It’s a pity that none of our group members were able to attend the morning session of the roundtable but we were extremely delighted to join the second sharing session on RM and marketing and lunch session as a group. Through the sessions, we learn more about the current trend in revenue management as well as hospitality industry as a whole.
This lunch session provided both the roundtable professionals and students a rare opportunity to know each other better and exchange experience over a delectable meal. The professionals shared both industry insights as well as personal life experiences. Our group not only gained in-depth understanding on revenue management but also learnt some of the must-have characteristics in being a leader or senior in hospitality industry. Lunch was indeed the best way to break the ice and gave all the students a memorable experience.
Mr.Clive shared about his work experience in both hotel side and online travel agency side. He used to work in IHG and came to Expedia afterwards. We were all amazed by his rich experience working in different countries and the talent to speak 5 languages. We also discussed on various topics other than revenue management, from food in Japan and Malaysia to policy of prohibiting chewing gums in Singapore. We noticed that being an expert in communication is having the ability to consolidate thinking and ideas. For example, Clive mentioned that prohibiting chewing gums actually has the effect of marketing. He also encouraged us to experience more when we are young as well as recommended us to be a revenue manager
Throughout the course, students were exposed to various Excel and data processing techniques in class but we were curious to find out if there were additional skills required in addition to what was taught in class for the real working life (say for example: coding). Mr.Clive told us he had a business and marketing background and it is not required of him to know exactly why the algorithm works. However, as a revenue manager he has to know how to use the algorithm and software, interpret the data and present them effectively to both management. This is in line with what Prof.Sheryl always remind us:” Use grandma language to explain.”
Over at the other table, Mr Patrick Andres and Mr Timothy Tan were extremely friendly and outgoing professionals whom students found them easy to communicate with. We started off by going around the table with self introduction to share our desired job upon graduation as well as our personal interests. Mr Andres also shared their personal working and life experience with students.
Conversations at the table felt like a casual talk between friends where we shared about various issues such as the differences in how Asian parents are different from that of Western. Mr Andres shared with us that Western parents prefers to give their children more freedom and independence in their life choices. On the other hand, students felt that Asian students are more subjected to constraints and limited in choices as there is a strong responsibility in accounting to parents. When choosing a course of study or career, we tend to place a stronger emphasis on future stability and income rather than own preferred interests. Some students shared their own personal stories as to why they did not pursue their hobby as a career. One mentioned that her hobby was painting but she did not want to pursue it as a career because she wanted to keep it as an effective outlet/avenue of stress relief and pursuing it as a job (commissioned paintings) may take away the true meaning of it.
Mr Andres and Mr Tan also encouraged students to take up entrepreneurial opportunities a while we are young and able to. As they had personal experience in this, they mentioned that the experiencing the joy and hardship of building a business by oneself is indeed an extremely enriching and worthwhile journey.
Current RM Industry
We also had a hot discussion on RM industry. Our very preliminary understanding on current trends was back by fruitful industry experience shared by experts which enlightened out eyesights. For example, Mr. Puneet Mahindroo, Corporate Director, Revenue Management at Four Seasons Hotel APEC, shared with us that for his current position, there is quite a lot traveling, which is very cool! He traveled more than 250 days last year, and he has been to more than 70 countries so far. Moreover, he could enjoy a discounted price, like 50 bucks per night, for a very nice hotel room. And just to add, he mentioned that the remuneration in hotel industry is quite competitive.
Relationships between OTA and hotels: Since Mr.Clive has the experience in both side, we raised the question on how close is the relationship between these two parties. From his explanation we come to know how complex it is. On one hand, they are business partners, hotels need OTA to generate more reservations and OTAs need hotel giving them enough discount and quota. On the other hand, they compete with each other in reservation source. Consumers have the tendency of searching on OTAs but booking on hotel’s official website. OTAs’ focus is on increasing retention rate while large hotel groups are trying to increase conversion rate. Some hotel introduced their “lowest price” meaning they will match the lowest price consumer found from other places. OTAs are also trying to introduce their own loyalty program to keep consumer click “book” button on their websites.
Debate on privacy: We also had a debate on trade offs between privacy and user experience. Nowadays search engine and online travel agencies will gather your information and output your interest topics to your timeline. Some of us may feel life become more convenient as a lot of searching process has been reduced. However, the opposite party will feel that it is too creepy that these huge companies controls all of your data and afraid of them using personal data for other use. From revenue management perspective, we come to consent that it is an improvement to use consumer data in generating better consumer experience. The new era is world of data, based on big data and algorithms we are able to better capture consumer preference and provide them better quality of service. We also agreed on these websites and hotel group should try their utmost in preventing information leak.
