Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International
Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International
 
Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International
Taking Advantage of Competitive Intelligence Tools -- Does your hotel have a competitive intelligence champion?

Posted: April 12, 2010

From HSMAI's Revenue Management Advisory Board -- Gone are the days when there was enough demand to go around. In today's economy, savvy revenue managers need a more complete picture of how they are positioned and performing against their competitive set. Luckily for hotel operators, the landscape of competitive intelligence data has evolved significantly. Today there are products that can help you understand the positioning of your hotel both historically and into the future. The breadth of information goes beyond just competitive rate shopping to include online page placement, future share of demand, consumer ratings, and user generated comments to name a few.

Stop looking in the "rear view mirror"
Revenue managers have to compete aggressively for business against their competitive set to maintain performance and achieve budget targets, especially in a tight economy. Traditionally, hoteliers have "looked in the rear view mirror" to determine their strategies for future dates. They leverage historical market share reporting against their competitive set and chain scale to make decisions. In addition, revenue managers are pressed for time leaving little time to review and interpret data in performance reports. So out of necessity, business intelligence is rapidly evolving from static reports to readily available multidimensional, web-based interactive applications.

From the perspective of Brenda Gordon, Corporate Director of Revenue Management for Omni Hotels & Resorts, the most effective applications give hoteliers the ability to leverage data as a strategic asset. "Omni has selected TRAVELCLICKf®'s Hotelligence360TM as our intelligence platform for its truly forward-looking capabilities," she says. "Our hotels like how its dynamic platform, with dashboards and alerts, goes beyond providing information. They can actually drill into the data, filter it, and restructure it 'on the fly.' Data is transformed into knowledge -- and knowledge into action that strengthens our strategy and sharpens our competitive edge."

According to TRAVELCLICK®, Hotelligence360TM is an interactive business intelligence application that integrates multi-channel reservation, rate, marketing, and competitive data in a single solution. It allows the user to analyze historical and forward-looking data against multiple comp sets based on a variety of competitors and different business segments. The solution integrates with their RateVIEW® online rate-shopping tool to provide a forward-looking snapshot of rates and availability from over 200 major travel brand sites and the GDS. Also, according to TRAVELCLICK®, it will integrate with SearchVIEW® to benchmark a hotel's web presence compared to the competition by tracking how a hotel ranks on search engines, OTAs, and meta-search sites.

Today's forward looking tools provide revenue managers with data on market demand and price position for future dates. Lee Jones, global vice president of revenue management for Marriott International explains that, "Marriott has integrated Rubicon's MarketVision® Price Position into our One Yield system for all of our hotels and we are actively implementing MarketVision® Demand Position. Both have been rapidly embraced by our management; but more importantly by our hotels. These services provide our hotels an unprecedented ability to monitor their price position and demand performance for future dates while there is still time to react."

Rubicon's MarketVision provides competitive market intelligence service with both forward-looking and historical market information. According to Rubicon, MarketVision's demand data represents all distribution channels and all segments including group and transient bookings from GDS, online travel agencies, brand websites and hotel direct. With products and services that integrate into the customer's business planning and revenue management practices, the process is seamless for the hotel. Rubicon's MarketVision Solution offers a comprehensive suite of services that addresses market positioning in terms of demand, price and channel.

According to Lixto Travel, Spanish hotel chain Iberostar is using their OMI product to manage the competitiveness of their global business. By delivering one single view of their market the system enables them to make more accurate and faster decisions. With the Lixto OMI solution, hotels can monitor their competitors and make adjustments to their own product. The tool collects a comprehensive set of data about the competitors including such attributes as property name, star rating, occupancy scenarios, room type, rate type, room rate, arrival and departure dates, meal plans, taxes, service fees and even cancellation policies.

So much to read...so little time...
The hotel industry is being bombarded with consumer ratings and reviews, consumers are trying to figure out which sites and reviews to trust, and suppliers are taking some creative steps to proactively respond and attempt to control the content posted on the Internet. We all know there are a large number of ratings sites-- too many to keep track of one by one. A simple search of "hotel ratings" will generate over 33 million results, and TripAdvisor® contains more than 30 million "trusted travel" reviews alone. If you add in the blogs and social media sites, monitoring and responding proactively to all of them becomes impossible.

Why is it more important than ever to focus on these reviews? First, it helps your online marketing strategy because a favorable review on these websites is considered an important ranking factor by search engines and OTAs. Second, in this slow and recovering economy, the consumer is looking for value more than ever before. Since consumers are more price sensitive in today's economy, hotel operators have responded with discounts to create value. While discounts and deals can lure a consumer in, many consumers want validation that they are getting a good value for the price charged. Consumer ratings and comments submitted on hotel review websites and social media tools are quickly becoming the source for perceived value in the consumer's eyes. In short, a positive review on these websites results in higher conversion and revenues because consumers feel more comfortable with their hotel purchase decision.

