Tech companies have a responsibility to educate the market, to share what we see from our side of things and to share our knowledge from our work with a highly diverse array of businesses and professionals. As companies innovate, they’ll often change workflows in concert with that innovation, necessitating a new way of doing things. This is especially true in industries with long legacies like hospitality. What is known as one of the largest service industries in the world is also the oldest, and while there’s plenty of evergreen wisdom accumulated during that time, there are also outdated practices that have been made irrelevant by new technology. Through education, we can look beyond the outdated practices of yesteryear and look at what led to them, why we should improve upon them, and how we can improve upon them.
We’re proud to say that Shiji has a long history of working with, funding, and in general, supporting education in the industry. From its original investment in SnapShot and later its acquisition of ReviewPro, both companies with knowledge-sharing and education at the core of their mission.
Below is the story behind one of these projects. One that happens to be one of the hotel industry’s most ambitious and successful online courses, “Managing Demand for Optimal Hotel Performance,” created in collaboration with ESSEC University in Paris, also often called the “The Hotel Demand Management Online Course.” We sat down with Janel Clark who helped design and lead the course to learn more.
How did the hotel demand management online course get started? It’s been going for a number of years now!
It was developed in 2014 at SnapShot, now a part of Shiji Group. We created the hotel demand management online course – officially titled “Managing Demand for Optimal Hotel Performance” – with the cooperation of ESSEC business school in Paris. So the whole MOOC is in four modules: SnapShot did one module, and Duetto, the revenue management system did one. There was a module done by the Business School ESSEC and then the participants had to do a project, which wa the fourth part.
Our academic partner was ESSEC Business School, who receives all the revenue from the course, that went live in December 2014.
Who else was involved in developing the online course?
Internally, it was David Turnbull and Martin Soler from SnapShot. And then externally, we had citizenM, who were strongly involved, and Alex Slors, who is an Asset Management consultant. We also had Lennert de Jong, from citizenM and then the academic leader Peter O’Connor from ESSEC on the initial team.
Can you tell me a little bit about the concept of the course and how it came about?
It came about because we were developing technology for hotels and we felt that there was a lack of understanding at the hotel level in terms of breaking down the silos between departments. Your marketing person knew marketing, but they didn’t really recognize how marketing would affect finance, for example, and your finance people could understand that we had to do a forecast, but they didn’t really understand how a revenue manager would do a forecast. So, there was a lot of knowledge on property, but they weren’t really working together.
At that time, we had created a dashboard that was incorporating data from all departments of the hotel. We were trying to create a tool that everyone would use, but we could see that there was a lack of knowledge in many areas from some of the key users of the technology. This is why we thought if there was better knowledge across the board, and everybody understood what everyone was doing, it would be a win-win. If you look at certain data – the sales manager might look at it in a different way to the revenue manager – but you would still be looking at the same data, and it would still have an influence on each other. If we could create a program that would show how all of these different disciplines interact with each other, then that would help hoteliers within their teams and within their businesses, and also help us with the development of the technology.
Can you give us a top-level overview of each section?
Section 1: Asset Management
The first section is Asset Management, the finance side. First of all, you look at the hotel as an asset. What’s the value of the property? How do you increase the value of the property? We’re looking very much at the revenues, the P&L, and the costs involved. To increase the value of your property, the best way is to increase your revenues and increase your profits. Then we talk about other revenue streams: rooms, F&B, spa, how it all works together. Rather than just focusing on one area, the best outlook is to do everything to drive revenues and profits across all streams.
Section 2: Demand Management
So that’s when we get on to the next section, where we start talking about how to actually generate demand for your property. We start talking about who your customers are, how important it is to understand who the customers are, how important are customer reviews, and how that can influence pricing. We talk about distribution and how important it is to make sure that you’re selling through the right channels. We also talk about loyalty programs because if you’re spending money to get people there, how do you make sure that they’re still coming back?
Section 3: Revenue Management
In the next section, it goes on to Revenue Management. If you’ve then built up this customer base and you understand what’s out there, you could then start to manage that revenue and decide what guests you want to attract. So, we now understand the market, we understand our competitors, we understand what’s out there, and what demand is there.
The next step is to choose what demand you want. How do you optimize? There, we look at the KPIs that you use and we talk about the technology that’s available. This is where those reports about asset management that the finance guys will look at from the first section will be reflected here.
This section is more about how you set your pricing, and how you might avoid placing restrictions that would hinder a customer’s buying to keep it open for them.
Section 4: Marketing
And then the final section is the marketing side. How do you keep this cycle going? How do you get out there? How do you leverage the brand in customer acquisition? We talk a lot about the direct channel. How do you convert that business through different channels? And again, looking at costs brings it back to what we talked about in the first session. We’re always looking at how each area impacts other areas.
What was the initial response to the course like?
It was really good. The idea was that this course would have a highly respected academic partner so you could, as a learner at home, just log into your computer and you’d get access to a high level of learning at a really reduced rate. It’s also self-paced, so you’d do it as you want to and at the end of when you’re finished, you get a certificate from ESSEC.
What do you think has made this course valuable to the participants?
It was developed by industry professionals and delivered by industry professionals. For the modules, Alex Slors did the first one, then David Turnbull did one, followed by Lennert from citizenM and Martin Soler. So, you’ve got all of that industry experience and knowledge. That was what went into the creation and the delivery. Then you’ve also got the academic partnership. Everything is sanctioned, if you like. It’s a really nice mix of industry and academia.
What would you want to change for a post-pandemic version of the course?
I think a lot of the theory is the same. A lot of the ideas and the principles of the different disciplines haven’t changed at all. But what has changed is that we’ve got to learn to react very quickly to the unknown and I think there would be updates there that we could include on how to deal with these unforeseen circumstances. We look at historical data to learn for the future, but if my hotel was closed last year, where’s my historical data? The world has changed in that historical data may not be as important as it was, but then we have to learn to look forward, predict and have a plan B.
We would probably put more in about understanding the market and understanding your competitors. Through the pandemic, you might have lost your competitors, and our competitor set may be doing different things now.
The other thing we would include is some more focus on the people and the staff and recruiting. Just a little bit more about communication, leadership, and how you keep staff happy because one thing that we’ve learned from the pandemic is how important our staff are and how important it is to retain them during these periods.
Learn more about and sign up for the course on Coursera here.
Shiji is a multi-national technology company that provides software solutions and services for enterprise companies in the hospitality, food service, retail and entertainment industries, ranging from hospitality technology platform, hotel management solutions, food and beverage and retail systems, payment gateways, data management, online distribution and more. Founded in 1998 as a network solutions provider for hotels, Shiji today comprises over 5,000 employees in 80+ subsidiaries and brands in over 23 countries, serving more than 91,000 hotels, 200,000 restaurants and 600,000 retail outlets. For more information, visit www.shijigroup.com.