Hoteliers and Duettos came together to discuss the power of automation at this year’s DuettoX user conference. The session looked at how automation works and how it is helping hotel operators work smarter and have more bandwidth for strategy and big decisions.
The Power of Automation session was hosted by Lahini Arunachalam, Duetto’s VP of Product Management, and Duncan Hall, Duetto’s Director of Deployment.
Arunachalam started by explaining the importance of automation to the revenue manager role.
“We understand that revenue management is not a nine-to-five job,” she said. “There are lots of things that happen when you're not at your desk. And so we need to make sure that the system reacts to whatever's happening in the market and that you can still be successful in capturing all of those revenue opportunities, even if they happen when you're sleeping.”
According to Arunachalam, trust is a key tenet in automation.
“We need to make sure that you trust the system, that you are empowered to understand what the system is doing and why it's doing what it is,” she explained. “Because without that you're not going to set it and forget it, right? So what we want to get you to is a point where you can feel comfortable enough and trust the system enough in order to set it on autopilot, let it do its thing, and trust it so that you can be notified of any of the exceptions, so that you can revenue manage by exception.”
Hall took the managing by exception argument further, explaining that hoteliers need to be focussing on the $500 decisions, not the $5 ones.
“We're managing the small things, managing the systematic changes that are happening on days as they pass,” he said, adding that the on-the-ground experience of the revenue manager comes in to play when things change. “You understand the market more than a machine can. You understand those things that are out of character and really out of the blue. Here, you can add your own flair, your own strategy to help augment what we can't see.”
Hall and Arunachalam cited other examples of automation at work, including self-driving cars, and Nest thermostats through to hospitality solutions such as Maidbot and mobile check-in.
“Mobile keys and mobile check-in allows those business customers who all they care about is getting to the room to get there faster. And it allows the hotel to then focus on the customers who really need that personal touch of talking to the front desk, of asking for that upgrade, asking for what's the best restaurant I need to go to around the corner.
Putting Automation To Use
The session included input from two key Duetto customers using autopilot: Txetxu Gurruchaga, Global Revenue Development Leader, Melia Hotels International and Cori Oles, Vice President of Revenue Management for IMH Financial Corporation, which owns and manages the MacArthur Place Hotel in Sonoma, California.
Melia currently has 80 properties running with Duetto. According to Gurruchaga, Duetto helps keep the company on track with pricing strategies. “As a company with presence in different countries, we need to have a good picture to understand what the opportunities are,” he explained.
“Our idea is to keep moving to autopilot different hotels for pricing,” he said. “And in terms of data compilation, what's changed the most is that our corporate office, our CEO, or COO, and so on, are starting to get this data. And we don't have to work for it. Duetto does it for us. That's a great thing. It's a huge thing.”
Cori Oles is responsible for revenue for one boutique hotel.
“We're dealing with 64 rooms,” said Oles. “So obviously that's a very, very small staff. But we're dealing with very high ADR end revenue stakes. Every move we make is critical. And because the team is so small my normal day is not the normal day of a revenue person who sits behind the computer and just crunches numbers all day.”
The only way for Oles to manage the many hats she wears is to automate much of the revenue process.
“Duetto is the key element that helps me organize that revenue work flow using automation in the pricing rules, and the room type differentials, report scheduling,” she explained. “I take advantage of all of that so that I can just focus on the standout items and the things that need adjusting.”
IMH Financial Corporation is looking to invest in at least five more hotel properties over the next five years, which will expand Oles’ role.
“The focus at this time is really to build a platform and a strategy that can work long-term,” she said. “So with everything I do, with pricing rules, and market segments, and channels, I'm looking to build something that can easily expand and grow, and is easily manageable at a different level.”