IMHI Class of 2016-2017

IMHI Class of 2016-2017
Class of 2016-2017

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Snapshot – The hotel demand management boot camp by hoteliers for hoteliers

Written by: Guillaume Bendiyan – Current ESSEC IMHI students

A few days ago, I received a message from a friend of mine totally freaked out by registrations for the upcoming trimester. ESSEC offers its hospitality management students an extensive range of electives to supplement the required fundamental courses, allowing us to customize our program to acquire the skills and competencies we need to accelerate our future careers. Therefore, every trimester, students face the agonizing ritual of contacting previous students to get advice about individual classes and building their personalized schedule.

At that point, my friend’s dilemma was to select between a class called “Snapshot, hotel demand management” or to take something completely different. The cause of his apprehension was an email sent by Snapshot’s lecturer, highlighting the words “intensive boot camp” half a dozen times and barely hiding (and in fact highlighting) that it will be a tough week. As he knew that I had taken this class the previous year, he reached out to me to have my feedback.  A few hours later, with a couple of beers on the table, we started to discuss my previous experience in this demand management boot camp.

I started our discussion by confirming that the class is demanding, but that’s the point of a boot camp: No pain, No gain! And talking about gain, I asked him what he was expecting. “Don’t know exactly, but the name sounds good and many people said that it was a great class”. What can I add to that…? All the user feedback was positive!

To better understand the class, I should start by saying that it’s a class designed by professionals for professionals. This might seem meaningless, but you should remember that in hospitality, there is often a big gap between people in operations and those in the corporate office. The lack of a mutual understanding between people in sales vs. revenue management; between management vs. front of house; or between headquarters vs. the property often leads to a lack of alignment in term of strategy. Thus, having people who truly understand operations create a class like this helps brings clarity and understanding to many of the challenges being faced by hotels today. Snapshot is a company founded a few years ago by hoteliers who wanted to facilitate the centralization and interpretation of data in hospitality to enable the managers to focus less on trying to find the right figures and more on actually growing revenues. Later, realizing the great knowledge gap that existed, they created a department in charge of education, which mission is to take participants through the basics of a more holistic approach to hotel management and revenue management. Thus the hotel demand management boot camp was born.

Planned over five days, during the boot camp you study all the topics that help a manager to drive more value out of a hotel: Revenue Management, Marketing, Distribution and E-commerce and finally, Asset management. That being said, my friend made a good point, which is that we already have all these classes at ESSEC. So why should he take them again? Well, just because it’s always beneficial to review those topics with a fresh look. Plus, since these help to drive demand, each of them impacts the others and it’s important to link them together around a common example. For example, Revenue Management classes typically focus on selling the right room at the right price to the right customer. However, few revenue management classes focus on which channel is most economical to acquire that customer, something a distribution class will typically do, but the latter in turn fail to explain how to optimally price the room. During the boot camp lectures build on previous knowledge to strengthen participants’ understanding not just of each discipline but to highlight the importance of considering each of these aspects holistically as a future manager.

In addition, the boot camp classes are not like regular lectures, as a wide variety of knowledgeable guest speakers also gave highly interactive presentations, discussing real-life example and sharing great anecdotes. For example, we had the chance to meet David Turnbull, the co-creator of Snapshot, who gave us a lecture on distribution, and Martin Soler, consultant in marketing and former General Manager, who discussed concrete cases on which he had previously worked. Hearing this my friend started to worry, because he had previously a class given by various guest speakers, and many of them repeated and overlapped with each other. To avoid that, a facilitator stays all week to coordinate both the speakers and the content. This helps the guest speakers to concentrate on delivering their personal core message as they do not have to re-do introductory material each and every time they start a class. This greatly enhances the attractiveness of their presentations, which was much appreciated by the participants.

Lastly the boot camp adopts a “hands-on” approach as you are doing a real-life case study in groups, where you are given a hotel with competitor, financial and occupancy data. It is because of this that the boot camp notion all makes sense because, although it’s interesting, it’s very demanding: market trends study, competitive analysis, review scanning on TripAdvisor, income statement analysis… you certainly never have the time to get bored!  Soon, you discover that your hotel faces several issues, including a low average daily rate, a less than perfect rating on the social platforms, an unbalanced business mix and inefficient marketing campaigns. The idea is to work as if you were the general manager to try increase both the earnings and the value of our hotel. On the last day, you present your action plan which is analyzed by all the guest speakers you met during the week. What a great jury! And great thing: the class doesn’t stop here, and you get a detailed feedback on your project a few days later.

At that time, our beers were empty, and my friend more than motivated. A couple weeks later, I happened to see him and asked about his reaction to the class. “You were right, it was very instructive. The guest speakers and the projects are very interesting, and it makes a great recap of our two years. I’ll definitely recommend it too!” Told you!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Participating in the HEDNA Conference - Dublin

By Elisa Schiess, current IMHI student

In April, Hospitality Management students at ESSEC received an email from the school’s administration telling them that 2 students would have the opportunity to represent the school by participating in the HEDNA conferences in Dublin in June.  I had a deeper look at the conference website and got very excited: the conferences as well as companies represented seemed very appealing to me.

