In the context of a hotel, automating various processes end-to-end might benefit the hotel, but just how automation-ready are Indian hoteliers?
This was one of the key questions discussed by a panel during a recent Travelclick/Ideas conference in India.
Key takeaways from the discussion are below:
Automation and analytics - are Indian hotels ready?
It depends on the type of the hotel and the segment of customers a hotel caters to. Automation and analytics certainly helps hoteliers, but a hotel has to question itself on its ability to implement them.
If a hotel entirely follows automation methodology, it implies there is some disconnect with the real buyer. Automation is important, but it needs people to implement it effectively.
In the context of the Indian hotel market, a lot of hotel businesses are people driven. The share of roles played by analytics in a hotel is limited, a hotelier really cannot just follow a black and white recommendation by the system on how hoteliers should treat business class customers.
One panel member highlighted the need for a model that gives some extra information about customers that hotels don't know already.
Though some hoteliers questioned the readiness of the market for automation and analytics, some hotels have already taken the lead. For example, at Lemon Tree hotels, a lot of number crunching happens.
To the question of whether automation will entirely replace human skills, one hotelier says he knows of a revenue manager who handles 26 Indian hotels (IDeaS recommends one revenue manager for eight hotels), and the importance of that one person over systems.
How well a hotel leverages the power of automation or how well a hotel learns to use various tools are also key parameters. One panel member made an interesting point about tools: When it comes to usability, automation/analytics softwares should be as easy as a Candy Crush mobile app. No one gave any training on how to play Candy Crush. That's the level of easiness the automation and analytics tools should have.
Another panel member spoke about the connection between automation and attrition rate at hotels, he said:
"Automation should help revenue managers take better decisions so that they can bring business to hotels.
"Automation will help eliminate, to a large extent, the mundane works that revenue managers do, but, at the same time, revenue managers' human intelligence can never be replaced.
"A lot of attrition in hotels happens not because of high salary offered by other hotels, but also due to the dull/repetitive jobs they do, so we should keep them engaged with new systems."
Are revenue managers using sufficient tools?
For hotel revenue managers, the tools they use are very important. Currently, hoteliers get data from various sources including STR, Travelclick, etc. But, if the hotel doesn't provide enough and the right tools to a revenue manager, it will result in a "garbage-in-garbage-out" scenario.
In the next couple of years, the market is going to hear a lot about visual analytics (geeky numbers, fancy graphs, deep diving into multiple levels of data).
Currently, the tools that revenue managers use report the current snapshot of time, its a static snapshot. Then, revenue managers need to combine three or four reports to arrive at a business decision.
In future, this is going to change to a dynamic data generation engine where users can go to any level of detail they want.
Also, as an industry, hoteliers need to ensure that they are collecting the correct type of data, for example, a hotelier should be able to say what are the needs of millennial travellers.
Total revenue management - a missed opportunity?
Hoteliers are using various tools and techniques to maximize revenue from hotel rooms, but why aren't revenue managers focusing on other hotel facilities (conference rooms, spa, etc)?
Panelist responses were:
- Hotels are under tremendous pressure because of the excess supply in market. So, its difficult for revenue managers to focus on the entire revenue management possibilities at a hotel. This is an area where automation can play a vital role.
- 90% of our revenue comes from hotel rooms.
Revenue managers vs low season
- Hotels just don't have enough data to take good decisions - for example, not much data is available on the banquet hall usage. And, hoteliers are missing tools that will enable them to make better decisions.
When questioned on the need of a revenue manager during low seasons, panelists raised a key point:
- Revenue managers are needed more during low demand seasons than during high demand, because they can bring in new business by looking at various distribution channels.
- Moderator: Kathrin Bhalla, solution architect, IDeaS
- Amit Chopra, director of sales and marketing, The Leela Palace New Delhi
- Fabian Bartnick, senior consultant, IDeaS
- Karishma Singh, general manager of revenue management, Taj Hotels Resorts & Palaces
- Dhiraj Trivedi, director - group electronic marketing, The Park Hotels
- Nikhil Sharma, assistant VP - operations, The Lemon Tree Hotels
- Kumar Subramanian, founder, REVOPT
image via Shutterstock.