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!