Alex Slors is an independent asset manager who also provides development support for new hotels.
A hotel industry veteran, Slors has experience working in finance and accounting for hotel groups such as Le Meridien and The Dorchester Collection.
Here, he tackles some of the most pertinent issues affecting the revenue management discipline today, including hotel silos, market mix and how to hold price if your comp set dumps?
How can and should hotel departments work together to boost revenue?
Slors: One of the things that could really improve in hotels is that we work in silos and obviously it's important that the whole commercial portfolio is in there: revenue management, marketing, sales and finance. Ultimately, you could sell whatever you sell, but if (a) the money doesn't come in, it's not a sale, and if (b) the cost is too high it's not worth doing it.
We need to sell experiences that transgress across the whole portfolio of what you do in a hotel. And just to give you an example, I mean, someone in a large, international hotel group was talking about an amenity spa the other day, and my back went up because there's 1,500 square meters just full of palm trees and not making any money. Whereas what you could do is bring all of that together, incorporate what you do for well-being into what you do in food and beverage, or have a certain amount of amenities in the room that liaise to that, and create an experience that a) brings in more money, and b) works for all the departments in the hotel. That doesn't happen often enough.
Where, in your opinion, should revenue management sit in the organisational structure?
Slors: The revenue manager should be completely independent. Revenue management is so important and needs to instruct what can be sold, when and at what price. So, it's almost like the general manager has a revenue manager next to him or her initially, and then a finance director next to him or her afterwards.
This brings the interesting scenario, "Where is the roles of sales and marketing?" Because historically revenue management was always reporting to sales and marketing; so, you're going to have a disconnect. In my opinion, a revenue manager has to be completely independent, reporting directly to the general manager, and having a seniority to actually execute that influence directly.
How can revenue managers build a perfect market mix and channel mix?
Slors: It's very difficult to have one hard and fast rule, but you need to know what's going on in the market and you need to be able to make quick and fast decisions. You also need to be able to make mistakes and to correct them, but you shouldn't be afraid to make mistakes because it happens. As you make a decision, you can see if demand is picking up or not. If you've got an inventory of 2,000 bedrooms in a very big city centre hotel, you've got to be quick to react.
Slors: The question is obviously, "What is a competing hotel?" Because you can create yourself a comp set and make yourself look extremely good.
You need to look at a wider competition. You have a comp set. Now you know where you need to be in that comp set, and in some cases that might be you have to be first, but in some cases you could be exceptionally happy if you're third or fourth. And that's a good comp set where you want to be, because that makes you want to fight.
You could have hotels where finding a local comp set is extremely difficult, and you may have a much wider comp set where you want to work, where there's a lot of similarities in hotels because they're in the same alliance, in the same brand or because they have a similar amount of features .
And then over and above that, obviously, everything changes. What is the footfall that you get? What is coming in from the local airport? How is that changing?
The question is, if one starts price dumping what are you going to do? Are you good at sticking it out? Or not? Or is everyone getting jittery? Then you may have an issue. And then the question is, "Are you going for a long-term strategy or are you all going to push the panic button and take it from there?" Who stays brave, and for how long?
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Sarah McCay Tams
Sarah joined Duetto in 2015 as a contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA). In 2017, she was promoted to Director of Content, EMEA. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.