2020 Revenue leaders - Interview series [part 2]: Automation will assist, not replace

2020 Revenue leaders - Interview series [part 2]: Automation will assist, not replace

Hotel leaders over the past few years – particularly in the revenue department – have been focusing on automation as a way to work more efficiently. We want employees thinking strategically and developing innovative ways to beat the competition, not doing manual data entry all day.

As COVID forced operators to reduce staff and avoid physical contact, the need to implement automated technology in the front- and back-of-house has accelerated. Today, revenue leaders may be overseeing more properties and have smaller teams. This is where technology automation is beneficial – these individuals need to be able to filter through a lot of information.

In part two of a three part series, we asked leading revenue experts how the increased focus on technology and automation will affect the employment landscape.

Michael Klein, VP of global revenue management, Hyatt Hotels Corporation:

“We are in the people business. We will always need humans to do the service jobs that automation cannot. Our guests enjoy human interactions and thrive on the human service levels we provide for them. Sure, there will be impacts in some areas (automation in bars and outlets behind the counter, contactless check-in services, etc.), but we will need to hire in areas that hoteliers typically have not.

“How do you analyze the performance of automation? Who is going to maintain the technology on a day-to-day basis? New skill sets for more complex job scopes beyond the traditional hotel jobs of today will need to be hired for and it will be important for those employees in certain areas at risk of becoming obsolete to find new skills. Hoteliers can start by providing them those training opportunities to grow.”

Sean Lynch, VP of revenue management, Graduate Hotels:

“It goes without being said that the industry has been hit hard during the pandemic and revenue management is no exception. Several hotels have consolidated portfolio oversight and a revenue manager may be overseeing two- to three-times the number of keys compared to pre-pandemic times. Automation in technology is going to be key for these professionals to make more time to strategize the business. Mundane and manual tasks may have been a substantial part of one’s day prior to the pandemic, but with increased portfolio responsibility, these tasks must be less of a daily influence. This automation, however, does not substitute the human level of detail and scrutiny needed to increase revenue potential but rather complements the humanistic side of the discipline.”

Sloan Dean, CEO, Remington Hotels:

“Revenue Optimization strategists will be required to cover more hotels. If the ratio pre-COVID was one DORM per three hotels, the new ratio will be one to five, and so forth.

“We will continue to see a combination of Sales, Marketing, Distribution, and Revenue Management into commercial leader roles. This was already happening, but it will only accelerate in coming years. I believe a lot of the future commercial leaders will come from current RM roles given the bias toward data and analytics.”

George Westwell, CEO, Cheval Collection:

“Technology is crucial to respond to the needs of present and future customers, but technology for its own sake risks alienating customers who just want rapid solutions. Like everything else in life, balance is key. I believe the future is in multi-skilled personnel empowered to make decisions on the go, and equipped with technology to facilitate that behaviour. As an operator, I would rather invest in a mobile room service app with in-person delivery over a gimmicky robot that in theory does both jobs. The former is a software investment that can be updated and improved over time, whereas the latter is an expensive piece of hardware that might look good on Instagram, but is unlikely to provide such a favourable return on investment. I believe hospitality still fundamentally requires the human touch to be successful.”

David Bowd, CEO, Salt Hotels:

“I believe hospitality has been behind on technology for many years and I think (and hope) the technology currently under final testing or recent implementation will be additive to our industry rather than replace people. We are still and will always be a service focused industry and I personally am delighted we are catching up to other industries with regard to systems and tech that improves the overall guest and employee experience.”

Davide Buccheri, Director of Revenue and Reservations, Bauer Venezia:

“Technologies are the future for all of us because we need to be able to provide and filter a lot of information. The target is to focus your time to analyze information and suggestions instead of making multiple calculations.”

Rhett Hirko, global VP of revenue optimization, Preferred Hotels & Resorts:

“I’ve always said that it is the smart General Manager that doesn’t replace his revenue manager with an RMS, but hires a Director of Revenue to manage the RMS. The landscape will continue to fracture, yet the needs of revenue management become ever more important to drive optimal channel profitability, increase loyalty bookings and capture fair share. This means clearly investing in the right technology to make this work. Do you sign up for a day-use platform, or work to integrate your sales and catering system to sell day-use on the booking engine? Can your BI tool integrate internal and external data in a way to report on potential shifts in business to help you capture it? With the advent of cleanliness requirements, will your hotel be implementing touchless check-in technologies that keep up with guest needs?

“The hospitality industry, particularly on the luxury end, will always have a customer service component that requires significant staffing. Rather, it is the morphing of those needs with new technology that will create perhaps more specialized roles and perhaps new roles to take advantage. From a revenue management perspective, there will be more centralized or consulting services to provide this over the coming year or two until demand comes back sufficiently, but hotels need to be careful not to sacrifice cost savings for the nimbleness needed to sieze opportunities when they see it.”

Marta Varela, Director of Revenue Strategy, Barcelo Hotel Group:

“I do not think more automatization will affect the staffing numbers. Hotels and Hotel Companies have already been working with minimum staff during the last years. Further cuts will continue, but it will not be just as a consequence of automatization but as a result of a more efficient way of working. Teams are struggling with manning, there are so many things to be done and most of them could be automated, which would result in having to spend less time on monotonous tasks that could be completed by machines, even robots, so that people could focus on analysing and making proper decisions.”

Olga Sommer, Director of Revenue, Nobu Hotel London Portman Square:

“For those in management making decisions on which systems to use, I would highlight the importance of integration and connectivity with existing systems, as well as paying attention to systems limitations. If these factors are not considered, you may end up with several stand-alone systems which will result in more work and increased costs.

“It is interesting how we talk about new technologies and yet every successful hotel spends a lot of time, effort and money on the soft skills of their employees. Being able to influence, build genuine emotional connections, create unique experiences, remains incredibly important, the pandemic highlighted the desire for human connections. You can learn new skills but you can't change the attitude.”

Looking forward

COVID has required revenue leaders to rethink how they approach pricing, marketing and distributing their hotel rooms.

Building a successful revenue team today takes a different approach than it did a year ago. As the discipline evolves, it will likely look different a year from now as well. The key, as we outlined in Part 1, is being flexible enough to adapt.

In the final part of this revenue leader interview series, we’ll take a look at the more personal side of our business; we’ll explore some personal changes and habits hotel leaders have implemented as ways to withstand the pandemic.

We realize your typical day to day has drastically changed. You’re no doubt doing more with less, and every single booking counts. With millions of data points, Market Insight can help you uncover new revenue opportunities. Learn how here. 

 

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