How visuals make data easy to follow, actionable
 
How visuals make data easy to follow, actionable
13 DECEMBER 2019 9:14 AM

In a recent Hotel News Now webinar, data experts addressed how they take the abundance of data available to the hotel industry and break it down in visually appealing ways that are easy to understand for different teams within their companies.

REPORT FROM THE U.S.—There’s plenty of viable data available in the hotel industry, but breaking down that data in ways that are easy to follow can be a challenge.

In a recent webinar titled, “What data visualization can do for hoteliers,” hosted by Hotel News Now and sponsored by Cendyn, Ali Hoyt, senior director of consulting and analytics for North America at STR, said one way her team visualizes data is by bringing in other data sources. (STR is the parent company of HNN.)

Hoyt gave an example of an analysis of the California wildfires where STR found maps of the fire perimeter from an external source and was able to overlay hotel performance data over the maps.

“We got to see, (the area) the fire has been affecting and then look at county or submarkets that have held performance within those areas,” she said. “It's a great way to be able to visualize those together.”

STR did the same with hurricanes by pulling maps that tracked the path of hurricanes and looked at “relative hotel performance in those areas as the storm (was) moving up the coast or inland” to find the impact on hotel performance, Hoyt said.

Working with teams
When it comes to providing data for different teams, Benjamin Vega, SVP of analytics and optimization at Remington Hotels, said his teams want data that illustrates “a single version of the truth,” and is “easy to use and actionable.”

This can be done by using the right color coding and labeling for data to “keep the individualization simple so that it is obvious what the insight is and then what action needs to be taken,” he said.

Finding the right way to visualize data can depend on what metrics and goals a customer is looking for, said Daniel Capizzi, director of data visualization at Choice Hotels International.

“We’ve done a ton with revenue management on optimizing pricing and inventory controls. Franchise services is really focused on performance or portfolio management, identifying the properties that really need the most help, and (a) really interesting thing … comp set selection, having ways to really isolate nearby properties that would be good to include in a comp set or not,” he said.

Vega added he works closely with different teams to find the “basic needs they’re trying to solve.” After that, the process of creating data visualizations starts by sharing those needs with some leaders in the company, receiving feedback, then tweaking data visualizations.

“At that point, after a couple of those starts, we release that to the wider audience and new data literacy, or training them on how to use them,” he said.

Data visualizations are also tailored to who that data is going to, Vega said. Revenue managers or GMs might be looking for data that’s more detailed while owners and asset managers want more of an overall picture.

“For owners or asset managers, it's more of that holistic picture of how the asset is performing and some of the (key performance indicators) they care about,” he said.

Best practices
At the end of the session, speakers shared their key takeaways for working with teams and creating data visuals.

  • Hoyt: “For me, it's about maintaining focus on the business goal. Don't get distracted by building crazy designs and lots of color. Be very purposeful in what you're doing and stay focused on that original goal.”
  • Vega: “Start with the business (need). Sometimes as analysts, we want to just look at all the data … if you start with a specific business need or use case, you’re more likely to quickly get … the right insight and get to actionable results.”
  • Capizzi: “So many folks just want to be 100 numbers on a page, and that’s really not useful in a non-Excel-based world. If you really think about the outliers you’re looking for and then a key metric and narrow it down, that will get you much more effective reports and visualization to get you to your answers more quickly.”
  • Casey Munck, director of marketing, Americas, Cendyn: “Be persistent and know that it’s worth it. (Practice) and crawl before you walk so you can see the end picture and then build it block by block.”

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