Question for Our Revenue Management Expert Panel:

Automation in revenue management can mean significant time-saving. Where can automation bring the most value to a hotel revenue management team and what tasks are best suited to automation?

Industry Expert Panel

Our Industry Expert Panel exists out of professionals within the hospitality & travel Industry. They have comprehensive and detailed knowledge, experience in practice or management and are forward-thinking. They are answering questions about the state of the industry. They share their insights on topics like revenue management, marketing, operations, technology and discuss the latest trends.

Dr. Betsy Stringam-Bender
Dr. Betsy Stringam-BenderProfessor of Hotels & Resorts, New Mexico State University

“Automation is an interesting word, and one that can mean many things to revenue management. There are many tasks, equations and algorithms that go into good revenue decisions. These numerical calculations can be automated so that managers have good data with which to make better informed decisions. Automation can also retrieve data that would not be humanly possible in the confines of days, weeks, etc., bringing more knowledge about markets, demand, and performance to the revenue decisions.

Most RMs are familiar with data analysis of historical performance, and combining that with current bookings to predict demand. Automation is a part of those calculations. But automation with larger fields of data (I hesitate to use the words “big data”, because really where does big data begin and end?), allows RMs to see beyond those traditional fields of data. Some revenue management systems use automation to collect and analyze internet search demand for airlines and additional hotels in a destination, bringing another level of demand data to the decision process.

The big problem with automation is when we ask it to take the place of management. We still need people to set and refine strategy, work with hotel management teams, and to consider outside information that may not be a part of calculations. Watching baseball with the new automated strike zones is an entertaining look at when we allow automation to make decisions beyond its full capacity. The future is not here yet, and for now, human interpretation is still needed, more often than we hope.

AI and machine learning can help us to better analyze data, and to make better predictions, if the data that is used represents future demand. Remember the old “Garbage In Garbage Out”? This still holds true today, even with automation, AI and machine learning. And even with the best tools, many an RM has spent an occasional day deciphering why history did not repeat itself in predicting hotel demand. But automation should make those days fewer and farther between.

Automation brings collection, computation, and analysis of a phenomenal range of data, and allows for quick calculations; all of which lead to better revenue decisions. And thankfully they quickly compute large algorithms so we don’t have to anymore!”

Patrick Wimble
Patrick WimbleManaging Director, Lightbulb Consulting

“I think the possibilities for automation are endless. In revenue management, we now have the capability to automate just about any process that is a real time sucker, i.e., jobs that don’t need our strategic thinking, but that we often get sucked into. Two of the biggest opportunities are:

  1. Pricing: I know… this is contentious. You might argue that with all the uncertainty around demand now, you couldn’t trust your RMS to make the correct decisions. My question would be: why would you assume the price you set is always the right one? Even in uncertain times like now, your RMS is looking at multiple variables, multiple times a day adjusting all the time – far more than any human could. It is also taking the emotion out of the decision, which, for the most part, results in better outcomes. If your system is giving you the incorrect prices, find out why and correct it (i.e. unknown special events, changes in feeder market travel restrictions etc). Set your ceiling and floor rates and then manage prices by exception.
  2. Data compilation and visualisation: How much time do we spend weekly compiling data into a digestible format for RM meetings only for no one to look at it until they are actually in the meeting?! Look at how you could schedule automatic reports from your PMS/RMS/Rate shopping/Google Analytics etc., and learn how to pull this into a BI tool like Tableau, PowerBI etc. If you don’t know how to do this or don’t have the time, find someone who can help.

The golden rule for automation: Ask yourself – can I automate this? If yes, does it give me something measurable and impactful, i.e., more insight, more time, fewer errors etc.? If the answer is yes to both questions – automate it and forget it!”

