Early in my career, I was mentored by the General Manager of a convention center property during a summer internship. I learned a host of invaluable information during my short time at the hotel. Years later, I still remember his advice and one comment in particular will always be at the forefront of my brain. His advice, “of all the people at the hotel to make friends with seek out the revenue manager first.”
I knew this advice was practical for someone working at the hotel, but I am now an online marketing professional focused on the hotel industry, and in some cases, work thousands of miles away from the hotels that I manage.
Still, every day I am reminded how important the revenue manager is to the success of the hotel. Working with the revenue manager allows for a strategic partnership that will serve to give the hotel a competitive advantage against the marketplace.
Your online marketing team must understand these elements of revenue management in order to facilitate a successful online marketing campaign.
Forecasting is the essence of revenue management. I can think of no better information to help us determine how to implement our marketing strategy than by looking directly at forecasting reports. If a forecast shows low occupancy rates for the middle of the week, we know to devise a strategy that will entice guests to stay during these need dates. Ideas like hotel promotions and giveaways are great ways to bridge the gaps in low occupancy to help your hotel through the month.
Third Party/OTA Websites
Online travel sites like Orbitz, Expedia and the like generate huge amounts of revenue for hotels. While these statistics almost always vary, according to a Travel Daily News study conducted in April of 2009, 81% of hotels indicated an increase in third party bookings.
Most of the time, the revenue manager or even the brand sets the parameters with the third parties concerning rates and inventory. In order to successfully navigate these restrictions, we are able to control the content of the listing and how it is presented. Aside from managing the copy and the photos, we have the opportunity to get your hotel listed in the ever changing deals and promotions these third parties offer to their hotel partners.
All we need to do is have the revenue manager sign off on them, and not only will your hotel most likely receive an increase in bookings, a lot of the time your hotel’s listing will be vaulted to the top of the page just for participating.
Balancing Rate vs. Demand
The recession hit everyone, yet you can definitely make the argument it hit the hotel industry hardest. Revenue managers slashed rates to combat low occupancy, and kept doing it until there was nothing left to slash.
Now, demand is creeping up and hotels are fighting each other to pick up the business. Guests are willing to pay more than they did a year ago, and a lot of hotels aren’t taking advantage of that. According to a study done by Hotels Magazine, in August 2010, ADR went up 1.7% and RevPar increased 8.1% in the United States.
Simple strategies such as adding more expensive packages or implementing minimum length of stays aren’t as taboo as they were just 12 months ago.
Understanding the Statistics
More than 55% of all hotel bookings worldwide were made on the internet. 81% of hotels indicated they saw an increase in online bookings in 2009. Yet here’s the kicker: only 60% of “would be bookers” made a reservation.
These numbers give us a multitude of information. Guests are becoming savvier than ever when it comes to booking online. We already know OTA’s are huge revenue generators for hotels. What guests don’t know is that it is far more cost effective for the hotel if the guest books on the hotels website rather than a third party.
Revenue Managers must work closely with their internet marketing partners to provide guests a functional website that that encourages booking right away without the need for leaving the site.
Loyalty is King
The old adage “it’s less expensive to retain existing customers than it is to acquire new ones” is music to the ears of any numbers-driven person. It’s no secret it costs less to keep a customer than it does to gain new ones, and as online marketers, we can take this strategy and run with it.
We have the ability to look at previous years reports, booking windows, and corporate strategies which give us the advantage of catering to the guests we know are going to return. Your online marketing partner can build a sense of community through social media management and special promotions that will give us an advantage when these people want to book again.
The Power of Suggestion
According to a report by the Tourism Exchange Company, 20% of guests read reviews before booking, and only 10% will write a review after their stay. Every year, the number of people who write a review has increased giving future guests more information to look through and more sites to review. Reputation management will ensure that your guests’ comments will not go unnoticed.
Too often, we see hotels making a lot of mistakes in how they handle these reviews. Responding to every review is nearly impossible from the hotel level, and frankly, you don’t need to respond to everyone anyway. Only responding to positive or negative reviews is also the incorrect way to approach this. Guests want to know they are heard, whether they write something positive or negative. Finding the healthy balance of who to reply to is difficult, but attainable.
One thing you have undoubtedly noticed is the underlying theme of your online marketing team and the revenue manager working with each other, not against. It is certainly a two-way street, but our job is to help the hotel’s bottom line which is exactly what the revenue manager is tasked with doing.
The value in a symbiotic relationship between the revenue manager and the hotel internet marketing agency is essential to a successful marketing campaign. There are plenty of ways to try and stay ahead of the competition, some more difficult than others. Want to make your job a little easier? Make sure your revenue manager and your hotel online marketing expert spend some time together, then watch the benefits unfold right before your eyes.