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Getting Ready For The Tipping Point

Located in the middle of Amsterdam’s Oosterpark, Hotel Arena has over 100 years of history, the last 29 being operated first as a hostel and today as a 140-room boutique four-star hotel. All under the same ownership.

The property offers F&B and a host of meeting facilities, including one meeting room in a converted chapel.

Guests get to benefit from the best of both worlds – a verdant natural environment located just steps from the center of one of Europe’s most bustling city centers.

2020, as for all hotels around the world, proved a year of change at Hotel Arena. First, Nicolas Stockman joined the team as Revenue Manager in January 2020. Then, the hotel entered into a marketing affiliation with Design Hotels. And finally, contracted with Duetto – with a go live in February 2021.

Here we catch up with Stockman to find out more about the latest innovations at this historic property.

Tell us about the benefits of being part of Design Hotels

This is very much a marketing affiliation. Design Hotels supports Hotel Arena with marketing and sales services, helping present the hotel to key corporate accounts.

We also get to be part of the designated GDS code for Design Hotels. So, if a client is shopping via a travel agency and wants to stay at a Design Hotel in Amsterdam they will be presented with three options, not 400. That’s the main advantage, but obviously, then you need to price it well.

Before Covid, what was your main guest demographic?

We were targeting the boutique hotel market. We had a lot of guests coming from the US and the UK.

We were a little too dependent on OTAs, hence joining Design Hotels, so you can get that corporate base from there as well.

We were also very much focused on groups and meetings, with the special product that we have for meetings.

How have you navigated the last 15 months? How long did you close? What is your current status?

We closed three times. We reopened on April 1, 2021.

We're doing really well compared to the market, but at the end of the day, we made about 10% of what we should usually make in April.

If we benchmark that we're actually doing quite well, according to the market conditions, so we cannot be too upset. Demand is just not there at the moment.

Now, slowly but surely, there's a plan to start opening things up. Our terrace is now reopened, and by the end of May, we should be allowed to also serve food.

What are your hopes for this?

Once everything that makes the city exciting opens again, then I think we're going to see our first push. The next step is borders opening again. Then the Dutch and the Belgians can come and hopefully the UK market will recover soon as well.

I'm hoping we're going to achieve with summer 2021 the same as last year because summer 2020 was quite good.

During the closure you have been busy changing out your tech stack – Duetto being a major part of that. What can you tell us about that?

The transition took a while, but that was my choice because we were migrating from another RMS that we had to continue paying for.

But we wanted to be ready for when the market reopened. So a few months ago we started to ensure that everybody was in line with the system, everybody knows how it's going to work. It went quicker than expected and we went live with Duetto in February.

That’s great. What have been your first impressions of GameChanger?

It's working really well! I’ve just switched on AutoPilot for everything except for BAR. I still want to control my BAR rate for now, because there's less demand.

As far as flexing discounts go, Duetto handles this.

Until now it's worked brilliantly, so I see no reason why it shouldn't in the future.

And how about ScoreBoard?

Every day I go straight into ScoreBoard. I have created a pick-up report and if I see pick-up at an ADR in the future that I don't like I'll just drill down and have a look at what's going on.

On that, I can base new pricing rules.

It’s so much easier to interact with the system and say ‘Okay I like this, I don't like this...’ and make changes. With legacy revenue management systems it's more difficult to audit the system to start with.

Just about any field that you have in Opera, you can report on, which is fantastic; except for names and email addresses, you can pull everything out.

How are you working with it as a team?

My financial controller is also already very much involved and slowly but surely we're going to roll it out to other colleagues as well. First, I wanted to get a feel for the system myself and really understand what's possible.

And how are you using it to determine pricing rules?

I started at Hotel Arena in January 2020. So I've pretty much seen the hotel running properly for a month and a half!

The first thing I did was look at the increments between room types.

We have classic rooms, which is our entry-level room type, and we have supreme rooms, which is one step up. After that, we have the suites and then we have two signature suites that are completely separate.

When I started, the first increment between a classic room type and the supreme was €60, which was far too high. We dropped it and immediately we saw more bookings coming in because that increment was not as high, so it wasn't scaring people away.

Now I've set it up in Duetto that the supreme room will always be at least €20 more and the suite €75 more than BAR level. Now it is yielding at these minimal increments, but I would imagine when it gets busier and when we have special events, Duetto is smart enough to increase on that so that is going to go up quickly.

I’m confident that when it's really busy we can really push up the rate and the last rooms to sell are going to go at rates that we haven't seen before.

How do you think data is going to help you best react to the market when recovery comes?

I think people have to understand that we're not forecasting occupancy, room revenues, and F&B revenues at this point, we're forecasting confidence.

Hotels are still very focused on last year or two years ago but that means nothing anymore at this point.

Your focus is about when people are going to have enough confidence to travel again. When are governments going to have enough confidence to open borders again? Everybody's ready to go, but everybody's waiting to book because they don't have that confidence at this point that everything's going to fall in place.

We’ve been using the Duetto short-term forecast looking at two weeks of data. Once we re-opened we pushed out to three weeks. As it improves we will extend this to have as much data flowing as possible. And we will go on like that.

The only point that we really need to be aware of is that at some point there is going to be a tipping point, and people are going to book. We have to be aware of that and we have to be ready.

We're going into recovery. We're not there yet, but it's getting better.

Because Duetto looks at future data much more than at history, while the other legacy revenue management systems base everything on history and some pick-up, I think that Duetto is best placed to push a hotel in that recovery.

What would be your advice to hoteliers that are considering investing in hotel tech right now?

If you want to make changes and you want to start with a clean slate the time is now, because everything is gone. You don't have any history that is worth anything at this point; you don't have any grasp yet on what the future is going to be, so if you want to think out a new way of doing business now would be the ideal time.

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Sarah McCay Tams, Director of Marketing Communications.

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, and in 2022 promoted to Director of Marketing Communications. 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.

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