Last but not least, how can we ignore the delicious meal we had during the lunch? Before the second session started, we had a short snack break of sweet and savory desserts as well as the porridge which was popular among the students. The minced pork with preserved egg gave us enough energy to attend and engage in the informative session with the industry experts. During the actual lunch session, we were all impressed by the wide selection and variety of asian cuisine. A few of the students’ favorites were the chicken wings and wanton noodle, which was not only delectable but also provided us a good opportunity to start a conversation.
The Revenue Management (RM) Roundtable was held on 21 March 2016 for students taking the Revenue Management module at the NUS Business School to gain a better understanding of the relevance and importance of revenue management, especially in the hotel industry. We were extremely privileged to have 16 distinguished guests from various establishments such as the Intercontinental Hotel Groups, Hilton, Expedia and Google. The session was initially set to discuss three main topics – RM’s transition into asset profit optimization, RM’s integration with marketing and leadership and selection within RM. However, the session eventually covered more than planned as the the students and guests engaged in interesting discussions beyond the intended scope. Other topics that were explored includes the relationships between OTAs and hotel groups, booking website experience for the consumer and data analytics.
Figure 1: Guests engaging in an intensive roundtable discussion.
In addition to the discussion, we were also given the opportunity to speak to the professionals personally over lunch. It was a thoroughly enriching experience for us as these professionals come from different companies had opposing views and approaches to revenue management. Despite their differences, there were many common learning points they possess which has brought their firm to successes. We were all eager to gain valuable insights and knowledge that are obtainable only through having managerial experience in the industry. This blog post will summarize some of the learning points we have gathered during the conversations over lunch.
Managing the tension between the sales & the revenue management departments
Due to the differences in goals between the sales and the revenue management departments, it was often shared in class about the resulting tension between these two departments. When asked if his organization faced such a phenomenon, Mr. Maunik Thacker, Senior Vice President of the Marketing Department at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) shared that Human Resource (HR) had a pivotal role to play here, to ensure that both of these departments’ performance are assessed according to the same common goal. Thus, this facilitated alignment between these two departments, preventing tension and conflict from occurring. Furthermore, at the senior management level, these two departments are under the purview of the same overarching arm of commercial business to ensure alignment.
Strategic Relationship Management with OTAs
The tension between hoteliers and Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) was also frequently highlighted in class. Here, students were curious to know why a hotel like MBS which typically experiences full occupancy and 98% occupancy on a bad day still chose to engage OTAs. Regarding this, Mr. Maunik Thacker, Senior Vice President of the Marketing Department at Marina Bay Sands (MBS), stressed the importance of building a strategic relationship with OTAs even in the case of MBS. Specifically, he also shared about how OTAs could help to expand MBS’s potential target market, especially in countries where MBS currently places less emphasis on marketing and outreach efforts.
Figure 2: Students engaged in discussion with Mr. Maunik Thacker, Senior Vice President of the Marketing Department at Marina Bay Sands (MBS) & Mr. Chhavi Malhotra, Regional Director of Revenue Management, Asia and India at Hilton Worldwide
Talent acquisition for Revenue Management in the hospitality industry
Naturally the students were also interested to know whether background in hospitality was needed to enter this industry and asked the experts over lunch. Mr. Puneet Mahindroo, Corporate Director of Revenue Management at Asia Pacific Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, shared that the industry is looking for talent beyond the hospitality industry and that not having any background in this industry will not be a liability. Additionally he also shared with us that many of the top management at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts come from a diverse background such as insurance and entertainment industries. Similarly, Mr Tarandeep Singh, Senior Director of Revenue Performance and Analytics Organization, AMEA, at InterContinental Hotels Group, also shared that there are many ways to get started with revenue management, such as being part of the sales and marketing team or the reservations department. Mr. Robin Brouwer, Regional Director of Revenue Management at Asia Pacific Fairmont Raffles Hotels International, also noted that attitude is something that the industry is looking out for. Specifically, it is an attitude that is willing to learn and not afraid to challenge existing status quo. Another interesting question raised by some students is whether technology will completely take over the revenue management work one day. Mr Tarandeep Singh and Ms Joey Kang both agreed that systems will never replace humans because we need the humans to manage the system and that data is binary – it can only give you a yes or no answer – but most of the time decisions are made based on human factors too.
Figure 3: Students seeking advice about the hospitality industry from Mr. Puneet Mahindroo, Corporate Director of Revenue Management at Asia Pacific Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts & Mr. Robin Brouwer, Regional Director of Revenue Management at Asia Pacific Fairmont Raffles Hotels International