Meet the experts

Seema Pande, commercial director, Kempinski Hotels S.A. Middle East & Africa

Philip Wooller, area director – Middle East, STR

Ashish Sharma, director of revenue & distribution – Middle East, Premier Inn MENA

Marieke Siefers, senior director, global revenue management, Jumeirah Group

Thomas Kurian, director of sales & marketing, Flora Hospitality

Marina Rizzi, director of engagement, The Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management

Elinor Drennan, director of market strategy, Marriott International

Stefanie Trombetta, cluster director of revenue, Radisson Blu

Robert Jeans, regional director Middle East & Africa, Duetto

The Expo 2020 is set to take place on October 20, 2020 until April 10, 2021 — with 25 million visitors expected across the six-month period. Hotel supply in the country is continuing to increase, and the tourism officials are working hard to ensure that demand continues to grow beyond the expected numbers for the Expo.

One of the important things to remember while working on revenue management in light of the increase in hotel inventory is to diversify source markets, get the pricing correct, and play the long game. Also equally important is the skill-set of the revenue manager in question, but finding skilled candidates is harder than one might think.

Hotelier Middle East, in partnership with Duetto, hosted a roundtable with the experts from the industry and found out more about the importance of revenue management and aligning all departments to drive demand and increase profitable revenue.

DRIVING DEMAND DURING EXPO 2020

STR area director – Middle East Philip Wooller said that the Expo 2020 is set to be a “fabulous event” but added: “It’s important for hotels to be realistic about how business will develop through that period. We rarely see any event making a massive difference to any market, any city at any time.” He explained that while there is always a peak in numbers, a lot more needs to be considered even during the Expo months. He added: “Room rates will push a little but extreme caution should be the name of the game particularly with a lot of new supply coming in. The city needs to be affordable to bring 25 million in. If the rates are right it could be incredibly successful.”

Seema Pande, commercial director of Kempinski Hotels S.A. Middle East & Africa, agreed and pointed out that the key thing to remember is that the Expo 2020 is not an event across a few days; rather, it’s an event that spans half a year.

Jumeirah Group senior director, global revenue management Marieke Siefers also said that it was important to bear long-term strategies in mind —  especially considering the Expo is set to occur during the country’s high season. “We will continue to look after our regular guests. Most of our hotels run high occupancies in those months so where we would see the opportunity would be to make sure that we price our hotels and position them differently. It’s just maximising revenue across the brand portfolio,” Siefers explained.

Marriot International director of market strategy Elinor Drennan added: “There’s going to be pockets of strong compressions, like Big 5 in November — those times we can maximise, but other than that, over a six-month period where it will be high demand anyway, it’s almost business as normal in terms of long-term strategy.”

Wooller agreed and said room occupancy would not be the challenge, but rates might: “When I looked at the data since 2014, if you look at occupancies through quarters, January to March is achieving 85% or 86%. So the challenges are the average room rate because this period is incredibly strong and hotels fill up anyway.”

Duetto regional director Middle East & Africa Robert Jeans said that is where the risk lies. “Other hotels I have been working with have been operating with ‘first come first serve’. Surprisingly some hotels don’t understand what RevPAR index is and don’t have a comparison, so when we go into high demand, we need to have strategy in place that aligns sales, marketing and revenue management — both on the technology side and people so that there is clear communication, that these are high-demand periods where we are protecting inventory and these are low-demand periods where we can drive inventory.” The problem, Jeans said, arises when hotels do not have any people in the role.

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