channels.

The ripple effects of these shifts can be profound. A hotel that, pre-COVID targeted corporate/association/government group leads and bookings likely had their entire sales/marketing resources and staffing deployed to those segments. If that same property is now primarily receiving leads for SMERF/Airline/Contract business, there needs to be a complete shift of manpower, focus and priorities. It also means some hotels are now going after business that wasn't even a consideration prior to the crisis.

Revenue managers will need to stay open-minded while showing the value of all types of business. They have to make sure sales teams have the most accurate and timely data to make smart business decisions now and in the future. So yes, pay attention to changing currents, but make certain you are casting your net where the fish are today to capture the segments that are booking into your markets.

7. Remember: Perception Matters

Finally, recognize the fact that how guests see your hotel is more important than ever. Revenue managers should also be using this time to make sure that all content on all channels is correct and current. This means making sure that amenities, hours of operations and closures, packages, attractions and all hotel offerings are updated and relevant for guests. This also means that the content should reflect what each hotel is currently doing with regard to safety and cleanliness procedures throughout the hotel.

Guests understandably want to fully understand every aspect of their stay prior to booking so they can feel secure in making their travel arrangements. Older, stale, pre-COVID content on any booking channel will hinder new bookings both today and moving forward. It is critical for revenue managers to be reviewing this content in detail with their General Managers and Directors of Sales to make sure it is displaying with 100% accuracy on all sites. Just like owners, guests are looking for full transparency.

There are certain to be more challenges ahead as the pandemic, social unrest and political division impact our economy. It is your responsibility as a revenue manager to identify new opportunities and move market share while also supplying accurate forecast projections to help management and ownership navigate a very difficult financial environment - you must remain diligent and engaged.

Ms. Bond Cassie Bond has over 16 years of hospitality experience with a strong focus on driving top line revenues and maximizing profitability. In her 12th year working in revenue management for Chesapeake Hospitality, Ms. Bond is currently the Vice President of Revenue Strategy and has been in this role since February 2020. She was selected as HSMAI's 2018 Corporate Revenue Management Professional of the Year as a Regional Director of Revenue Management for Chesapeake. Ms. Bond leads the corporate revenue management team as well as the property revenue managers, while spearheading global strategy for the Chesapeake portfolio. She is responsible for all hotel openings, takeovers, conversions, portfolio assignments as well as any revenue management new hires and training. Ms. Bond and her team specialize in granular deep dives into segmentation, channel analysis, price positioning and targeted demand capture. Daily optimization and profitability remain at the forefront when creating and implementing thoughtful revenue management strategies across the portfolio. Ms. Bond can be contacted at 301-474-3307 or cbond@chesapeakehospitality.com Please visit http://www.chesapeakehospitality.com for more information. Extended Biography

HotelExecutive retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.

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If you choose to purchase a subscription, member subscription payments can be made in U.S. Dollars, as well as a variety of international currencies. Membership terms are Annual Recurring, and Monthly Recurring. The Annual Recurring subscription is an annual commitment and subscribers will be charged each consecutive billing cycle. Annual Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first billing cycle and within 30-days of the billing date for a full refund. Monthly Recurring subscriptions are ongoing and subscribers will be charged each consecutive monthly billing cycle. Monthly Recurring subscriptions can be cancelled after the first month and within 7 days of the monthly billing cycle for a full refund.

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Payment for the services provided to you in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive may be made by automatic credit card, debit card, direct debit, bankwire or Paypal and other approved payment means offered in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive, and you hereby authorize HotelExecutive and its agents to transact such payments on your behalf.

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In the event that you have chosen to have your membership automatically rebilled, unless and until you notify HotelExecutive that you wish to cancel or terminate your membership to HotelExecutive, you hereby agree and authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to automatically renew your membership to HotelExecutive on a continuing basis and to charge your credit card (or other payment means you have selected) to pay for the ongoing cost of your membership. You hereby further authorize HotelExecutive's Internet Payment Service Provider to charge your credit card (or other approved payment means you have selected) for any and all purchases of products, services and entertainment provided to in, at, through or in association with HotelExecutive.

13. PRIVACY POLICY

The following is the Privacy Policy for HotelExecutive

We can be reached via telephone, email, or online at our contact page. When you visit our site we do not log any information regarding your domain or email address. Information Sharing: We do not share user information with any third parties other than via press release distribution as described below.

Hotel Newswire is a newswire service that distributes press releases on behalf of our users. If you decide to submit a press release for distribution through our system we will transmit your entire press release including any personal information therein contained to our media contacts and online distribution points including search engines. This is the only redistribution of your information that we engage in. Your submission of press releases through our system indicates consent with this policy. The information we collect during your registration process is used to notify users about updates to our service and inform users of any special events hosted by Hotel Newswire. This information is not shared with other organizations for commercial or non-commercial purposes.

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If you do not want to receive email from us in the future, please let us know by following instructions included in our communication with you. Users who supply us with telephone numbers online may receive telephone contact from us regarding their account, or informing them of new products and services available on the HotelExecutive website. If you do not wish to receive such telephone calls, please edit your account and remove your phone number from your account profile. This can be done from your user account menu.

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Upon request we provide site visitors with access to all information (including proprietary information) that we maintain about them. Users can access this information by logging in to their account.

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If you feel that this site is not following its stated information policy, you may contact us.

Greg Berman
Kate Keisling
Janet Gerhard
Katerina Berezina
Tim Peter
Stephanie Smith
Martin Stoll
Susanne Carter
Yatish Nathraj
Coming up in November 2020...

Hotel Design: Home Away From Home

With the rise of the sharing economy and the peer-to-peer marketplace for lodging options, hoteliers are re-thinking the look, feel and appeal of their locations. There is an emphasis on re-creating a feeling of homeyness - a comfortable, cozy and inviting space that feels like home. 'This is accomplished through the careful selection of furniture design, paint colors, lighting design, artwork, bathroom fixtures and textile accessories. In addition, some hotels are providing their guests with upscale amenities, such as a book and movie library, home-style kitchenettes, a coffee machine with locally-sourced beans and tea, or even a batch of fresh-baked cookies. Similarly, there is a growing design trend based on the concept of place-making. Travelers are searching for experiences that are unique and authentic to the locale in which they find themselves, and so hotel designers are integrating a sense of place into their work. This is partially achieved by incorporating traditional artisanal crafts and other local artwork into hotel rooms and communal spaces. Another design trend includes the creation of full-service, co-working environments within the hotel. Guests don't like to stay alone in their room when they need to work, so now they can go downstairs to the lobby-or up to the roof-to work among others. These areas encourage guests - and non-guests alike - to stay as long as they like and to partake of hotel amenities. Finally, recognizing the importance of the Wellness Movement, some designers are exploring how room design can increase the likelihood of deep and restorative sleep. Creating dark and quiet spaces, blocking excessive light, providing guests with a selection of different kinds of pillows, and the ability to control room temperature, are a few of the best practices in this area. These are some of the architecture and design topics that will be covered in the November issue of the Hotel Business Review.