However, consumers are trying to figure out which sites and reviews to trust. A recent article, titled "Whose hotel reviews do you trust?", asked whether travelers should trust reviews by expert travel writers or the ordinary traveler. The article suggests that reviews by ordinary travelers "reflect ordinary traveler concerns: location, room quality and features, amenities, charm, and such, and with the special emphasis on value for the money that you don't much get from the professional reviews." Conversely, an article in The Economist, titled "Trusting the People," cited a case study in the cruise industry where the reliability of the reviews was brought into question because Royal Caribbean cruises had contacted people who posted positive reviews and offered them rewards in return for more positive online coverage.

Today's competitive intelligence tools can help revenue and marketing managers monitor and manage their hotel's online reputation. These tools aggregate, weigh, score, and alert you when things change. According to Sabre Hospitality Solutions, their online reputation management tool provides automatic feeds that monitor and list reviews from travel related consumer websites including Insider Pages, Yelp, tripadvisor.com, yahootravel.com, Yellowbot, Epinions, and more. Additional feeds can be added from blogs, photo and video sharing sites, or press releases. Similar feeds can also be set up to monitor your competitive set.

Another example of a useful tool is eBuzz Connect from Milestone Internet Marketing. Amber Watt, director of Internet strategy for Aqua Hotels and Resorts says, "Aqua [Hotels and Resorts] has been monitoring social media and online guest reviews for some time and the process has been piecemeal and time-consuming. We evaluated several solutions and selected eBuzz ConnectTM because of its powerful reporting and ability to provide actionable reports that can help improve service to our guests and eventually increase profitability."

Where to start...what are the next steps?
There are many competitive intelligence tools available in the market today. Consider these questions when selecting tools for your hotel:

  1. What types of competitive intelligence data will my hotel benefit from the most?
  2. Should we look for a single comprehensive solution or utilize tools from multiple providers?
  3. Can the competitive data from the tool under consideration be integrated into my revenue management toolkit or my automated revenue management system?
  4. Who will be responsible for managing and using the tool to ensure we get the most from it?
  5. What is the business case for my property?

Finally, do your homework...meet with the vendors, understand the differences in their products, and talk to your peers about their experiences.

This article has highlighted only a few of the companies out there with competitive intelligence solutions. Those highlighted responded to an open request by the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board to share product overviews and insights into how and why their customers are using their products. The product information and customer testimonials detailed in this article were provided by the participating companies and are not based on primary research by HSMAI. For an in depth understanding of each product, we encourage you to contact each company for more information.

About the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board
The Revenue Management Advisory Board is responsible for providing leadership for HSMAI's Revenue Management Special Interest Group (SIG). The SIG is advancing the revenue management discipline by being its leading source for education, best practices exchange, thought leadership and networking for revenue management professionals, other sales and marketing professionals, and senior management in the hospitality industry. www.revmanagement.org

Members include:

  • Chair: Warren Jahn, Ph.D., Revenue Management Training Consultant, InterContinental Hotels Group
  • Vice-Chair: Scott Roby, Vice President, Revenue Management, Tarsadia Hotels
  • Immediate Past Chair: Timothy Coleman, CRME, President, The Coleman Company
  • Christopher Crenshaw, CRME, Director of Marketing Intelligence, Loews Hotels
  • Jack Easdale, Corporate Director of Revenue Management, Gaylord Hotels
  • Jon Eliot, CHA, CRME, Director, Revenue Optimization, Carlson Hotels Worldwide
  • Bernard Ellis, CRME, Managing Director-Americas, IDeaS - A SAS COMPANY
  • Tammy Farley, Principal, The Rainmaker Group
  • Fred Heintz, CRME, Director of Group Strategy, Marriott & Renaissance Hotels of New York City
  • Jay Hubbs, Director-Hotel Supplier Relations, Hotwire
  • Burl Hutchison, CRME, Manager of Revenue Optimization, Sabre Hospitality Solutions
  • Dan Kowalewski, Vice President Revenue Management Services, Wyndham Hotel Group
  • Stowe Shoemaker, Associate Dean of Research, University of Houston/Conrad N. Hilton College
  • Miguel Solis, CHA, CRME, VP Sr. Director Revenue Management, Hospitality Resource Group
  • Trevor Stuart-Hill, CRME, President, Revenue Matters
  • Paul Wood, CRME, CHBA, Senior Account Director, Sceptre Hospitality

Want to Learn More?
Many revenue management topics like this are being addressed as part of the 10-part Revenue Management Webinar Series produced by the HSMAI University, HotelNewsNow, and STR. Begun February 23, 2010, and going through December, each month a webinar will cover various aspects of cutting edge revenue management in today's economy in conjunction with articles written by members of the HSMAI Revenue Management Advisory Board. If you're not able to attend a live program or the date has passed, archives are available. Also, these and other timely revenue management and Internet marketing topics will be the focus of the HSMAI Revenue Management & Internet Marketing Strategy Conference, co-located with HITEC, June 21 in Orlando, FL.


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