Is Revenue Management Technology Actually Holding Hotels Back?
An overwhelming theme in 2018 is that hotel pricing power seems to be a thing of the past. More people are traveling and staying in hotels than ever before, but hotel operators are facing shrinking profitability margins because rates and revenue are not growing at the same clip as costs, such as labor, marketing and distribution.
Ask why hotels can’t drive ADR, and you’ll get blame pointed in several directions, from online price transparency, increased hotel supply and new competition from home-sharing services like Airbnb. But in hallways and breakout rooms this year, I heard a new challenge: technology systems that rely too heavily on competitor rate-shopping and thus recommend severe discounting as day-of-arrival approaches.
After some candid conversations, it’s evident that some revenue managers and revenue management systems are relying too heavily on competitor prices and rate-shopping tools to make pricing decisions.
Honestly, this caught me off guard. How could systems meant to aggregate and analyze data, build an accurate forecast and make profit-driven pricing decisions be in fact suppressing ADR growth?
So, I came back with honest questions for Duetto’s product team. And it turns out the answer is two-fold: mistakes are being made on both the strategy and the technology fronts.
Here’s what I already knew: rate shops and competitor pricing data is meant to be a guide and a measurement, not a “demand signal” or the sole data set off which hotels are making pricing decisions. Below, I’ll highlight some new strategies and data sets to help hotels make better pricing decisions and ways revenue teams can break themselves from the competitor-driven pricing mold.
I also knew that discounting rate to boost occupancy as day-of-arrival approaches is a bad strategy because it sends your competitors into a tailspin and more-importantly trains your customers to either wait to book or cancel and rebook when price inevitably drops.
What I was more curious about though, was the accusations that revenue management systems are recommending heavy discounts, and it turns out that is partially true. Some hotels with a one-way integration to a lightweight RMS are in fact weighing rate-shops too heavily and thus overreacting to competitor price drops. Other revenue management systems use a legacy theory called “zero-bid” to shape their algorithms, meaning when demand is not there, the value of the next room to sell is zero. More on that after the strategy discussion.