What is your job in essence?
I'll be honest: this is a question I find difficult.
Perhaps because explaining in a few seconds and without boring an interlocutor what goes on behind the scenes of a hotel is really a complex task. Or perhaps because after so many years, I'm still convinced that I'm only at the beginning and therefore I don't really know myself.
And so, sustaining the stares of someone (usually my wife) who reproaches me for not wanting to talk about my work, I clumsily try to describe my job as that of consulting for hotels. Unfortunately - and rightly so - the answer is almost always not enough and the next question is 'what do you mean'?
Then discomfort sets in.
How can I encapsulate in a few words the concepts of Analysis, Demand, Revenue Management, Digital Marketing, Brand Reputation?
I am not able to.
Also because in many people, legitimately, the image of something fatuous, without consistency, materialises.
When you think about it, it's true: no hotel structure needs a consultant.
There are excellently run hotels that have always worked without any external help: the finances are in profit and there is no need for changes.
What can a consultant bring to this type of business? Certainly, perhaps it will optimise revenue. Or even improve brand reputation by raising awareness among staff. But it could also be that in pursuing his objective, in good or bad faith, a consultant will destabilise a precarious balance with catastrophic consequences. In good faith because, for example, after a course in Revenue Management with a final diploma, perhaps corroborated by the help given to a cousin to open a successful Bed & Breakfast, someone feels ready to offer himself as a consultant to a hotel.
Or even in bad faith, because some apparently exciting results can then be the start of a long and difficult problem to solve.
Yes, but basically, what do you do?
I will try to answer.
A hotel is a machine of impressive complexity: there is, in fact, the whole part relating to services: Reception, Cleaning, Food & Beverage, Maintenance and - obviously - Management (just the main ones).
Hidden from most people, however, there is also everything related to the booking phase, temporally preceding your arrival at the hotel.
This latter concept includes the actual sales activities, such as pricing (at what price and under what conditions to sell), distribution (through which channels to sell), and marketing (how to sell).
The absolute marvel is that everything is inevitably connected and, if I may be honest, daily exposed to the paradoxes of Murphy's Law.
For example, the selling price, in addition to demand, is influenced by the quality of services and the reputation of the hotel, which is in turn conditioned by the price paid.
Higher or lower expectations, in short.
And here other disciplines come into play. How do I analyse demand for a destination? What role do my competitors play? At what rate is demand most likely to be met? What is the logic behind the price we see published on some famous portal?
In theory, that price should always be the end product of analysis, right or wrong.
Here, this is one of our main daily activities: we analyse data and take responsibility for certain strategic decisions.
Economic, political, social, health, weather, transport, events, capacity and propensity to spend are just some of the elements that help determine demand and sales price.
But this is not the end of the story: these data need to be contextualised to some extent. Because what we have seen above is - all in all - the theory, the study phase. But now, zooming in, we have to observe our Hotel interacting with the outside world, in our destination and with our reference competitors: we know that the teachings of theory need to be put into practice, that is, in our case, into action within a very complex system.
And here the first problems can occur: with every single change in the sales strategy, all the variables mentioned above will be mixed up.
The problem is to understand, if possible in a short time, whether this change will lead to positive results or not.
On the other hand, the damage of a wrong choice will be immediately appreciable: as the manager of a hotel that we have been following for years and which I greatly respect, usually repeats, the hotel sells highly perishable goods. Basically, what remains unsold at a certain time in the afternoon will be irretrievably lost. We cannot store it.
Imagine that all the data, the related variables and the strategies that we have now identified have to be shared (in the broadest sense of the verb) with the Owner who is trusting us and with the staff who will find intruders like us hanging around the house.
But, fortunately, consultancy work is not just about numbers: the part I like best is the part that sees us interacting with real people and their legitimate expectations. Will we be able to avoid upsetting the delicate balance that governs human and professional relations within a team that has been playing the same game for years? Will it be possible to gain the trust necessary to make changes that are sometimes decisive?
Having an operational background in structures, I have learnt that one of the most critical and difficult aspects to "govern" is that which concerns relations with staff, of any kind or qualification. A good manager is first and foremost one who manages to harmonise his team. Charisma, humanity, experience, humility and respect are just some of the qualities needed to achieve this. We can have the most beautiful view and the most reviewed restaurant, but without a trained and enthusiastic team the results will always be mediocre.
In the same way, we have to interact, or rather integrate, with people we are lucky enough to encounter. We must be able to respect the opinions of others, argue our perspectives, gain trust and be prepared to embark on a long journey together, always learning from each other. Will we get the necessary cooperation from heads of service, directors, owners and various staff? But then, are we sure that our strategy will bring the desired results?
Questions of this kind, when entering into a new consultancy relationship, are the reason for my sleepwalkingk: I frequently find myself hypothesising answers in the early hours of the day.
So, more or less summarised, this is my usual work.
Then there can be years like the Pandemic year, which resets all statistics to zero and throws us into the unknown. But that's another matter.