It’s Not About The Data- Harnessing Big Data to Improve Results

For the past several years, “Big Data” has been heralded as the savior of the hospitality industry. At every industry conference, there are a myriad of sessions explaining how big data will help hotels to fight back against Airbnb, reclaim distribution from the OTA’s, and provide more tailored experiences to our best customers. Through our collection of big data, the thinking goes, we’ll be able to harness its value to leapfrog incremental gains in our pursuit of exponential growth.

And yet for all the hype, it appears we haven’t yet fully realized the potential value of our data.

Consider this…over the past three years the mean RevPAR percentage increase for the US hospitality industry has been 4.2%.  Pretty good, right?  Take a closer look.  During that same period US GDP growth outpaced RevPAR gains twice.  The results appear even more dismal when we compare the hotel industry against other travel providers.


Revenue Growth


If big data is the hospitality industry’s savior, why haven’t we yet been saved? We’ve focused on data collection, hired database developers, invested in big data infrastructure, and reorganized teams to ensure we’re collecting all the data we might ever need.

And to the industry’s credit- we’ve been pretty effective in capturing an ever increasing amount of data regarding our hotels, business patterns, and customers. The chart below is open to some debate– yes the OTAs can tell I like to stay in unique properties with an ocean view; no they can’t tell that I’d rather eat on property my first night rather than going off-site. However, it’s evident that hotels have enough data to inspire envy from the likes of Airbnb and Expedia.


Data Availability


While we’ve focused on the proliferation of data, we’ve failed to ask what we should do with all of this information. As a result, much of our data remains hidden from view- haphazardly shoved into the closet until we someday figure out what to do with it.

At times, the opposite approach is taken. We surface as much of our data as possible– building out a massive reporting suite that, while broad, offers little depth. As a result, we spend much of our time looking at an overwhelming amount of data without coming to any conclusions as to how we can accomplish our strategic objectives.

Both scenarios are reflective of an environment in which more data is considered the goal itself rather than the means to an end. The thing we’ve failed to realize is that “Big Data” is not about the data. It never has been. Rather, the power of big data lies in the ability to answer questions that have previously been too complex or too cumbersome to solve.

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At Focal, while we’re excited that the era of big data is here, we believe that what we really need is focused data…actionable data…data that tells a story. And most importantly, data that answers the questions we have for so long wanted to ask.

As a result, we’re focused on automating the answers to a number of challenging questions, including those listed below:

1. Should I offer a Last Room Available rate to XYZ corporate account?

Often during RFP season we analyze each account’s production from the prior year in addition to any projected increases for the upcoming year in order to determine which accounts should receive the best rates and terms. Generally, the formula looks something like this:

  • High Volume = Lower Rates, More Flexible Terms
  • Low Volume = Higher Rates, Less Flexible Terms

We often finalize negotiations and move into the subsequent year only to realize that our highest volume, lowest rated accounts are only staying with us on nights where we would have sold out anyway. And the 200 room account that we decided not to renew? We’re now missing their contribution on off-peak periods.

We’ve helped to enhance the decision making process through our Account Scorecard report, which combines production details with stay pattern data to ensure a more detailed analysis of each account.

Account Scorecard

2. Which properties in my region are at greatest risk of missing their forecast?

It’s often challenging to quickly gauge the health of your portfolio or region without reviewing each hotel individually. As a result, it can be nearly impossible to deploy resources in time to help property teams succeed.

We’ve provided a consolidated dashboard view to help you identify the properties that need the most help before drilling down deeper into the underlying data. As a result, you can start with your highest priority concerns first in order to ensure they get access to the resources they need.

Portfolio Dashboards

3. How did my ABC sale impact booking pace and business mix for a given period?

While it’s easy enough to track production for a given rate code or campaign, it’s often much more challenging to determine how a promotion impacts the overall business mix for that period in time.

For example, most hotels would be thrilled to see that their Buy Two, Get One Free Sale has generated $100K in revenue.  However, if we ran this as an unfenced promotion did we simply cannibalize the business that would have stayed with us at a higher rate?

We’ve made it easier to analyze the true impact of your marketing campaigns and other strategic initiatives via our Campaign Impact report, which combines booking and production data to distill cause and effect.

Account Scorecard


At Focal we take great pride in helping the hotels and hospitality management companies we work with discover the answers to their questions.  By providing actionable reports that can be updated at the click of a button, we allow our partners to focus on asking better questions.  As a result, they are able to take strategic action and improve operating results.

Contact Us today to learn a bit more about how Focal’s analytics platform can help you to transition from analyzing the “what” to understanding the “why” and impacting the “how, when, and where.”




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