By Lori Kiel, CHDM, Chief Revenue and Marketing Officer, The Kessler Collection, and member of HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board
Around the country, doctors are busier than ever writing prescriptions for COVID tests, treatments, and vaccines. Similarly, if we think of hotel revenue teams as doctors, they are prescribing strategy to marketing and sales teams. HSMAI’s Revenue Optimization Advisory Board (ROAB) discussed this topic on a recent call and shared what they believed was the prescription for success. Here are key takeaways from their discussion.
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
It’s important to strike a balance between preparing for the future and continuing to stay afloat in the present. “Future-year goals are huge for us,” one ROAB member said. “It’s about understanding the timing of things that drive the sales activities we have going on right now. We have salespeople who are super eager to sell but are trying to target areas that aren’t ready to be sold to. It’s made us realize that we need to have a bit of patience.”
Several members wondered if vaccine data could possibly track demand growth, because that is connected to government regulation. “The things that have been the most impactful on demand have been government regulation and confidence in safety,” one member said. “I think it will be interesting to figure out how the vaccine will have a correlation to demand growth.”
Another member said that his company is using the Oxford Stringency Index to review market restrictions and how long they’ve been in place, to help get a better idea of what markets are still locked down and what markets they should put more effort toward targeting.
Another ROAB member mentioned that Cyber Monday sales from 2020 are great indicators of who may be booking and when. “We were really surprised by the traction the Cyber Monday sales got this year,” the member said. “We need to look at where those bookings are coming from. You can see which geographic markets might be more likely to be traveling, and the dates they’ve chosen give you an indication when there might be some demand forthcoming.”
ANOTHER YEAR OF RAPID CHANGES
Even as a vaccine is being distributed, 2021 is still going to be a year of challenges, requiring fast-thinking and flexibility. “I think we all have to be aware that even though it’s going to be better than last year, this is still far from a stabilized year,” one ROAB member said. “There will be more delays with vaccine distribution. We still don’t know about the international long haul. We need to acknowledge that it will not be perfect and the decisions that we will make for this year may not pencil out exactly how they might in a normal stabilized year.”
Other ROAB members stressed that it’s still important to be flexible when it comes to rebooking and cancellation policies. That can present a challenge, however, when someone wants to reschedule their booking or event from a non-busy time of year to a peak time and keep the same rate. One member recommended trying to shift groups by just a few days or weeks from their preferred reschedule date to make it work for both parties. “It seems like groups right now really don’t want to lose their deposits,” the member said. “Reserve the option to shift a couple days here and there or to a different week within a certain time period.”
Another member added that STR data may finally be coming back into play as meetings and events are projected to return in the latter half of the year — but just because it seems like a specific date will fall during peak time doesn’t mean you shouldn’t still try to make it work with the group that wants to reschedule. “You win some and you lose some,” the member said. “The best option is to find a way to make it work and not let the new dates hinder success just because it’s not the optimal rate for that time.”
CONTINUE TO BE COLLABORATIVE
The only way to get through the ongoing crisis is to continue to work collaboratively with all disciplines. “We went to a realignment of when we see recovery as it relates to how we’re establishing the goals for the sales managers,” one ROAB member said. “That seemed for us to be a sticky point to make sure that everybody from sales to marketing to revenue management is on the same trajectory.”
Looking at trends is where revenue can really help sales and marketing, another member said. “To me, it comes down to analytics, and we’re getting more granular,” the member said. “So, we’re looking not only by segment but by size, and then looking at the month-over-month and, in some hotels, week-over-week trends to get a pulse on if people are actually buying or if they are just looking. I think this is where revenue can really help.”
Another member said that she is focused on making sure that data and information is properly distributed. “We’re directing those analytics not only to the sales team but to the property team as well,” the member said. “We’re looking at recovery state by state, so we need to push that change out directly instead of looking at recovery overall as a company.”
One member added that over the past year, so many people have shifted to different jobs or different disciplines that has created an optimal environment to work together. “We’re looking at all of our collateral and making sure it’s optimized, but then on the revenue side, we’re ensuring that the teams are more aggressively selling than they ever had before,” the member said. “I think it really is kind of a great example of the environment where every discipline needs to come together or you’re not going to be optimized.”