ASH Hotels: Tech Overhaul Brings ADR Gains

November 15, 2022 | Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications.

Not many hotel companies can claim to have doubled in size during the recent pandemic, but  ASH can. The hotel company started in 2014 with one hotel in operation. In 2020, the company had three hotels. Today, it just opened its fifth hotel, Ulysses, in Baltimore.

A small independent owner/operator hotel group based out of New York City, ASH sits at the intersection of design and experience. Born from a design agency that got into staging, that got into hotels, guests can expect the unexpected.

This blog is an extract from our latest eBook: Revenue Strategy For Independent Hotels: How Technology Helps You Compete. Download your free copy today: https://www.duettocloud.com/special-reports/how-technology-helps-you-compete

The first ASH hotel, The Dean Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island, opened in 2014. In September 2022, the company opened its fifth hotel, Ulysses in Baltimore, and has ambitious expansion plans to push forward with the ASH concept.

According to Nick Knight, National Director of Revenue and Distribution, each hotel in this independent collection has a different spirit and offers a different experience.

“What the company does is try to create an experience that matches what's happening locally,” he explained.

While the front-of-house is full of theatrics, echoing the founders’ journey through design and staging, back-of-house technology is all about driving efficiencies. In recent years, the company has adopted a new revenue management system (RMS) with Duetto, and deployed a new booking engine and GDS. The focus of this tech spend is optimizing profitability.

Mapping Out A Tech Stack

Knight was charged with overseeing this project. As he explains, the first thing was to identify what tech was already in place, then map out the long-term goals, before deciding on what tech stack was needed to achieve those goals.

“I recognized early on that revenue management was the biggest opportunity,” he said.

“I have 15 years of experience operating hotels, but I have always done it with a sales mindset. I've just always preferred to excel at the top line and not have to worry as much about the bottom line, but I realized that revenue management was a much greater opportunity for us. Most of our hotels don’t have meeting space and have a room count of around 100. Occupancy has never been an issue; it’s about exceeding our fair share of rate.”

Knight started to look at his tech stack with a revenue mindset and he started questioning what was needed.

“We didn't have revenue management software at all. So, implementing that [was critical]. I started doing the research and Duetto came up as the new leader and that seemed to make sense. We jumped in, and I've no regrets so far,” Knight remarked.

ASH deployed Duetto in 2020. A GDS was next on the list and Knight went with Amadeus, which Duetto integrates with. And this was followed by a new booking engine.

Finding Efficiencies Through Automation

Knight set out on his tech mission with the aim of driving efficiencies first and foremost and maximizing revenue and profit along the way.

Acting as a one-man-band – Knight oversees revenue management for the entire ASH hotels portfolio – turning to revenue automation was one way Knight could drive efficiency forward.

“The automation I really like in Duetto is the pricing strategy and the room type strategies. It’s hard to maximize on high occupancy points down to the minutiae of room type each day, it’s a lot of manual work. Getting that automated is extremely helpful,” he said.

While Knight is embracing automation, he still wants to be in the driving seat of strategy.

“I’m not the type of person that wants to get everything fully automated. But I think there's a certain value to having 80% automation so you can focus on the bigger decision-making,” he explained.

Getting Up And Running

ASH decided to deploy Duetto in 2020 – right in the heart of the pandemic.

“We knew that business would come back. We knew that the world wasn't over, so we decided to take advantage of that slow period and look at how we can come out in a better place,” Knight explained.

“The roll-out was not stressful at all. It's been really smooth. And now, adding it to some of our newer hotels, such as Ulysses for example, has been extremely easy. Once you get Duetto set up to a point where you have the parameters that work for your properties and your company, it is very easy to roll out new properties. It’s pretty much a copy and paste.

“There are some strategies that I have set up that just roll across the board for all the properties, and then there's some that are specific to the individual hotel,” Knight added.

Having An Impact

The hotels saw immediate increases in room rates from this strategy, with a big ADR lift. Setting up room-type pricing strategies has driven the most success for ASH. Knight has automated a lot of the system so that it applies his business logic for the triggers he has set. Now, he has weekly revenue management calls with each of his hotel GMs, where they can dive into Duetto, check on the rate codes from the trigger points, and report back on the successes. The reporting on this has been automated.

“The reporting of it is stellar,” said Knight.

“I have set up five key reports to send to each GM. I have them all set up on the day and time they want to receive them. I don't have to do the work; I'm just copied on it to review. And I have this set up for when I have my calls. All my reports are saved in the dashboard, so I can pull it up, and everything is organized. It really gets rid of the two hours of prep work prior to each call and helps me organize what I want to talk about. It's just always done for you.”

Driving Direct Business

As a small, independent group operating in some highly competitive marketplaces, driving direct business is key to success. In the first two months after implementing Duetto, ASH’s hotels went from 65% of business coming from OTAs to 65% coming from direct bookings.

“The difference in the percentage of flow that we bring as an independent is huge. And a lot of that is due to technology. If we [as independent hotels] are getting the same share of direct business as the brands are, we are automatically going to win. Just think of all the franchise fees that the [big brands] have to pay on each one of those reservations, not to mention the OTA commission.

“And as an independent, we can react quicker to the market. I can create a direct promotion and have it go live in a day.”

For Knight, his new integrated tech stack is the cornerstone of this refined revenue strategy. He believes technology can be a key differentiator for independent hotel groups just like ASH.

“For independent hotels, product and service are always going to be your tier one focus. But technology is now at a point where it's on the same level,” he said.

This blog is an extract from our latest eBook: Revenue Strategy For Independent Hotels: How Technology Helps You Compete. Download your free copy today: https://www.duettocloud.com/special-reports/how-technology-helps-you-compete

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