Industry Update
Opinion Article29 April 2020

5 Ways to Reinvent the Hotel Revenue Manager’s Career in the Time of Coronavirus

By Robert Hernandez, Chief Data Scientist at Origin World Labs

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As soon as hotels reopen, all eyes will be on two departments, Housekeeping and Revenue Management. The focus on Housekeeping is obvious since cleanliness is now the top priority for owners, employees, and guests. But it is Revenue Management that will carry most of the financial responsibility in getting hotels through the Covid-19 recovery. In a world where F&B, Spa, and many other ancillaries will be handicapped by social distancing expectations, Rooms Revenue will be the main or only source of income throughout the hotel industry, and this is the sole domain of RMs.

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Yet, one reality will remain unchanged, even as Revenue Managers become more indispensable, they will come back to work under more scrutiny just to make 20% less than their Finance counterparts. Now, I know this salary inequality is 10 years in the making, a result of many factors in the sourcing, hiring, and training of RMs. However, the current crisis is forcing everyone to throw out all the old rule sets. This may be an opportunity to RESET the professional status of the typical RM and the expectation of the RM career path.

Here are 5 ways that the Hotel Revenue Manager career could improve in the coming months.

Diversify your Portfolio

With approximately 25,000 or so RMs in the world, compared to millions of hotels and stay venues, there is no reason why most Revenue Managers should not offer their talents to those establishments that cannot afford a full-time RM. In most cases, RMs can accomplish this while still working a full time job. Think of the football coach that works for a team, but also privately trains players on the side. As long as there is no conflict of interest, having a "Portfolio Career" should be common for most hotel RMs. Their primary employer would benefit from the added perspective that the RM would gain from exposure to a side RM project, and the RM would be able to distribute the risk of working for any one entity. Especially during a recovery, the demand is there for RMs to make gig work a part of their career. In fact, I was introduced to the hospitality industry by taking on a part-time analytics gig during the 2008 crisis.

Create and Ponder, don't just Cut and Paste.

The typical RMs day is still heavily focused on reporting and other clerical tasks. Even for those that use an RMS system, analysis involves reviewing the same exact data points everyday. If your RM skillset is limited only to the systems that you use, then you could always be replaced by someone else who can run that system. It's time for RMs to level up. This Covid-19 recovery will be a period where RMs can show that they have the ability to think outside the proverbial box by creating innovative analysis that helps owners and other stakeholders to look at the problems in front of them from a new perspective. Those RMs that can prove that their abilities go beyond the "Export-to-Excel" or "Cut-and-Paste" realm, will see their status grow from support to strategic, not only within their organization, but within the industry as a whole.

Think Horizontally not just Hospitality

The Finance department of a hotel is usually headed by a professional certified by some industry agnostic organization. They validate that the skill level of that person is suitable to perform the finance or accounting function in any industry. So a Director of Finance with a CPA could switch to another industry during this crisis. There is no such thing for RM. Even though RMs have as much, or more, fiduciary responsibility than their finance colleagues, they don't have a certification that allows them to jump from one industry to another. RMs need to stop limiting their knowledge of RM exclusively to the hotel industry. Instead, they should focus on becoming functional experts in the field of Revenue Optimization. Go beyond the hospitality industry bubble. With a broader knowledge of the application of RM to other industries, the Hotel RM can limit the risk of being part of an industry that is the first to be impacted and the last to recover during a global crisis.

Use Your Outside Voice

On social platforms like Linkedin or Facebook, those posting RM articles and opinion pieces are usually consultants, like me, or software vendors. That means that we are missing the insights of the vast, vast majority of RMs in the hotel industry. That is a lot of knowledge that remains hidden. In other industries, like technology, professionals typically write blogs, publish podcasts, and even offer solutions on forums like stackoverflow.com. In fact, some technology companies will require their recruits to prove that they have a history of sharing knowledge online. Many RMs have unique perspectives given the markets and property types that they work in. A "sharing" culture would dramatically improve the RM profession. It should be commonplace for most RMs to offer their point-of-view on public and social forums. Not only would this elevate the RM discourse, but it would elevate the status of the profession. But, please, don't just post a bunch of selfie videos, telling people how to find their inner "why."

Mentor the Masses

It is rare for a Revenue Management job post to list mentorship as a job responsibility. Yet, more people than you can imagine, even in the hotel industry, have absolutely no idea what happens in an RM department. Could this be because many RMs are rarely let outside of their cubicles? This is the perfect time for the RMs to become the great communicators that their employers want them to be. Just like Finance holds regular meetings with department heads to make sure that they are cognisant of their budgetary responsibilities, RM should also hold similar meetings to coach those same department heads on the art and science of thinking in terms of Revenue Optimization. Extending the RM position to a "governance" role, would be immensely beneficial for an industry where the quality of every decision will now have a bigger impact on profit.
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