Seeking a New Generation of Revenue Managers

Seeking a new generation of revenue managers

February 18 2013

The next wave of revenue managers need to possess leadership skills, a thirst for knowledge and an interest in digital-marketing trends.

We created the first generation of revenue managers in what seems like a billion years ago. These individuals were often reservation supervisors or managers artificially extracted from their reservation environments (or simply handed the additional workload) and given the title of revenue manager. Some succeeded, but many did not.

We learned over time the traits of a good reservations manager were not the needed traits of a good revenue manager. At the risk of oversimplifying things, the customer- service focus of a good reservations manager often lacked the analytical, number- crunching zeal required of a good revenue manager. Hence, the first generation of revenue managers was born.

As the revenue management discipline evolved so did what I’ll call the second generation of talent. Many of these individuals today continue to bring number crunching to a new level spurred by what appears to be an insatiable appetite by senior management, asset managers and owners for boat loads of data—the more slicing and dicing, the better, or so it seems.

In many cases—not all to be sure—these individuals have been given the unceremonious moniker of “number nerds,” unable to communicate successfully with the operation, appearing to guard their precious inventory with the zest of a pit bull and unwilling to compromise with the lowly sales-and-marketing folks. (Note: At this very moment, I’m getting nasty emails from my fellow members of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International’s Revenue Management Advisory Board.) The second generation of revenue managers is born and still presides over the revenue management function today.

However, what’s becoming clear is the need for a third generation of revenue managers to step up to the plate. And who might these professionals be? What traits must they possess? These are tough questions with difficult answers. What the revenue management discipline needs today is a hybrid version of the first and second generations, combined with extraordinary leadership skills, a genuine thirst for new knowledge and ample interest in digital marketing trends, results and consumer buying behavior. But that kind of talent is not easy to find.

Consider this, as digital marketing gets closer and closer to the property level, revenue management appears to be moving farther away. While Internet marketers focus on regional and local marketing initiatives, hospitality organizations are taking great pains to centralize the revenue management function. Why? Largely three reasons:

1. a dearth of talent;
2. the desire to manage costs; and
3. the expansion and evolution of the revenue management role.

The shortage of talent is driven by many factors, but certainly the ongoing extension of revenue management into midscale and even economy product means more hotels want to have access to revenue management expertise. As well, the cost management factor is ever present.

During a Hotel Industry Overview presentation for Vantage Hospitality by Jeff Higley, VP of digital media and communications for, its sister company STR Global and its parent company STR, on 4 December 2012, it was sobering (although not surprising) to see the facts about average daily rates. It was reported that “rates still have a ways to go to keep pace with inflation.” This data compared the actual ADR with an inflation adjusted average rate for the period from 2000 to a forecasted 2013. Had rates kept up with inflation, they would be at the $120 range versus a projected ADR for 2013 of $111. While rates remain stagnant, costs continue to increase, squeezing margins endlessly.

At the same time, consumer-buying behavior is evolving rapidly, making the revenue manager’s job more complex and difficult. This emphasizes the need for a third generation of revenue managers who are able to converge their efforts with the digital marketers as well as able to take advantage of all levels of demand from all channels (online and offline) and all market segments. As rising costs squeeze margins, the only option in a high fixed cost, low variable cost industry is to drive revenues. We all know this. Yet the industry is more apt to go into cost-containment mode than a stiletto focus on finding, hiring and training third- generation revenue managers.

My guess is many second-generation revenue managers will not make the leap to the third generation, not unlike the demise of the first generation. But for owners, operators, asset managers and senior-level corporate revenue management professionals, my advice is to focus your efforts on finding the third generation revenue management professional and engage this talent before your competitors and never look back.

Bonnie Buckhiester is a member of the International Society of Hospitality Consultants and president of Buckhiester Management USA. (Washington D.C., Seattle, Vancouver)