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The theme for this year’s Unfold is The New Standard in Hospitality. Specifically: how have changing guest expectations and revolutions in technology redefined what ‘normal’ is in our industry?
Wow, that’s a great question. (Thanks!) It’s a theme we’ll explore in full in Amsterdam on April 4th, but it’s so meaty that it’s worthing chewing over ahead of time.
To start with, we’d like to tackle this question from the viewpoint of revenue management. To do so, we’ve called upon one of the best in the business. Meet Thibault Catala, Founder of Catala Consulting, a boutique consulting firm that specializes in strategy, distribution and revenue management for asset management firms, family offices and boutique hotels.
He’s also the Co-Founder of Vertell Asset Management and COO of a new, Mews-powered lifestyle brand, Faern Resorts, a collection of lifestyle hotels resorts nestled in the Swiss Alps where every moment is a celebration.
Now you have Thibault’s credentials, let’s hit him with some tricky questions.
What’s so special about the hospitality industry?
As an entrepreneur, I am particularly interested in creating value in the hospitality industry by leveraging technology and innovation. I started my career in hotel revenue management, with a focus on pricing, distribution and technology, and I have worked for several leading firms in these sectors, including Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts in Asia and InterContinental Hotels Group in Europe.
I have a strong love for the hospitality industry because of the unique blend of business and people skills required to succeed in this sector. I enjoy the challenge of finding creative and effective solutions for my clients, investors and colleagues, and the satisfaction that comes from seeing a successful project come to fruition – such as the latest Faern brand! Additionally, I am drawn to the dynamic and constantly evolving nature of the hospitality industry, which allows for opportunities for growth and development both professionally and personally.
What do you think the new standard in hospitality is?
Our industry has been lagging behind versus other industries in terms of development and changes. However, some areas have seen major shifts and are now playing a key role in day-to-day operations. In my view, the new standards in hospitality are centered around the following key areas:
- Sustainability and eco-friendliness: with a growing emphasis on environmental responsibility, hotels and other hospitality businesses are looking for ways to reduce their impact on the environment and offer sustainable options to their guests.
- Personalization and technology: guests expect a high level of personalization in their stay experiences, and technology plays a major role in delivering this. From mobile check-ins to in-room entertainment systems, tech is helping to create a more seamless and customized experience.
- Health and safety: the pandemic brought the importance of health and safety measures to the forefront, and this is likely to remain a priority for both guests and businesses in the future.
- Experiences over amenities: rather than simply seeking out basic amenities, guests are now looking for unique and memorable experiences that they can't get anywhere else.
- Employee satisfaction and well-being: companies in the hospitality industry are starting to recognize that a positive work environment for employees can lead to better customer satisfaction and overall business success.
What are the biggest challenges to embracing the new standard of revenue management?
Revenue management has seen great progresses in the last few years and new standards have emerged, mostly around the use of new technologies such as advanced predictive analytics, dynamic pricing, artificial intelligence, automated availability optimization and data-driven decision making.
It’s a great list, but as with everything, this comes with some challenges and roadblocks:
- Resistance to change: the shift towards revenue management 2.0 represents a significant change from traditional revenue management practices, and some organizations may be resistant to embrace these new approaches.
- Limited understanding of the new standard: moving from descriptive revenue management to prescriptive revenue management, as well as moving from gut feeling decisions to data driven and automated decisions, is a relatively new concept; there may still be limited understanding of what it entails and how it differs from traditional revenue management.
- High investment costs: implementing these new technologies in RM often requires significant investments in data and technology infrastructure, which can be a challenge for some hotels with limited budgets.
- Data security and privacy: with the increasing use of data and technology in revenue management, there is a growing concern about the security and privacy of customer and business data. This includes the risk of hacking, data breaches, and unauthorized access to sensitive information.
- Limited data accuracy: while new technologies can help to improve the accuracy of data and decision-making, there is still a risk that data may be inaccurate or incomplete, leading to incorrect pricing and inventory decisions.
What three tips would you give hoteliers looking to maximize their revenue strategy?
If I had to boil it down to three things, I’d say this:
- Be flexible and adaptable
The market is constantly changing, and your revenue strategy should be able to adapt to these changes. This means being willing to adjust prices and inventory levels in response to shifting demand, and being open to trying new approaches and technologies as they become available. Keep experimenting: what was working a few months ago may not be working today. Similarly, what works for another hotel may not work for you. Hence the need to keep experimenting and adjusting your strategy and tools.
2. Use data and technology to inform decision making
In today's data-driven world, it's important to use data and technology to inform your revenue strategy. This might include using predictive analytics to forecast demand or using artificial intelligence to optimize pricing and inventory decisions. The key is to ensure that your technology solutions are aligned with your business objectives and provide actionable insights to help you make informed decisions. The root of this strategy here is to rely much more on what the data is showing you rather than what you feel is the right thing to do. There is a big mindset shift needed around this idea.
3. Monitor and evaluate your results
Regularly monitoring and evaluating the results of your strategy and tactics is important for understanding what's working and what's not, and for making informed decisions about future changes and improvements. This might involve tracking key performance indicators, such as RevPAR, occupancy, and guest satisfaction, and using this information to adjust your approach and refine your strategy over time. By having clear targets, regularly monitoring your trends vs your set targets, and evaluating your results, you can ensure that your revenue strategy is continuously improving and delivering the best possible results.
If you’re getting started in revenue management, the most important thing is that you keep it as simple as possible. Most of the theory out there on revenue management is great but it’s also extremely complex and sometimes not applicable in your day-to-day. Have clear targets, monitor your performance with a few important KPI and keep experimenting on new ways to increase demand during low demand periods and yield up on high demand period. See what works and what doesn’t and keep learning and adjusting until successful.
Okay, now for something less tricky: do you have any book recommendations?
I’m a big bookworm and some of the best books I’ve read recently are The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, Mindset by Carol Dweck and The Power of Persuasion by Robert Levine. And on a more fun note, the whole Dune saga by Frank Herbert.
The Five Dysfunctions of a Team is a great read for anyone looking to improve their leadership and team building skills. Mindset is a game-changer when it comes to understanding the power of our thoughts and beliefs. The Power of Persuasion is a fascinating read that teaches us how to influence and persuade others effectively (also very relevant when it comes to neuropricing, neuromarketing – and neurorevenuemanagement?). And as for Dune, well, it's a classic sci-fi series and my all-time favorite books. They captured my imagination and kept me hooked from start to finish.
Thibault will be speaking at Mews Unfold, hospitality’s most innovative one-day event. It takes place in Amsterdam on April 4th and there are still tickets available.
When Tom isn't creating outstanding marketing content for Mews, he writes fiction for himself. Either way, he only uses the best words.
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