Here at Duetto, our customers are the reason we do what we do and why we work so hard. And when a customer stays with us for a long time, they become like family. That’s never been more so than with our long-standing customer, Heathman Lodge. This hotel has run its revenue strategy on Duetto for more than eight years, and the relationship simply gets stronger and more prosperous with every year that goes by.
Channeling the timeless history and natural splendor of the US Northwest, Heathman Lodge is situated in Vancouver, Washington - on the north bank of the Columbia River, and across from the city of Portland, Oregon. Built nearly a quarter of a century ago, Heathman Lodge has always catered to a mix of transient and business travelers. Today, the property comprises 20 suites, 182 guestrooms, and more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
We caught up with Justin Bleth, Director of Operations at Heathman Lodge, to chat about his involvement with revenue management and how working with Duetto has helped the hotel get the market edge with its revenue strategy over the last eight years, especially during the pandemic.
Like countless other revenue professionals, Justin started as a front desk agent at Heathman Lodge nearly a decade ago. He worked his way up over the years into the role of Front Office Supervisor, then Manager, and now, Director of Operations.
With all this experience, Justin has had plenty of time to internalize and master the revenue management strategies that Duetto enables.
Justin said: “When I started out learning about Duetto, I was also learning about revenue management in general. I was given the role of front office manager to manage the operations of the front desk. But in doing that, my team here asked me to look at and start to learn some of the revenue management process.
“So I started to take steps in learning how to execute revenue strategy efficiently and effectively. When I first started, there was a tutorial presentation that guided me through all the functionality - what does what and why. It was thorough and a good way to build additional management knowledge,” Justin explained. Since Justin’s onboarding, Duetto has continued to evolve the onboarding process, adding a learning management system in 2021.
It’s critical to hear from customers that they’ve found Duetto helpful in their roles - particularly insofar as their properties generate profit (and ROI) from using the system.
“As I've learned more and more about revenue strategy, Duetto has provided more and more clarity,” he said.
Deploying New Strategies
Heathman Lodge’s segmentation has shifted greatly since the outset of the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, the hotel’s primary market was business travel with some leisure travel on the weekends and in the peak summer season. However, since the pandemic, like so many other hotels the return of business guests hasn’t materialized yet and leisure travelers remain the dominant market. Heathman Lodge has, with Duetto’s help, managed to adapt well, quickly recalibrating strategies as demand opens and closes.
Justin continued: “For a while, we just had to get people through the doors. But now we're starting to see our booking window expand. For a while, we had a three-day maximum booking window and now we're starting to see some of that more preemptive booking where we can look ahead and see reservations on the books.
“Finding the balance between pricing and occupancy has been vital for us. We take our prices down and push occupancy, but that impacts RevPAR, even though we're fuller. We're also seeing some of our competitors start to have a little bit more pricing integrity and so we're able to keep steady with that.”
Pricing In a Pandemic
In terms of shifting revenue strategies during the pandemic, Justin explained: “We never completely closed. We always had beds available, but of course, our occupancy dipped. For us, it was about managing labor. For example, when the hotel is running at its peak, we probably have 175 employees operating. During the pandemic, we went down to a dozen employees at any one time, and all of us were working whatever shifts and departments needed to be covered to make sure the hotel could operate.
“For a good portion of 2020 and early 2021, it was just about trying to get heads in beds. And for us, that meant lowering the price to a level that we wouldn't normally consider. But there were enough people out there willing to travel and so we chased after them. Whether it was truckers who needed a bed for the night and a hot shower or whoever, we did whatever we could to get people through the door. Key for us was also focusing on being a thoughtful business for the communities we are part of - providing both longtime and new guests with peace of mind during difficult times.
Today, Duetto provides a ‘Business Mix & Canceled Business Mix’ feature that helps properties systemically track this type of activity, as well as variance notifications to help users easily spot anomalies (e.g., sudden demand spikes/deflators) and take appropriate action, if needed, to manage by exception.
“Duetto helped us during this time. It helped us get a ‘heads up’ early on about how much future business we were losing. As people started to cancel their plans and reservations, it helped us put together a true picture of what that was looking like earlier than most other hotels, and we were then able to react quickly and adapt our strategies.”
Another key feature in building demand-based revenue strategies is Duetto’s ‘Custom Date Range Comparison’ feature, where instead of comparing Same Time Last Year (when many hotels were closed or at partial occupancy), you can compare current to recent trends within narrower timeframes (e.g., 30 days). This provides a much more dynamic and predictive snapshot of demand.
“Now we're heading in the opposite direction, and again, Duetto is still really helping us see the bigger picture and see where we are accumulating business, whether it be leisure, travel, or group travel, and allowing us to get back to driving pricing where it makes sense again. We have early glimpses at things which enable us to capitalize on areas such as weekend travel in particular, which is where we've seen our largest booking window in the last year and where most of our revenue is coming from right now,” Justin explained.
Learn more about how other hotels like yours are using Duetto to get ahead. See our latest case studies here.