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Asian Hotel & Catering Times: Technically Raising Revenue

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October 9, 2015-

Maximising returns is now so much more than sophisticated software. It’s about true, agile solutions consisting of multiple services that address specific environments and properties. The far-reaching hands of social media are proving to be an added dimension. Michelle Farquhar takes a look at the rapidly evolving tech offerings tempting hoteliers with an eye on returns.

In China 140,952 rooms are under construction in 460 hotels, according to STR Global Hotel Data and Benchmarking, and this looming competition alone should sharpen the focus of hoteliers across the Asia region.

While software has played a critical role in contemporary business management, it is a new generation of powerful applications that is about to transform the industry.

“Technology is at the core of any successful hotel in Asia,” says Rachel Grier, the newly appointed managing director Asia for IdeaS software and consulting specialists.

“Critical profits can be left behind. With today’s heavy reliance on online travel agents and flash sales, it’s almost impossible to look at a hotel’s booking history to identify trends. It is difficult for revenue managers to recognise changes in demand and react in time to make changes that ultimately deliver a positive profit impact.”

Grier understands the business from the inside, having extensive experience including senior positions with Pegasus reservations and the Intercontinental group in Japan.

“Consumers throughout Asia are more aware of market trends and understand which booking mediums to approach, when, and for the best price. There is more pressure than ever on hoteliers to carefully consider pricing strategies.”

Under this pressure, revenue managers need to work in concert with sales and marketing teams, yet traditional revenue management systems only focus on room revenue streams.

Grier says this is where the heavy lifting is done with data analysis, to clarify and integrate decision-making, and optimise revenue. The analysis can account for price sensitivities in different cities in Asia by incorporating historical data.

“Rate plans will be more intelligent because they are based on analytics rather than a ‘gut feel’. This keeps hotels from being dragged into constant price wars with less analytically-savvy competitors,” says Grier.

Grier makes the point that accurate data analysis informs staffing levels, maintenance, food and beverage purchasing and a raft of other critical hotel operations, to further optimise profits.

It ensures that data from all departments can be integrated so that senior executives can have a truly informed discussion and unified commitment to strategies to drive revenue.

“Meetings and event spaces often account for 30 per cent of a hotel’s revenues and critical profits can be left behind if these spaces go unsold or undersold,” says Grier.

This is a new generation of software, supplying a new generation of intelligence.

Optimal control 

Pros is also a player in this sector, championing revenue optimisation.

“Advanced real-time systems can even update prices immediately after each new hotel booking,” says Cary Umrysh, vice-president Pros data analysis software company.

“The smartest systems determine patterns of behaviour from certain types of bookings and then provide pricing guidance. The best solutions can even recommend different room rates for different lengths of stay, as well as optimally control which lengths of stay are allowed during the busiest times and when occupancy rates are at their highest.”

With the back of house now humming with uber efficiency, front of house is witnessing the next technological frontiers too.

Imagine frazzled office workers musing about an Asian getaway, and without lifting a finger, making the booking.

One Travel flight booking app recently introduced voice activated functionality for booking trips and holidays. Wearable tech is trending globally suggesting consumer convenience and spontaneity will drive the next generation of travellers.

But it all depends on wifi and currently access in Asian destinations can be poor quality with paltry limits, which can frustrate business and tourists alike – hardly a shining example of hospitality.

Seoul is the pin-up city for free wifi with 10,000 hotspots including the airport, and popular tourist zones. Other technologically generous cities include Tel Aviv, Osaka, Barcelona, Edinburgh and San Francisco. Tasmania, Australia, is also looking to invest in some popular remote areas as well as urban centres, aware that selfies and holiday happy- snaps are invaluable advertising for the destination.

“We allocated AU$500,000 for the wifi roll out which will boost the visitor experience and give tourists the opportunity to create and share their experiences of Tasmania online,” says Michael Ferguson, Tasmania’s IT Minister.

Are you receiving me? 

The recent unveiling of G Hotel Kelawai, Penang in Malaysia is also sending a signal. High-end interiors, bespoke, luxury fixtures and furnishings and an infinity pool, are not a complete product without free, high speed, unlimited wifi in all rooms and throughout the hotel.

“Our hotel offers a dedicated 150MBps line which is solely for guest wifi,” says Christina Tan, director of communications.

“Most other hotels in Penang offer a shared line. Our core guests are corporate and mostly foreign, so the need to stay in touch is pivotal to the decision of where they stay. To stay ahead of our competitors, our offer is a dedicated line which is the fastest in Penang.”

While satisfying the ‘connection addiction’ is good for guests, with more than five billion mobile phone users projected for the planet by 2017, opportunities abound to leverage the handheld technology to further boost guests’ experience and revenue.

Teach them and they will come 

Qooco is one such smart idea offering language skills for hotel staff via a mobile phone app.

“Upskilling hotel employees to speak the same language as their guests is vital to creating deeper connections, increasing loyalty, guest retention and profit” says David Topolewski, Qooco CEO.

Using a mobile phone app has several advantages over traditional classroom learning, and neatly fits with the ‘little and often’ rule for practise.

“The modules are gamified, which makes studying a lot more fun and interactive. Our employees are having a lot of fun learning,” says Ittipol Witjitsomboon, HR director at the Bangkok Mandarin Oriental.

“Our employees study lessons that are specific to their working areas, such as F&B, spa or housekeeping. This helps them apply what they have learned directly to their line of work. They are able to choose when and where they study, and they are also much more motivated as they are able to track their own progress and scores.”

The current generation of hotel employees in Asia has grown up using smartphones, so it is a logical, low-cost yet effective tool to foster improvements in staff skills and morale.

For the luxury end of the market, language skills are perhaps an even more critical investment, especially with the burgeoning, high spending Chinese market.

“If guests are constantly having to explain and re-explain what they want they will simply leave and share their negative experiences with others,” says Topolewski.

“Staff who can speak Mandarin will be able to create a much deeper and more meaningful connection, be able to anticipate their needs more accurately, reducing service time and increase upselling opportunities.”

So it is clear technology is king. The extreme science behind room rates, optimising revenue, is underpinned by 21st century software. This is every bit as important as guests having access to the internet to work effectively, plan and book holiday activities or share their experiences on social media. It is also opening up opportunities to upskill staff, to improve service delivery and career options.

It is the heartbeat of success when hotels enter the daily arm-wrestle for profits.

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