After four years of being in the revenue management business, I have come to a rather sad conclusion that many of those responsible for it lack basic skills.
Before we get into detail on which skill they are apparently missing, let’s figure what the cause is, who is to blame?
Unfortunately, far too many hotels are still relying on internal promotion. This in itself is not such a bad thing, but a good reservations manager does not make a good revenue manager.
The skill set and scope of the job is different. Reservations is a sales department, revenue management is business analytics. Not quite the same. This doesn’t mean a reservations manager cannot become a good revenue manager.
So what skills do we expect from a revenue manager:
1. Economic insight
No man or company is an island. They have to understand the world they operate in. How do currency exchange fluctuations affect cross-continental demand?
Why are the dynamics of the market as they are? A good revenue manager reads up on economic news – the Financial Times and The Economist should be in their briefcase for a quick update on the way to work.
2. Analytical skills
Revenue management is the equivalent of business analysis in other industries. Exceptionally good analytical skills therefore are an absolute basic requirement.
One has to be able to cross-analyze various dates, detect trends and variations, grasp and understand complex data models.
3. Mathematical magician
Math is at the basis of all analysis. Subjects like statistics with weighted average, standard deviation and variance are important to understand for a revenue manager.
You have to be good with formulas and calculations. If you don’t, it will be very hard to develop and understand trend analysis tools.
4. Spreadsheet ninja
This is where it all happens for most revenue managers. ExCel or any other spreadsheet application is used to compile data into statistical overviews and legible graphs.
A real revenue manager is at least capable of this, besides making basic formulas of developing such tools as pivot or dynamic tables, macros, graphs, conditional formatting, lookup references and data filters.
5. Technically savvy
Hotel revenue management usually requires steering a wide variety of distribution channels, online reservation systems and possibly a revenue management system.
These systems have to be well understood and managed. So a hotel revenue manager should know a hell of lot more about systems and applications in general than your average hotelier.
Managing a revenue management system is like racing. You won’t win by going 120 km/h. And for driving a Formula One car you need skills.
You will not be able to smartly maneuver the other drivers and, worse still, gravity may pull you off the track on a sharp curve and you crash.
6. Internet geek
Nowadays online sales represent a high percentage of a hotel’s revenue mix. The influence of the internet still grows and other segments such as meetings and incentive sales have also made their introduction into ecommerce.
A revenue manager needs to know what is going on online, where the market is going, which channels and models are coming up, what are the implications for online distribution.
7. Readers digest
How many and which newsletters and blogs is your revenue manager subscribing too? Is he or she keeping up with not only hotel industry news, but also with global economical developments?
Information is at their fingertips with the internet and there is no excuse to not being well-read anymore.
8. Communicative and determined strategist
Besides being analytical it is important that a revenue manager is capable of presenting and defending his model and decisions.
This would be based on their own calculations and in front of the hotel’s executive management team, and possibly the owners.
He should smoothly steer them away from emotional decisions based on experience and feelings, towards informed and calculated decisions based on statistics.
He needs to be strong enough to say NO to the sales department, and even the general manager.
Revenue management is business analysis and comes down to taking informed decisions based on statistical trends. Still there is a certain crystal ball part to the job as one never is truly sure about what the future has in mind for us.
By using statistics we reduce the risk in our decisions. It will allow us to see the light and choose for a well founded and solid course of action. However, once in a while a revenue manager has to stray away from the common path, to be able to discover new opportunities.
He needs to experiment and take risk, without fear, with new strategies and techniques to analyze the outcome.
Samples dates need to be tested, decisions logged and outcomes measured. A revenue manager who does not have the drive to explore new opportunities, and prefers the status quo, could very likely mean the decay and downfall of a hotel in the long run.
Hotels need to stay competitive by being ahead of the pack.
This is maybe more of a personality characteristic then a skill, but a good revenue manager has the drive to win. He must want to outperform the competition, and is constantly looking to improve his score.
Revenue management is like playing PacMan, it is all about the adrenaline to beat your own maximum score.
As you can see, revenue managers need very particular skills, many of which are lacking in the average hotelier. When thinking promoting someone internally, consider whether they fit the profile and have the right skills – if not, provide training or start looking outside your organization.
Various universities and hotel schools have started a revenue management curriculum. However we have found that the freshly trained revenue managers lack insight into how a hotel;s front office, reservations sales and marketing departments operate.
As a revenue manager it is important to understand the dynamics and specifics of other departments. Hence such school trained revenue managers should also complete traineeships going through several operational departments.
Sadly we have found many revenue managers lack the basic skills required to perform well in their job.
We hope the industry will invest more resources and pay attention to getting the right people in the right place. We need to pay better salaries and provide expert training programs if we want to achieve better results and regain control of our inventory.
NB: This is a guest post by Patrick Landman of Xotels.