Editors recap the opening day of the Hotel Data Conference with takeaways, quotables and more highlights from the event.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee—Speakers during the first day of sessions at the Hotel Data Conference reacted and reflected on a revised full-year 2017 forecast by host STR that accounts for better-than-expected demand, but lower-than-expected average daily rate growth.
And, for the most part, that mix of good and bad news seemed to be met with a knowing nod of the head and resolve to make the most of it.
“Everything is still going up; it’s just going up at a smaller amount,” said Richard Pastorino, president and principal at REVPAR International and moderator of a panel titled “A revenue manager’s best friend: A profitable business mix.”
Day One recap video
Photo of the day
Quotes of the day
“Our transient demand numbers are higher than ever. That fuels growth (of travel). It’s tough to run a business and deal with people taking time off, but if we want to encourage demand in our industry, we need to encourage people to take their time off and take the vacation days they have.”
—Amanda Hite, president and CEO, STR, on the topic of trends driving transient growth in the hotel industry.
“I just wish for better results in the third quarter than in the second.”
—Mit Shah, senior managing principal and CEO, Noble Investment Group, after blowing out the candle on his birthday cake during the “Beers with the bosses” panel.
Tweet of the day
Slides of the day
We’re at a time in the industry when a lot seems to defy prediction—from an upcycle that stubbornly, and luckily, keeps on trucking to specific markets that manage to overcome disruptions that were expected to be debilitating. So if there’s ever been a time to rethink long-held beliefs and assumptions, it’s now, speakers said on Day One of the conference.
That applies to assumptions which guide how revenue managers set pricing for a quarter or for the year, based on what they expect guest demand will be. And it applies to sales strategies utilized to drive group bookings that may have been “tried and true over a decade” or more, said Leticia Proctor, SVP of sales, revenue management and digital strategies at PM Hotel Group, during a panel titled “Group hug! Let’s talk meetings.”
When you take a step back and analyze the latest relevant data, she said, it often becomes clear that those past assumptions do not match the current climate.
—Robert McCune, Managing Editor
When Bill Duncan, global head of all suites brands at Hilton, said he was “cautiously optimistic” for the rest of 2017 and going into 2018, my first reaction was, wow, welcome to the European mindset for the last two years. Hoteliers on my side of the pond have been, perhaps by national inclination, saying that at every conference I have attended over in Europe. But hoteliers, from the atmosphere I have felt at the 2017 Hotel Data Conference, are more than up to the task.
At the session I moderated, “Distribution channels: Surfing for success,” hoteliers underlined the need to think not just outside the box, but way outside of it. Test, tweak, listen, strive for more success. Yes, the market is not enjoying the numbers it did two years ago, but it is still moving in the right direction in the majority of the markets, and with access to increased transparency and data and the increased technical knowledge and savvy in how to use it, there is every reason for continued optimism. How one understands the market and dynamics of distribution and demand will lead to what level of caution one has to employ.
—Terence Baker, Senior Reporter, Europe
There’s a lot of talk of the future of artificial intelligence in the hotel industry; namely, what it can actually do and how that would help hoteliers. In covering two of today’s tech-themed sessions, the consensus seems to be that it’s a viable technology, but only if applied correctly and not thought of as the be-all, end-all and only if hotel companies can then comprehend the information gained and translate it into action.
AI has the potential to really help the hotel industry in distribution and pricing as it can improve the revenue management process. In order for that to work, hoteliers will need to take all of the new information gleaned through AI and actually understand what it means. Having all the guest behavioral info available is great, but it doesn’t mean anything if someone can’t turn it into an action plan.
—Bryan Wroten, Senior Reporter
When it comes to hiring millennials, most of the speakers on a panel titled “Analytical talent and the millennial mindset” agreed that finding the right talent is no different than it would be from other generations. The key, they said, is learning best how to manage them.
On the first day of Hotel Data Conference, I heard Kelly McGuire, SVP of revenue management at MGM Resorts International, say that when it comes to retention, she knows she can’t compete with the likes of Facebook, and that her employees will want to move on to those big-name companies pretty quickly. And that’s OK. Instead, use that sort of trend as an advantage when hiring by selling your company to prospective employees through letting them know that previous workers went on to that level.
It was also nice to hear one panelist note, especially being a millennial myself, that the generation isn’t as needy as some companies might think. They’ve noticed that millennials aren’t afraid to voice ideas, and they strive to engage with the c-suites of the company.
—Dana Miller, Associate Editor