By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Throughout the pandemic, data analytics has become an increasingly sought-after skill, as hoteliers become more dependent on data to navigate an uncertain world. Dr. Kelly McGuire, managing principal for hospitality at ZS, and Emma Scher, senior manager of analytics at Aristocrat Technologies, have teamed up to facilitate HSMAI’s six-week Hotel Data Analytics Essentials Series from Aug. 4–Sept. 7. Additional six week-sessions will be offered beginning Sept. 29 and Nov. 10.
“The goal is to give hospitality and hotel employees and leaders insight into what data analytics is and how can it improve hotel performance,” Scher said. “We want to help them understand performance and forecasting. We aren’t trying to turn anyone into a data scientist, but rather get them thinking about leveraging the data in a better way.”
McGuire added: “This is designed to make you a better analyst and deliver answers to the burning questions you get every day, as well as help you avoid common mistakes and pitfalls.”
MORE THAN EVER
Topics the course covers include strengthening analytical skills to get clean data; statistics, predictive analytics, and forecasting; leveraging effective data visualization techniques; differentiating between optimization, machine learning, and AI; and matching problems to the proper analytical technique. “More than ever, we are relying on what the trends are in order to forecast,” McGuire said. “On top of that, data in general has been growing faster and the industry is growing faster, which creates a great opportunity for those who understand data and what to do with it.”
Especially with the number of people being furloughed or laid off, data analytics is a valuable skill to add to your resume, McGuire said. “With the reductions that have happened, those who are left are expected to do more, including producing analyses yourself, even if previously that wasn’t in your wheelhouse,” she said. “If you can add a diversity of skills to put on your resume, this can be the thing that helps you stick around through more layoffs or be brought back sooner if you were furloughed. It benefits you if you can demonstrate more value to your organization.”
ACROSS THE DISCIPLINES
The course is aimed at hospitality professionals across sales, marketing, and revenue optimization, because everyone benefits from data, Scher said. One of her and McGuire’s goals for the class is to break down departmental silos and teach the three disciplines to better work together. “One of the issues the industry has always faced is the silos around sales, marketing, and revenue,” McGuire said, “but we think that data analytics and technology are some of the most effective ways to bind all three and share some insights between departments.”
The course can also help participants become a bridge between the IT and operations sides of the business. “In every job I’ve had, there’s always been an opportunity to be a translator between the two teams,” Scher said. “There’s always a big separation between analytics and business departments, and we want to fill that gap. IT isn’t expected to understand business and vice versa, so being able to facilitate these discussions is a big strength to come out of the class.”
DATA FOR EVERYONE
While participants in the class will gain a lot of knowledge about the world of data analytics, McGuire stressed that the six-week course will not make anyone a full data scientist. But that’s not the point. “There is a tremendous amount of value in learning to be a better data analyst” she said. “But it’s important to distinguish between the value of the different capabilities and where they fit into an organization.”
“The word analyst brings assumptions that it’s an entry-level position for someone who looks at data and punches in numbers,” Scher added. “But you don’t have to be a full analyst to have your hands on the data. If you’re working with data in any way, it’s important to know how to communicate with different platforms, make sure the information is accurate, and just know what questions to ask analysts or data scientists.”
The two instructors bring a good balance to the course. McGuire has spent much of her career explaining the concept and value of data analytics, while Scher works in the field every day and knows what is relevant for successful practitioners in 2020. “This course is one that I wish I had in the beginning of my career,” Scher said. “I had to find textbooks for data analytics or hospitality professionals, but never both. I’m trying to design this course in a way that fills the gaps that I have seen in the industry.”
Learn more about HSMAI’s Hotel Data Analytics Essential Series.