Mr. van Meerendonk

Revenue Management

Money on the Move: Mobile Trends for Revenue Managers

By Paul van Meerendonk, Director of Advisory Services, IDeaS Revenue Solutions

To say that the world has changed in the past ten years is an understatement. A decade ago, mobile phones were still primarily used to make phone calls, a 'tablet' was something you took for a headache and 'TripAdvisor' was only in its infancy. Even more dramatic is the change we've seen in how hotel rooms are booked: from traditional channels to online travel agencies to making reservations from the palm of your hand.

Armed with more options for booking and research than ever before, plus the ability to share their experiences in real-time; consumers are in control and it's crucially important to attract the right guest at the right time for the best rate.

Hotel revenue managers are under enormous pressure to ensure the way they operate and the rates put out by their hotels reflects real-time market trends. Adding to that pressure is a rival property's ability to change rates and influence the local hotel booking environment at any time of the day.

Technology moves quickly, and keeping up with constant changes can be difficult, but of paramount importance to hoteliers is understanding the role that mobile technology can play in any business' critical decision-making strategy.

Today Working Offline Doesn't Mean You are Disconnected

The rise of the mobile consumer isn't the only trend impacting a hotel's operation today. Hotel staff, too, are becoming more mobile. Revenue managers responsible for multiple properties, across multiple time zones - including those who regularly travel for work and are away from their desks and office environment for long periods - have a critical need to be able to access their group's (or single property's) pricing systems at any time of the day and in any environment.

Importantly, where hoteliers and revenue managers in the past have needed to make pricing decisions at the beginning of the day while sitting at their desks, it is now possible to make impactful decisions on the go through mobile applications at any time through revenue management system mobile applications.

Revenue management apps help enhance productivity for hotel personnel by providing critical demand forecasts and rate analysis including historical behaviors, seasonal patterns and recent trends in pricing that can all be acted upon. In today's fast-moving and multi-screen world, the ability to make impactful decisions anywhere and assess real-time performance against financial goals may be the competitive edge a hotel needs to thrive.

Based in the cloud, with online syncing to any mobile device, mobile revenue management helps ensure that key hotel personnel responsible for pricing decisions are never offline. Mobile access to a hotel's key metrics and rates also presents an opportunity to capitalize on time-sensitive opportunities as well as involve a wider management team in viewing valuable KPIs. New first-to-market revenue management mobile apps mean that revenue managers are empowered to make informed pricing decisions anytime, anywhere.

In addition to providing revenue managers with 24/7 access to current occupancy and revenue performance metrics from any location, revenue management mobile apps also provide ongoing access to key reporting data. This enhanced reporting access means that revenue managers are able to deliver up to the minute, accurate data which tracks a hotels revenue performance and demand forecasts in weekly meetings, or when in talks with senior hotel personnel to better inform critical operational and strategic decision making.

Revenue management is not a 9-to-5 discipline and having the right tools to identify and make the most of revenue opportunities, without restrictions on technology, will help ensure that hoteliers are making the right revenue management decisions at the right time.

The Growth in Guest Mobile Usage and What this Means for Hoteliers

A recent report in Daily Travel News predicts that by 2017, half of direct online bookings will be generated from mobile devices - most likely smart phones. And considering that researching and booking a hotel stay from a mobile device would have been near impossible ten years ago, the rapid rise of this booking channel has been one of the biggest changes and challenges faced by the hotel industry.

Like customers across any booking channel, mobile customers have their own specific characteristics - and it is important to tailor the booking experience to this specific audience. Travelers who book via mobile can be assumed to be technologically savvy, most likely a Millennial or Generation X traveler. They likely also have different desires from their hotel stay compared to customers booking through traditional channels like travel agents. Hoteliers need to consider that mobile customers may sometimes have vastly different lead times, length of stay and average spend compared to other guests and look to design packages around these preferences. To better cater for mobile guests, hoteliers not only need to ensure they are offering customized experiences, but also ensure they are present across all new media and communication channels. With the rise in usage of social media outlets like Facebook, there are more touch points than ever before for a hotel to interact with potential guests through mobile devices.

Reputation Management in a Mobile World

Hand-in-hand with the rising use of mobile devices is the seemingly endless adoption of mobile social media apps. Consumers are engaging more than ever with people and brands from their mobile devices, and it is paramount for hoteliers to engage with their communities on social media platforms. While many hoteliers interact with guests and the wider online community via social media to varying degrees of success, it is surprising there are still some who are reluctant to fully engage. While some hoteliers may make a conscious decision to avoid establishing an official presence on social media, this does not mean the conversation about their hotel (or hotel group) is not going on without them.

It is the savvy hoteliers that are monitoring what is being said about their hotel on social media and acting where appropriate that are gaining the most benefits from the mobile age. The real-time interaction offered by mobile devices and social media today cannot be ignored by hoteliers. If guests can provide a running commentary or a comment or complaint from their mobile device, a hotel should also be able to monitor and adjust their options as well. For example, if there is timely commentary on social media about the hotel and its check-in process taking too long, an operations team at the hotel should pursue a solution to create a better experience for guests right away. In the same way, if a hotel begins generating highly rated comments and reviews online, the marketing department will build on these positive reviews and revenue managers may be able to consider strengthening the pricing position of their rooms.

The Rules Stay the Same

Despite changes in the pace of booking, the method of booking and even a hotel's way of selling resulting from the surge of mobile devices in the consumer market - the revenue principles behind these practices are still the same. Revenue managers are still applying their knowledge and skill base to their business-critical decisions. But with mobile technology, they are better equipped to continuously monitor key room rate information and the competitive environment the hotel operates within, so that they can make informed choices regarding a property's pricing strategies from anywhere and at any time.

Hotels that match the mobile trend and make it easy to book online are maximizing their chances of securing business in a mobile world. The factor revenue managers need to address is the ability to track the mobile behavior of guests (which can be easily done through a mobile application) and in turn provide advice to higher management on fine-tuning deposit and cancellation policies accordingly.

The Future is Mobile

Today's connectivity and speed of information sharing has forever changed the hotel booking landscape. The need for hotels to keep pace is mission critical. Hoteliers must ensure their business embraces mobile technologies given the increasingly competitive hotel sector and fragmented booking channels. By investing in revenue management systems tailored toward the mobile market that adjust rates automatically - in real-time - offering access to critical data and analysis at any time, hoteliers can increase their revenues and average daily rates, and free up revenue managers to focus on the strategic planning that will put the hotel at the front of its market.

As Director of Advisory Services for IDeaS Revenue Solutions, Paul van Meerendonk leads a global team of revenue management advisors focused on hotel revenue optimization projects. Mr. van Meerendonk is responsible for global development, management and operations of the Advisory Services team. He oversees the hiring, training and management of industry-leading consultants located in London, Beijing, Singapore and Atlanta. Mr. van Meerendonk also represents IDeaS on industry thought-leadership initiatives related to trends and best practices within revenue management, including authoring a number of white papers, conducting public speaking engagements, as well as leading key client webinars with an average audience of over 200 global representatives. Mr. van Meerendonk can be contacted at +44 (0) 118-82-8100 or Extended Bio...

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