You might be asking yourself, what is HEDNA? “ Founded in 1991, HEDNA (Hotel Electronic Distribution Network Association) is the only global forum exclusively dedicated to the advancement of hospitality distribution through strategic collaboration and knowledge sharing. “ Their members are hospitality industry leaders and innovators from all over the world: all areas of electronic distribution including hotels, representation and management companies, GDSs (Global Distribution Systems), OTAs (Online Travel Agencies), tour operators, software and payment service providers, industry consultants, and educational institutions. Besides working groups, white papers and educational opportunities, the HEDNA association organizes two major events annually, one in the United States and the other in Europe. Electronic distribution has been an increasing interest for me since I began the program, as I understood how distribution is fundamental to an hotelier's success. From basically finding a way to sell a room night to dealing with security payment, interfaces, privacy, CRM (Customer Relationship Management), revenue management, data collection, content, SEO (Search Engine Optimization), mobile … it is rather complex! I have had the opportunity to be introduced to these concepts at Prof. Peter O’Connor's famous E-Commerce course in the IMHI program, other courses of digital marketing and during conferences (Christopher Michaud, Expedia) which triggered my interest; I wanted to go deeper on the subject!

I applied and 2 months later, here I was at the Dublin airport on a fresh Monday morning with my teammate: Thomas Amet, IMHI student also an IMHI student. The event began on Monday evening with a welcome drink, which allowed us some time to enjoy a nice walk around Dublin city center and get ready for 3 intensive days.

We were welcomed at The Croke Park Hotel. The first day focused on HEDNA University courses and working groups, the second day consisted largely of conferences, and the third day was a global wrap-up and next steps focus. At that time, we met the Dublin HEDNA organizers who introduced us to HEDNA board members including Sarah Fults, current HEDNA President and VP Distribution, MGM Resorts International. It was then time to meet all the attendees (over 250 professionals) with a first welcome drink and a perfect occasion to start networking. At such events, networking is extremely important. In fact, the association hopes that members will be able to help each other, get to know what’s new in each company and exchange best practices. During the networking, we had the chance to exchange views with and learn from very knowledgeable professionals such as Christian Meissner (Director of E-Distribution of Deutsche Hospitality), Sylvain Courtial (Senior Manager, Hotel Connectivity & Content, Amadeus) and many others.

The conference started on early Tuesday morning in the impressive Croke Park Center. We were first briefed by the organization team: our job would be to distribute microphones at the end of each conference for the Q&A session, which would thus allow us to attend all the conferences and network with conference participants. The first day was filled with content from HEDNA University offering two courses throughout the day: an “Introduction to Distribution” and a more advanced level course on "Delving into Distribution”. Besides the University courses, a large panel of working groups was organized. As I already had some knowledge of the topics delivered by the HEDNA University during IMHI classes, I decided to participate in a few working groups, such as the Hotel Analytics Working Group session. This new group is led by Matthew Goulden (Managing Director, Triometric) and David Turnbull (Co-Founder and Chief Commercial Officer, Snapshot). Its objective is to increase awareness and adoption of data analytic practices and tools and demonstrate how data analytics can be applied to hotel distribution. In this first session, we discussed some key aspects to focus on as follows: the cost of distribution, the market trends, some distribution supply insight, the operational performance, the data management.

The afternoon went on with a few other working groups including a great panel on OTAs and Emerging Models topic where Carlo Olejniczak (Director, Global Chains, Omar Farrugia (Director of Sales - Online, Corinthia Hotels), Adrian Hands (Senior Sales Director, Enterprise Accounts EMEA, TripAdvisor) and Daniel Holl (Head of Global Hotel Sales, Trivago) discussed the OTA’s value proposition in the evolving hospitality landscape.

The second day started with a nice Irish breakfast for a good refill before another intensive day. Before going into the distribution subjects, Kevin Kelly, international speaker and author of the book: The Pursuit of Xceptional Execution, gave a motivational speech highlighting what makes exceptional businesses and their leaders succeed. Then we alternated between individual conferences and panel talks on several topics such as: - A State of the Industry done by Jerome Wise, Vice President - Enterprise Clients, TravelClick - Innov8 where 8 key professionals shared their innovations in our industry in an 8-minute pitch - Artificial Intelligence, Chatbots, and Virtual Reality: How to use technology to engage with consumers in which Alex Gibson, one of our Senior Lecturers at IMHI, also spoke. Finally, we had the opportunity to learn how to pour a Guinness during the concluding event held at the Guinness factory house in Dublin with an amazing view of Dublin. After a final wrap up, it was already time to leave!

We were flying back to Paris having forged many new professional connections, new knowledge, various insights and a great way to concretize our career. Since then, we have continued to follow up on some of the working groups and are still involved in the analytics group. We would like to thank IMHI for the opportunity to take part in this conference and the HEDNA organizing and board teams, who were very friendly, didn’t hesitate to introduce us to other professionals and gave us some good tips for our future careers! From a student's perspective, the HEDNA conference was a great occasion to meet with numerous professionals, wider our knowledge and gain valuable insights of the Hospitality distribution sector.