Lourdes Ancona Valdez is Corporate Director of Revenue Management for RCD Hotels, based in Mexico. A hotel industry veteran, she has been working at RCD for 24 years, and currently oversees revenue operations for five Hard Rock hotels, three Nobu Hotels, one UNICO 20˚87˚ (which is the RCD Hotels' own brand), and three Residence Inns.
Lourdes Ancona Valdez is our Revenue Rockstar for September. A true female trailblazer in the discipline of hotel revenue management, she is not only very tech-savvy and keen to innovate but also enjoys the people side of working in hospitality. And of course, the wonderful experiences that come from working in beautiful hotels across Central and Latin America.
Here, we learn a little more about her career to date, her early tech innovations, and algorithms, and why – if she hadn’t chosen hotels – she may have explored a career in software.
What first attracted you to the hotel industry?
I was initially attracted to Cancún. Because of its turquoise, crystal clear waters. I enjoy the sea. What attracted me to the hotel industry is the service and that our visitors can experience the beauty of our destinations and make their holidays more fulfilling.
Tell us, what has been your professional trajectory so far? From when you started, 24 years ago, to the position you have today in RCD, what steps have you taken?
When I left university, I started to work as an analyst programmer here at RCD Hotels. I automated the reservations department, facilitating different processes, and connecting some tour operators with my own algorithms, at a time before Channel Managers even existed. I was then offered the position of Corporate Director of Reservations.
Fortunately, I had the advice of the company's CEO, who is a genius and a visionary. He taught me everything related to hospitality revenue and distribution: tour operators, sales, analysis, and decision-making. And I helped to further automate the department. I made more accurate forecasts and created processes. We connected with more partners automatically.
After that, I recommended a company-wide technology re-engineering and was appointed the Corporate Project Manager for this. We exchanged our homemade systems, which I knew very well, for the leading systems in the hotel industry.
Upon completion of this important implementation, I started as Corporate Director of Revenue Management.
How did you come to choose Duetto?
One of my first tasks as Corporate Director of Revenue Management was to find a very good revenue system that would suit our hotels, both on all-inclusive and European plans. We visited, met, and analyzed different RMS and in the end, we went for Duetto.
We did research on hotels that were already using Duetto. And, for me, one of the most important parts, in addition to everything else, is that it has an accurate forecast. That is something we didn't find in the system we had or in other systems we were investigating.
In addition to all the advantages, such as Open-pricing, and connectivity with other channel managers, the fact that we can change the rates for a single day is amazing.
Today, we are one of the fastest growing, best performing, and most innovative companies in the industry in Mexico and, I would venture to say, in the world. And we manage to have the best fares, the best occupancies, and, consequently, the best RevPAR of our destinations.
What would you say has been your biggest challenge during your career?
One of them was the technological changes we made with all the systems, as it was a lot of work. It was a 180º change in the way the company worked. The most comforting thing has been to change the dynamism of rates in all our segments. It was all about convincing, training, and demonstrating the benefits to managers and partners.
What has been your biggest success?
I am a mother of two great young men and a wife for 22 years. And my great success is balancing my personal and professional life.
I managed to finish my Master's Degree in Revenue Management at Cornell University, even with all the work, the family, the children, the house…
Helping me with that balance is having the right systems and automating most of the processes. It is also about having the best staff. I have the extraordinary support of an excellent team, very professional and committed.
And my greatest success as Director of Corporate Revenue Management is to position the hotels continuously at number one in RevPAR in our different destinations.
Did you see yourself as a trailblazer? 24 years ago, we didn't see so many women in certain positions.
I was going to meeting rooms, and I was the only woman. It was complicated, in the beginning, to be heard and to present your ideas. You are the opposite sex; but you are also a thinking, professional human being who has intelligent ideas.
Now, I go into the boardroom and it's balanced. It's a wonderful thing for me.
Have you seen any famous people during your work?
The most famous were Robert De Niro and Bon Jovi. At Hard Rock and Nobu, we have the pleasure of being able to meet famous people. These two are the most famous I've ever met.
However, the most memorable for me is Armando Manzanero. I am a romantic and his songs are part of my life; he represents Mexico. He wrote Luis Miguel's songs; the romantic boleros from Mexico. And he sang with Pavarotti and Andrea Bocelli.
I was very moved when he came to our hotel. I was in my office, and I started jumping up and down and shouting.
If you had not worked in hotels, what other industry or job do you think you would have had?
I think I would have a software company focused on automation.
Also, if I had more free time, I would do more altruistic work. When I was young, I was a missionary for a year after finishing high school. And it's something I want to do again someday. Helping and serving people, for me, are things that fill me with joy.
What advice would you give to anyone considering working in hospitality or revenue management today?
It is a career that demands a lot of time, dedication, commitment, and training. And where you learn the most is through experience. However, having a university background helps you in your professionalism.
In hospitality, it is wonderful to be able to serve, help and contribute to making the world a happier place because guests are happier when they travel.
In fact, for each one of us, holidays are one of the most eagerly awaited moments of the year. And what better way to help make it unforgettable?
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