By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As part of Road to Recovery 2020, HSMAI hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for hospitality chief revenue officers in partnership with Clairvoyix, OTA Insight, Cendyn, STR, and ZS on Oct 6. Roundtable participants choose the topics that they wanted to focus on; participating companies included Hotel Investment Services, Accor, Prism Hotels & Resorts, Outrigger Hospitality Group, Concord Hospitality, Ashford Inc., Commonwealth Hotels, Auberge Resorts Collection, Crescent Hotels & Resorts, RLH Corporation, VRI Americas, and Loews Hotels & Co.
Here are key takeaways from the group’s discussion:
WHAT GUESTS WANT
“It’s about shifting demand, not driving demand,” one roundtable participant said. “We have to focus on growing our visibility instead of adjusting prices.”
Another participant added: “The visibility is going to drive the demand. Anything that we can do to appear first in a customer’s search makes it easier for them to find us. We’re participating in a lot of programs we never considered and testing to make sure we figure out what works.”
Other participants said that hotels should be optimizing programs for current demands, such as leisure, and create specific packages and promotions for them. “Think about what we personally as travelers look for and want to see,” one participant said. “Be compassionate to our travelers and meet their needs.”
To that end, participants said they are doing everything they can to offer what guests want, from staycation packages, to packages that encourage guests to work from the hotel. Another participant stressed the importance of looking at different marketing options; alternative channels and segments are chances to bring in new business.
Other participants recommended getting down to the local level to make decisions, instead of using the same strategy nationwide. “We have to think differently at the market and regional levels,” one participant said. “Demand and opportunities are different at every hotel.”
KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS
Participants mentioned several KPIs they use to gauge how their companies are doing, with cash flow and profitability being among the most important indicators to watch. Several participants said they are also focusing on lead time and pace.
“We’ve been looking to see how long it takes customers to search, to when they convert to booking,” one participant said. “We’ve seen that start to grow, which for us means we may start dabbling in some remarketing campaigns. We’re looking at our RFM scores to see how active customers are when searching and giving them targeted offers.”
Other participants said they are focusing on what platforms customers are booking through and trying to get an optimal mix of OTAs and direct booking. “We have a magnifying glass on our booking patterns,” one participant said.
Another participant mentioned group lead activity as an important KPI. “It’s going to be a key indicator for when recovery is going to come back,” the participant said. “It’s starting to tick back up. It helps us think about when we need to start thinking about our staffing levels, so we have enough sales managers.”
Several other participants mentioned talent retention as important to watch, because so many employees have been laid off and are looking for jobs in other industries. “Are we doing well enough to keep our top talents in the industry, or are they fleeing to calmer waters?” one participant said.
BUDGETING FOR 2021
Part of budgeting for next year involves making some pretty big assumptions, such as a vaccine being widely available by a certain date, participants said. Once you make those assumptions, you build your budget. “Make sure when you’re sharing budgets with owners and stakeholders that everyone understands the assumptions that went into the numbers,” one participant said. “Then, if the assumptions don’t come to pass, everyone understands where that comes in and how the numbers will be affected.”
“Obviously, not all of our assumptions will come to fruition,” another participant said. “And we need to be able to explain those variances because of that.”
Another participant said that every company has to find a methodology that works for them, even if it means taking a nontraditional approach or eliminating tools that won’t come into play for the first half of the year. “Look at what we can live without,” the participant said. “What doesn’t make sense anymore?”
Some participants said they were looking at 2019 patterns to find trends to compare to 2021 and not considering 2020 in their budgeting plans at all, while others said they were continuing their end-of-year 2020 predictions into the following year. “The switch isn’t going to flip in Q1,” one participant said. “We’re projecting out our Q3 and Q4 trends into Q1 of next year and adjusting our full-year projections by looking at the CBRE numbers. Revenues in the first half of the year aren’t going to be strong enough to warrant taking our eye off of the expense ball.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.