Why data and analytics is hotel revenue management’s reason for being

Revenue management professionals acknowledge that change is afoot and are gearing up to move with the times as the discipline enters new territory.

Why data and analytics is hotel revenue management’s reason for being

Revenue management professionals acknowledge that change is afoot and are gearing up to move with the times as the discipline enters new territory. Ritesh Gupta gets a look into the future in this exclusive interview with Ankur Randev of Highgate Hotels.

In the next decade, change in the discipline will accelerate, says Ankur Randev, Vice President – Revenue and Distribution, Highgate Hotels. He believes the role of a revenue management professional will continue to evolve from rudimentary pricing and inventory management to having a more defined focus on total product management. This will include having responsibility for marketing and total top line performance.

According to Randev, revenue management is about to get granular on channel performance and the cost of distribution. “I see great opportunity in learning about and owning the web marketing space where there is room to constantly monitor key word baskets and return on investment on e-commerce spend. I also foresee being more involved on the acquisitions side of business,” he says.

EyeforTravel.com’s Ritesh Gupta was keen to find out more.

EyeforTravel: What is the most challenging aspect of your role?

Ankur Randev: Synergy and communication are the most challenging aspect of my role today, as we have to integrate sales, marketing and revenue aspects. All these have different DNA’s and eventually all have to sing from the same hymn sheet for overall organizational success. Revenue management has to take the approach of being the educator as they are the gatekeeper of all business intelligence and market trends. It becomes critical for RM to ensure that all data is translated such where it’s understood easily to facilitate a free flow of information and ideas between them and sales & marketing.

EFT: When it comes to fragmented data and the misunderstanding between various functions of the business what are the main hurdles?

AR: The biggest hurdle is that businesses do not fully understand the value of customer data. While a lot of organizations have embarked on building customer databases, it’s important that the quality of that data is constantly refined.

From the top down, all departments must embrace the fact and understand that every guest interaction is an opportunity to build on that database. While there are a lot of good CRM companies, they only aggregate what we record at a property level.

It’s important that all departments are aligned like they are in a casino hotel environment to recognize the importance of quality customer data.

EFT: What are really challenging issues that organizations face today – be it for social media or ancillary revenue generation?

AR: Revenue management has to be pivotal in communicating the opportunity that lies in these spaces. In the online travel space we have seen a plethora of new companies flooding the market and trying to solve demand! Flash sale sites have become popular in promoting demand in seasonal destinations. They have become good tools to promote food & beverage and other activities, and at the same time address weak patterns. They have historic data which can be utilized to test price elasticity on any initiatives.

Social media sites like TripAdvisor command a huge real estate in the mind of a traveler. It’s very important to understand how paramount guest reviews are as it directly correlates to the number of impressions an organization will receive on these sites, which can then be utilized to promote packages. At the end of the day the RM professional has to always be aware of the cost of acquisition while using any channel and at the same time be constantly engaged in the market place to look for new avenues of revenue generation and eventually size up the opportunity for their respective hotels.

EFT: Can you provide an insight into how data management can help with demand forecasting and in tapping rate opportunities?

AR: Data is the raison d’etre for revenue management. Forecasting has become much easier considering the availability of third-party data subscription companies which help us look at the pace of change or trends from a market or immediate comp set standpoint. Today, we have the ability to subscribe to just about any information. I personally endorse these companies as they equip us with the right upcoming trajectory. Today we have the ability to track flight arrivals into a destination and further break that down and compare by country arrivals. This is huge as it gives us direct insight into where we should be deploying our marketing spend. Overall, the right data helps one price appropriately and not discount unnecessarily.

EFT: Revenue managers have started relying on analytics to serve appropriate offers at various stages of a traveler’s journey. How is this panning out?

AR: Today we have the ability to introduce the idea of a vacation to any person. We can track a booker from where he or she first saw our advertisement to how much time they spent on our website. Finally we can follow that person if they decide to leave our website to go to the next URL. We even have the ability to run analytics to discover the stage the person leaves our site – think retargeting and audience targeting. We constantly measure our bounce rates on the websites and that helps us to stage our package offerings. With the CRM initiatives, online and offline efforts there is an array of upselling opportunity. And analytics takes center stage in any up-selling efforts.

Ankur Randev, Vice President – Revenue and Distribution, Highgate Hotels, is scheduled to speak at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Summit North America 2013, at The Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel, Chicago (September 23-24).

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