Pinnacle Hotels & Restaurants, a division of Pinnacle International is a hospitality brand based in Vancouver, British Columbia. Operating hotels and restaurants in downtown Vancouver, North Vancouver and Whistler, Pinnacle aims to give guests a strong sense of place, with a focus on local touches and personalised service.
This week, we chatted with Sheldon Kuwabara, Regional Director of Revenue Management for Pinnacle Hotels Canada. Sheldon has been doing revenue management for over 15 years at a mix of boutique and branded properties, six of these at Pinnacle Hotels to get his expert opinion and thoughts on how to get the most out of Rate Insight and Revenue Insight.
Read on to hear how Sheldon’s introduction of OTA Insight’s tools to Pinnacle Harbourfront Vancouver, Pinnacle at the Pier North Vancouver and Pinnacle Whistler Village has made him and his team more time efficient and allowed them to remain strategically agile during the pandemic.
"I think having Revenue insight and Rate Insight has definitely allowed us to be agile and pivot very quickly as things change."
Prior to using OTA Insight it was always a matter of pulling data extractions. I’ve used other analytic software programs at other companies, but a lot of the time there's layer upon layer of data and UI’s which you have to figure out and sift through. Some of them were robust from a revenue management perspective but not from a GMs perspective, or a director or from a sales outlook, they were way too intricate.
There’s always that frustration when they come to us for the data and the answers, as it takes time to put those reports together. At this company, they never had any of those analytic tools in the past, so they have had to pull data extractions manually.
When pulling raw data, you have to sort through it using pivot tables and so on, and then customise the report. I'd like to say we did a good job of coming up with a range of different reports that we ran regularly. But you still have to pull the data extraction, upload and refresh the data. Then eventually mold that data or that report to produce the answers you need. It’s a time consuming process, to say the least.
Time is a big issue, and the other is related to time – OTA Insight’s tools allow your colleagues to pull the information themselves, which we didn’t have before. There were certain individuals that were good at using the systems so they could do something right away, but it would always come back to us, and they'd lean on us as information managers.
Time saving is hugely beneficial - but that’s not the only benefit of Revenue Insight. We've been quite successful over covid in our market. I think having Revenue insight and Rate Insight has definitely allowed us to be agile and pivot very quickly as things change. Restrictions are up and down, up and down, it's been a roller coaster ride. But we’ve put out promotions and offers immediately to test their effectiveness and performance. Whether it's seven days, 14 days or looking back on the month and seeing what works and what doesn't.
On top of that is the forecasting aspect. When the government puts restrictions in place, we are able to assess - how are the cancelations trending? Are they increasing, flatlining or decreasing? And then the booking side, is it increasing or is it waning
It’s been an incredibly valuable tool but not just in time savings. As a result of the time saving, we're able to do so much more in terms of coming up with new ideas and promotions that actually work. Testing the execution of them and making sure they are working. And if not then we can focus our attention in another direction.
"The best feature of both Rate Insight and Revenue Insight is the intuitive user interface. OTA Insight has done an excellent job of figuring out the optimal layout for sorting large amounts of data."
The best feature of both Rate Insight and Revenue Insight is the intuitive user interface. There are so many ways that it helps, it's a huge advantage for OTA Insight and a massive benefit for users. As I mentioned before, it allowed us to easily train other counterparts and colleagues to use the system. All it takes is creating a username, walking them through it for five minutes, then they're literally up and running and get it right away, it's amazing.
OTA Insight has done an excellent job of figuring out the optimal layout for sorting large amounts of data. I've seen and used a number of other systems and that's always the challenge, coming up with one single user interface that can answer most of the questions your hotel stakeholders have, as opposed to having several. That has saved us a lot of time.
For example, the chart of the day, or the weekly or the monthly, gives you a nice and simple, visual way of displaying the data you're getting. If we have a promotion, we can view where there’s pickup, is it a weekend only thing? And then what's the booking window?
We’ve used Revenue Insight to complement promotions with great success. We are able to easily see on the timeline where pick up is happening. Which means that if we want to start thinking about the next offer, we need to give ourselves X amount of time in advance to get them out or else we’ll see a lull period in between, where there’s nothing coming. I am then able to communicate this effortlessly to my GM and to our asset management team. We say, ‘Here's what we did, this is how we recognize the time period’, and answer everybody's questions straight away.
OTA Insight are definitely doing a great job with the Revenue Insight tool and always making improvements, like having the past period added to the comparison period as a result of the pandemic. Due to what’s happened, looking year over year is useless right now. We need to be looking month over month and you immediately recognised that and updated the system. Those are the little things that make a huge difference to our day-to-day.
Rate Insight and Revenue Insight have really helped us navigate through the Covid-19 crisis, enabling us to be agile in the market, whilst being time efficient doing it. We've incorporated the tool, both from a strategic level and also on a routine maintenance level. If the hotel is the engine of a car, we can check to see how it’s running. We utilise it on a daily level, looking at our pickup, looking at what rate codes are working. As you go through day by day, you're able to recognize changes in the market.
With Rate Insight, I love the one day, three day and seven-day change. Every day we’re looking at changes in the market for two to four weeks, within a 30-day period. And then on a weekly basis, we're looking at 90 days out and what's happening. What are the changes? Then up to one hundred and one hundred twenty or beyond. I love seeing how it highlights the changes; first of all, with other competitors.
It’s also nice and easy to see where there are lower rates than yours. I can scan it and immediately see who's doing what. If I see a lower rate, I'll go to the one, three, or 7-day change and identify who's doing it and how long it’s been running. I know immediately if I need to change my rates. It's the agility of the tool that’s key to improving performance.
Also, on the forecasting side, it allows us to assess the market from a bookings and cancelation side and see if we are on an uptick, flatline or decline. There's not been just one phase of each through this pandemic. We've been through many phases as restrictions are implemented. Each one of those is kind of a window of opportunity that we need to be able to easily identify. I think that's where our success has come from, compared to where the rest of the market is. A lot of hotels have just kind of sat back and said, ‘We're not going to reduce or we're just going to ride it and hope that things will bounce back when they do’. But as a GM told me, hope is not a strategy.
"There's a huge return using these systems in terms of time saving."
If I didn’t have access to Rate Insight or Revenue Insight, I'd be very disappointed. I would be going back in time quite significantly. We've got lots of reports that we used prior to Revenue Insight that would allow us to keep going and still identify certain things, but it would slow us down to a snail's pace compared to how we've been running up until now.
I've used other rate shopping tools too, but I think on the rate side it wouldn’t slow us down as much. It's more when you run into obstacles, when you run into these big changes in the market – that's when it makes a huge difference and the payoff from the tool is there. We'd survive, but it'd be a huge loss to us.
I am definitely an advocate of the system. There's a huge return using these systems in terms of time saving and the ability for us to easily and quickly assess our performance. It allows us to stay one step ahead of the competition.
Honestly, as much as I want to go overseas, I want to explore this British Columbia to a deeper depth. The pandemic has made me appreciate what we have closer to home. I’ve recognised how much our province has to offer, all these micro-environments that are within neighbourhoods. British Columbia is quite a large province and I want to get out to remote areas you can't go to right now. They’ve closed their doors to any travellers from the outside as they're at such a high risk if Covid-19 was to hit, but that’s what I’m definitely planning on doing.