For the most part, you can divide those who work in the hotel industry into two categories: hotel operations and hotel ownership. If you’re working in hospitality, you’re likely either helping take care of guests or helping take care of an asset and maximize profitability.
Revenue management is a discipline that sits so firmly between the two and shifts between operating on the front lines to reporting back to ownership, often on a daily basis. Revenue managers play a critical role in helping guide decisions among departments, throughout organizations, and across multiple stakeholders.
The changes a revenue manager can make immediately in areas such as pricing, business mix, distribution strategy, and improving marketing efficiency can have a profound impact. What’s more, today’s revenue leaders are pushing beyond surface-level adjustments; good revenue teams that think holistically about the business can drive profitability. These teams are shifting from measuring performance on metrics such as ADR, occupancy, and RevPAR to measuring performance on metrics such as gross operating profit per available room (GOPPAR) and net operating income (NOI).
These are numbers that directly affect a hotel’s success. NOI is what pays the debt service on an asset, so the decisions revenue leaders are making on a daily basis affect many people up and down the organizational chart. When these metrics rise, ownership, management, the property staff, and, ultimately, the guests are happy.
Success in revenue roles is not all about measuring the hotel’s performance, either. A strong revenue leader becomes the quarterback of the hotel and will help up the game of everyone else, particularly on the revenue-facing or customer-facing sides of the business. Good revenue leaders are setting targets so everyone is aligned on the objectives. This leads to everyone making smarter decisions.
Revenue Managers Today
Most careers in the hospitality business start on the front lines in operations. This is often true with revenue roles as well, and it usually takes someone to realize they’ve got an analytical mind or enjoy using Excel and learning about the property management system to become interested in joining the revenue team.
Sheryl Kimes, renowned Cornell University hospitality professor, says the best revenue leaders are “geeks who can speak.” In other words, they must be extremely knowledgeable about the data and the business, and then to be able to communicate those things effectively. It’s a rare combination of skills.
Once revenue managers get more into the job, successful employees begin to realize their own deficiencies and hospitality employers should allow for continuing education through academic institutions or training organizations. Unfortunately, while revenue managers at this level are rounding out their skill set, compensation is often below where it should be industry-wide. The value that a strong revenue strategist can add dwarfs the investments companies are making in it from the human capital perspective, limiting the talent pool.
Successful hotel revenue leaders will develop a deep understanding of the business and how their hotel prices, markets, distributes, and sells the product. They must be good with data and have the analytical skills to judge the quality of data as well as make predictions and draw insights. Then they must be able to influence their colleagues and get them to buy into the strategy, otherwise it will not be as effective.
In many cases, the traditional hotelier’s mindset would be to spend on a renovation, which can actually depress revenue for months as the hotel is under construction. However, by building a revenue team, hotel owners and operators can spend a small amount of money—relative to the scale of the business—and radically affect the performance of their asset.
Women in Leadership
During a recent asset value and profitability session at the HSMAI Revenue Optimization Conference, panelists suggested that the importance of revenue leaders to today’s hotels has paved the way for women specifically to move up the hospitality career ladder.
“Women often don’t have access to direct P&L experience,” said Diane Fox, senior vice president at CHMWarnick, which manages more than $15 billion in hotel real estate.
Women make up a large percentage of revenue managers throughout the industry and the panelists suggested that, because revenue managers have ascended into leadership and even executive roles at many hotel companies, this profession has helped women break the glass ceiling.
In the end, both male and female revenue leaders are crucial to the success of the hotel industry, and even with the increase in attention and stature the role is rightly garnering, it’s still largely an underrated field.