“Do not worry about your difficulties in mathematics.” Einstein once wrote. “I can assure you mine are still greater.”
Whilst seeing someone with a bigger problem than ours can help us keep things in perspective, it doesn’t necessarily help us with our problem. On the other hand, hoteliers are a quick learning lot and can certainly pause to consider these words from one of the greatest minds in history.
The hotel business involves a lot of mathematics these days, and keeping abreast of the latest analytical trends can be a challenge ... For some of us, trying to understand the statistical charts and numbers associated with forecasts can seem almost as hard as trying to solve the deepest mysteries of the universe!
In fact, today’s hotel owner or manager can suffer from information overload in ways that simply didn’t exist twenty years ago. People in our industry have begun to ask themselves: are all these charts and graphs really necessary? At what point are detailed analytics counterproductive, and how can I find the right balance? Is my analytics agency selling me the mere appearance of clearer insight and greater control over my business? When I put time and resources into analytics, how can I make sure it translates to something tangible?
These are all logical questions—ones that Einstein himself might have asked, dare I say, if he had been a hotel manager instead of a patent clerk. So—what would his answers have been?
“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.”
History’s greatest genius had an arms-length relationship with complexity. His greatest achievements often occurred not during long hours crunching numbers, but during flashes of inspiration and simplicity. On the other hand, he recognised the dangers of taking simplification too far.
Unfortunately, oversimplification is fairly common in terms of hotel analytics. Many managers decide to hire an analytics partner whose job is to make the complex simple—to present the hotel’s leadership with actionable data. But sometimes their thinking is too simple. Take web traffic for example. Qualified data experts (meaning those on the cutting edge of analytics during the last 2-3 years) have abandoned the idea that simply going for more traffic is a productive strategy in hospitality. The reason: there are plenty of techniques to get eyeballs on your web site, but most of those eyeballs will leave quickly, having no interest in taking the interaction further. Effective analytics then is no different to any other part of marketing - it must address who your customers are and what kinds of things inspire them to act. More specifically, to interact with your hotel brand.
“The distinction between past, present and future is only a stubbornly persistent illusion.”
We don’t want to get too abstract or metaphysical here—after all, we’re dealing with hotel marketing and not the fabric of space-time - however, Einstein has another good point. Many analytical approaches are simply reactive, looking at what has happened and building a strategy out of the past, assuming it will be repeated.
As this White Paper (by British firm EyeforTravel) suggests in detail, good analytics are more proactive in nature. It uses past and present data to predict future trends and show you where to direct your focus—what kinds of campaigns to run, and for whom. It doesn’t hide behind numbers and charts; instead, it gives you meaningful ways to shape your strategy and assess how well that strategy performs.
There are many good revenue management and yield systems out there that can analyze what happened in your past and then provide advise as to how to set rates, based on what happened before. Of course you can add in new information as to future major events or non-repeating events that will impact your decision, however thereare now ways to track who visits your web site or what kinds of people are interacting with your social media channels and incorporate these into the marketing strategy. There are huge volumes of more accurate data that you can tap into now (and in real time) but simply revealing this information is not enough. A flash of creativity and inspiration is still needed to provide effective strategy. That way, you’re not eternally playing catch up. You become a hotel marketing leader, rather than a pedestrian follower of analytic trends. Strategic advantage is the name of the game—and strategic advantage doesn’t exist if your competitors are all subscribing to the same “revolutionary” analytics.
“Imagination is more important than knowledge…It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research.”
There’s no doubt that analytics are a powerful new force in hotel marketing and operations. They can help owners and managers find that biting point between what just happened and what’s going to happen next. But—beware of a casual, naive relationship to analytics and the companies who sell them. Einstein was both an optimist and a skeptic. Whatever new tools and technologies appear, your own experience and imagination can still make the difference between a flashy dialogue that is ultimately hollow and superficial, and true insight that makes your hotel more relevant every day.
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