Anyone who has ever attended a hospitality industry conference can tell you how much hoteliers love to talk about data and analytics. Unfortunately, there isn’t much real-world evidence to back up all that talk. As Intelligent Hospitality’s Founder & CEO, Apo Demirtas, always says, “Hotels are data rich but information poor”.
We sell experiences to our guests. Hence, our orientation is to invest in guest-facing technologies rather than back-office analytics. Even at the most high-end luxury hotels, you’ll find back-office teams working through exported data files and populating spreadsheets for the dreaded weekly revenue meeting or the monthly strategy call. Ironically, much of these meetings are spent debating the accuracy of the data rather than strategizing.
Until recently, this duck-in-water approach (calm on the surface, paddling hard below) has been allowed to persist thanks to travel’s exponential growth over the last few decades. However, it took Covid-19 just a few months to boomerang us back to 1999. You can read more about it here.
While everyone is eager to end quarantine and resume travel, the reality is that today only 10% of the world’s population is fully vaccinated, while new variants continue to pop-up daily. Your seasonal trends have become less predictable while volatile travel bubbles dictate your feeder markets. In this new world, hoteliers can no longer afford to casually pontificate about data and analytics. Only those who can compete on timely data-driven decisions will survive. As for the others, don’t be surprised if data-driven tech companies like Airbnb and OTAs take over from them to launch their own lodging brands.
So unless you dream of one day running the local Expedia Inn, here are steps you need to take today make your hotel organization more data driven:
- Hire Data Competent People: You don’t have to find data scientists with PhDs in Statistics and Economics. But you do need marketers that can explain the correlation between online searches, shopping cart abandonment, and booking patterns across channels and markets. You need sales people who work out of the CRM and know which customer(s) to contact when. You need revenue managers who stay on top of market trends and won’t drop your rates the minute booking pace dips. You need an operations team that’s constantly incorporating guest feedback to enhance the stay experience. In short, you need data-driven hoteliers.
- Implement Data Standards and Processes: The cleanliness of your data is just as important as the cleanliness of your rooms when it comes to ensuring a steady flow of guests checking in and out of your hotel. You have to ensure that your staff is capturing complete and accurate data from high-level information such as market segmentation and booking channels down to individual guest preferences. In order for that to work, these data fields need to be clearly defined in operational systems, you need to have consistent data standards for them, staff needs to be trained to follow these standards, and data quality needs to be tracked and incentivized. Else, it’s ‘garbage in, garbage out’ and you have nothing to go on but gut-feeling.
- Invest in Analytics, Not Reporting: There’s a big difference between producing reports and analyzing data. If your team members spend hours everyday downloading data from transaction systems and transposing it to Excel or PowerPoint, you are at grave risk and may not even know it (like many endangered species). Today data is streaming between systems and interactive analytics tools are visualizing and alerting businesses on opportunities and threats in a timely manner. So if you don’t already have a hotel analytics platform like HotelIQ, go out and get one. Trust me, they are cheaper than you think and the opportunity cost of not having one can be devastating.
- Establish a Collaborative Digital Workspace: Does it ever feel like you’re going in and out of meetings all day but not making much progress? In order to be agile with your planning and execution, you need a digital workspace where your whole team collaborates without having to constantly schedule meetings. This cannot be accomplished from your inbox. E-mail doesn’t give you visibility into what your team is working on at any given time or what are the next steps or where the bottlenecks are. Everyone needs to be working off of the same data while sharing, commenting, planning, executing and tracking…on the go! Therefore, your analytics too need to be ingrained within this digital workspace. I’ll be writing in more detail about digital collaboration in my next article, so watch out for that.
With the above ingredients you can start working towards creating a hotel organization that’s able to optimize performance and compete using its data. However, just acquiring these assets isn’t going to be enough. Business Intelligence is an organizational capability that needs to be nurtured and grown. If you don’t create a culture of data analytics, no tools can help.