Theresa Prins
Theresa PrinsFounder, Revenue Resolutions

“Automation is key to optimising revenue. Some of the tasks and activities where revenue management benefits most are:

  • Channel Manager – the distribution of rates can be extremely time consuming and having a system that automatically updates rates on various platforms simultaneously is a non-negotiable system.
  • Pricing system – A fully automated pricing solution is another huge benefit for revenue optimisation. This way pricing is adjusted as demand fluctuates and you can focus on strategic thinking.
  • Rate Shopping and Rate Parity checks can be very mundane and time-consuming but are needed daily. A rate shopping tool in place to pull the data together for you is a huge win on time and optimisation.
  • Reputational Management – Being able to bring all reviews into one space and then use that data to make informed revenue decisions is key. If this is not in place you will have to use multiple platforms and then collate the data, which is not very practical at the best of times.
  • My new favourite is a direct booking engine solution that includes a quoting tool. This tool is then used by the reservations team to send quotes out to clients using the various price points available on the booking engine, and once the guest is ready to book, the process is automated and online. Another big win for time and optimisation.”

Chaya Kowal
Chaya KowalDirector of Revenue Management, Potato Head Family

“It is not humanly possible for a Revenue Team to be able to keep track of all the changes happening and manually make changes, therefore they often lose optimization opportunities. Automated systems also keep track of forward-looking data and trends and can provide really useful insights. Automation allows Revenue Managers to save time in yielding and inventory control (plus others) allowing them to allocate more time to focus on analyzing data, recommendations and communicating with other teams to build the correct strategies. Automation also allows them to have more time to build relationships with other departments (useful for Total Revenue Management) and connect with Revenue Managers from the competition.”

Paulo Aragao
Paulo AragaoRevenue Management Professional

“When it comes to compiling, generating or displaying reports, any kind of automation is welcomed. It’s been surveyed many times and the outcomes seem to be the same across the board: revenue managers spend a long time on reports. The causes could be many, but most of the time it is due to a lack of integrations between systems. Still, there are PMSs in the market that do not connect with the CRS, channel manager, RMS, etc.

Revenue managers have no option but to work relentlessly on translating one information to another, cross-checking spreadsheets, building charts, etc. The plethora of systems is overwhelming sometimes, and now is the time to make open API a must, across all systems, all software. Only then we will be able to integrate and automate.”

Sandra Gannon
Sandra GannonCommercial Consultant, Revenue Puzzle

“Having multiple excel sheets to track data, the expected 24 hour turn-around for a booking request or the forwarding of a phone call to voicemail is unacceptable in the current times. In the age of instant response, information is expected at your fingertips. An RMS system is a must for a revenue team but it has to be one that looks at forward tends and doesn’t weigh on history.

CRM systems are crucial for proactive guest communication and well-trained AI chatbots can relieve pressure on pre-stay communication. Those are only some examples, but one size doesn’t fit all, so the approach needs to be tailor-made for each individual hotel/group.”

Nikhil Roy
Nikhil RoyRevenue & Pricing Manager, Key Hospitality B.V.

“Automation is indeed a time saver and a huge help for the revenue management community. I expect it to grow even further and instead of replacing a Revenue Manager, it can assist them to make the correct decisions. As we have seen during the pandemic, an AI RM tool wasn’t the most reliable and RMs had to get a grip of the market situation and carve out potential revenue opportunities.

However, I believe tasks such as daily and hourly rate updates, inventory optimization, weekly/monthly market updates and appropriate suggestions are best suited for such a tool as it helps the RM save a lot of time and energy.”

Daniel Feitosa
Daniel FeitosaRevenue Management Specialist

“The amount of paperwork in all departments definitely needs to be reduced. It’s clear: when the Guest Relations, Front Desk and Reservations Departments are doing paperwork, checking reservations, guests details, etc., they are losing time that could be used to help and understand guests insights or to solve clients’ needs. More attention to guests is related to more revenue with better sales opportunities (upselling, F&B products, packages, etc).

Frictionless services, such as mobile keys, also save time and generate opportunities to create more products where the focus is on the guests, enabling them to get more value from their stays.”