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Marketing dos and don’ts from Best Western
Forget about new-fangled technology, Best Western says we need to get back to basics first and, quite simply, connect the data dots. Pamela Whitby reports
Rob Paterson, the CEO of Best Western Hotels & Resorts, is a frustrated man. “In the UK hotels run at 75% occupancy. That’s 25% empty. It costs about £10 to £15 to turn a room, but you still get revenue managers who will say I never go below hundred [pounds]. Why not? Even £17 pounds would be profitable! Something is missing here.”
Hotel industry margins are incredibly tight at the moment and it’s clear that Paterson, who was speaking at the EyeforTravel Digital Strategy Summit in London last month, believes that if the data dots are better connected, there will be more money on the table.
We still put out broad brush marketing campaigns, and take a siloed approach to revenue management
Says Paterson: “We are still having these conversations about not going below about hundred. We have plenty of RM suppliers and plenty of marketing platforms and no one has connected the two. We still put out broad brush marketing campaigns, and take a siloed approach to revenue management.”
Not just a pricing issue
While highly attractive prices, as Google Analytics will tell you, undoubtedly drive conversions, price should not be the only factor in boosting demand. A more holistic approach is needed and at various points in the cycle. If a hotel knows, for example, that is has 75% occupancy at two weeks out, it might look right from an RM point of view to simply drop prices, but there is another way. Instead, couldn’t marketing be driving up demand with a range of really great packaging and experiences – everything from a ‘bleisure’ package to a wet and windy wellness weekend.
For a man who loves technology, Paterson cited his personal use of IFTTT, the ‘if this, then that’ app that gets all his devices talking to each other. If, for example, he is driving home, when he arrives at a certain point and the temperature has dropped below a certain level, the app triggers his heating and the kettle. “Why can’t we have a platform for industry that connects these dots? There is a gap in market for innovators. The data should be connected directly to marketing!”
It is not only the data that is sitting in silos, something that has been “talked about for years,” that is a problem, it is also the way organisations are structured. Pricing and inventory is owned by revenue management while conversion rates, packaging, targeted marketing and so on are owned by sales and marketing, but although these two things are intrinsically linked they still don’t talk to each other.
To cement the point, Paterson asked the audience: “Whose RM system actually talks to their Dotmailer [email marketing platform].” The silence in the room was telling!
So the next question is: Why can’t we have a platform for the industry that connects the dots between RM and marketing?
As examples of how IFTTT could work in the hotel industry, if a hotel is less than 80% full for four consecutive nights and the temperature is below 15 °C, then the system could automatically trigger a wellness package. If a hotel is at almost full occupancy and search demand is within a 5% average then it’s time to close out high commission channels and put all efforts into the direct channel!
“I think at the moment we are seeing an influx of great new technology. But personally I think we need to sort out the basics. We just need to use data we have to connect the dots,” he says.
Sounds simple, so why isn’t somebody doing it? As it turns out, Best Western is working on an integrated system for RM and marketing in house, so watch this space!