Digging into Hotel Data in Music City

Thursday, September 15, 2016

I recently had the pleasure of speaking at the Hotel Data Conference in Nashville, TN on September 6. The event featured the latest trends and technologies in the hotel industry, especially related to revenue management.

What I Shared

My presentation, “What do DMOs do with hotel data?,” illustrated how destinations analyze and apply hotel data available in the Smith Travel Research (STR) dataset. I found myself preaching to the choir because about 95 percent of the session’s attendees were DMO professionals, although I hope I still offered some new inspiration to these seasoned pros.

I interviewed four of MMGY’s destination clients, including:

These interviews revealed insightful overlaps in how DMOs use hotel data for analysis and strategy, and more specifically how they view this data in context with other economic and marketing data sources. These insights led me to create the following recommendations for DMOs using hotel data:

  • Know the STR data. Train as necessary.
  • Segment inside (such as regions or districts) AND outside the destination (competitors).
  • Trend and visualize. Build (or buy) a cumulative STR data set.
  • Mind the gaps in your STR data. Supplement with other data as necessary.
  • Meet regularly with hotel partners to compare trends.

If you’re interested in learning more about how DMOs use hotel data, you can download a copy of my presentation here.

What I Learned

In addition to presenting, I attended as many sessions as possible to soak up as much knowledge from industry experts. I noticed the following overarching themes throughout the conference.

Macro Trends are Positive, as Long as…

Right now, things look pretty good from a macroeconomic and an overall hotel industry health perspective. Occupancy, real rates and RevPAR are at record levels. The stock market and consumer confidence index are also strong compared to previous recession numbers, which are positive indicators for the hotel industry.

Average daily rate (ADR) growth is weak compared to previous economic recovery periods, however, even though revenue per available room (RevPAR) is healthy. There may be room for hotels to push rates in the coming year in response to high occupancy rates. Forecasts show that most of the continued growth for hotels will come from leisure as worker wages are predicted to rise, with lodging gaining a greater share of overall GDP. These forecasts depend on the continuation of the status quo, however at risk to uncontrollable factors such as terroristattacks, Zika virus, oil prices and the presidential election.

OMG! Airbnb. What does it all mean?

Airbnb was mentioned in at least three out of four sessions I attended, either in the presentation or in questions by attendees. Airbnb was also featured prominently in a couple keynote sessions. Most of the info revolved around the impact Airbnb is or isn’t having on the hotel industry and the size of that impact. Airbnb even shared a two-year data set with the STR team to analyze for the conference. Depending on whom you ask, Airbnb is either having little to no impact, may be capturing new demand, and helps out destinations on compression nights. Or, it’s starting to have an impact on hotels in some markets, but the overall health of hotels is still strong. Short answer, though? The jury’s still out.

The Tech Side of Revenue Management

Since I am not a revenue manager by trade, I didn’t realize just how many related technology solutions exist (for both hotels and destinations). I saw at least 12 different solutions represented from this space in vendor booths and on sponsor placements. I saw lots of iPads and TVs showing slick dashboards and user interfaces. The real key differentiator among these different systems however was data, particularly third-party data integration. OTA data; vacation rental data; weather data; competitor rate data and event data. Also, the ability to produce accurate forecasts and rate recommendations based on these data is critical for these solutions.

What excites me most about these technologies are the integration and analysis opportunities when combining with market research, marketing campaign and website data sources. While MMGY has integrated booking and revenue data for clients in dashboard solutions before for reporting purposes, direct integrations with revenue management systems could tap into a potential treasure trove of trends and segment data that could help drive programmatic advertising, audience segmentation, campaign performance analysis and more. Especially when connected to business intelligence or audience management platforms.

Wrapping Up

I thoroughly enjoyed my first time at the Hotel Data Conference, meeting new people in the industry and getting to explore Nashville. I also bumped into a couple of folks from our team at D.K. Shifflet and got a chance to learn more about my new colleague Cheryl Schultz, VP of Destination Intelligence & Client Services.

By the way, if you want some good Nashville hot chicken, check out Hattie B’s. There are plenty of other local, well-known hot chicken places in Nashville as well. Just don’t get your hot chicken from KFC. It’s probably not approved by the Fraternal Order of Hot Chicken. No joke...that’s a real thing.

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