Revenue management in the tourism and hospitality industry with special reference to Bangladesh
Table of Contents:
Md Yusuf Hossein Khan, Shahriar Tanjimul Islam and Azizul Hassan
Currently tourism is emerging due to its ability to progress growth in a country, but also because it plays a huge role for social development. This sector is getting more and more integrated with production in national economies, employment, manufacturing and agriculture, hence it is getting further economic diversification and playing a huge role in strengthening developing countries’ economies. According to Kostin (2018), this industry encompasses hotels, travel agencies, enterprises, food, construction and train hospitality professionals. He further emphasizes this field is one of the fastest growing fields in the modern economy. Following United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (2010), the industry is the top export earner in 60 countries. This sector also contributes to foreign exchange earnings for one-third of the developing countries and half of the least developed countries. This signifies the contribution of tourism sector. The main purpose of this chapter is however, observing the significance of revenue management in the tourism and hospitality sector in particular with hotels. Hotels always play a huge role for tourists to decide whether they will visit that particular place or not, and also play an important role in developing that local area, since many jobs are created with this industry (waiters, managers, guides, chefs/cooks etc.).
According to Business Dictionary (2019), revenue is defined as any income, which is generated for sale of goods/services, or from the use of capital or assets, associated with the main functions of an organization, before the deductions of any expenses. Hence it can be said that revenue is any direct income from customers, which the business receives, before deducting expenses. Therefore, revenue management (RM) maximizes the organization’s raw income with the means of matching supply and demand of customers into different segments on their income and allocating capacities (El Haddad ct al., 2008). Kimes and Wirtz (2003) define RM as the application of information systems and pricing strategies to provide precise amounts of services, as per the level of the customer, at right time. Since revenue is increased more with the level of customers arriving, marketing management has a major role to play to increase the demand of the customers, resulting in more revenue for the hotels (Cross ct al., 2009) and managing consumer behaviour (Anderson and Xie, 2010).
Findings from this chapter will help us in understanding the nature and characteristics that influence the success of the RM implementation process. By doing so, it will help us to enrich our knowledge in successful dynamic strategies which will improve the implementation process. The chapter is organized to present the theoretical framework background of the implementation of the RM system and its practices in hotels. This is followed by the research, design and data collection methodology'. Finally, a discussion on managerial implication and a conclusion will be drawn.
The term "reservation management” is rarely used in the literature. The key focus on this chapter will be yield management (YM) also known as revenue management (RM). The two terms however are not interchangeable. Sigala et al. (2001) explains that revenue management is about the process of how to do something; on the other hand, YM has an output focus on what to achieve. In strategic terms, reservation management focuses primarily on to the implementation stage, whilst the latter term, YM, mainly focuses on strategic goals.
RM or YM are common terms that are applied in the hotel industry to assist hotels as explained by El Haddad (2009) and Okumus (2004) in determining their room price and allocation to maximize revenue/income, simply by trying to sell the most rooms to the highest-paying customers. According to Cross et al. (2009) and Delain and O’Meara (2004), to practise RM, it is essential for an organization to assess the effectiveness of its various decisions. Kimes (1989) clearly defines RM/YM as a method that can help a firm sell the right inventory unit to the right customer at the right time and for the right price. This guides the decision of how to allocate undifferentiated units of limited capacity to available demand in a way that maximizes profit or revenue.
Loose forecasts may lead to suboptimal decisions and might prevent the organization from gaining maximum income. A good RM system is required in order to avoid an undesirable impact on hotel revenue and customers. This literature review will be more narrowly divided into three parts: the concepts of RM, implementation of RM and making improvements in Jones’ model and lastly it will discuss the findings of the previous research regarding the impact of RM.
Concepts and models of revenue management
To start with the logical framework, we can look at the work of Noone and Mount (2008) which summarizes the key activities of hotel RM. It was adopted and extended into two main parts. Firstly, the core activities of hotel RM that were expanded to incorporate the RM process in other hospitality and tourism organizations. In particular, it is stated by business analysts that intelligence id needed for a successful implementation of RM, and along with this performance analysis and evaluations were added to their framework. Their work was further backed by the works of Kimes (1999) on restaurant RM and Kimes and McGuire (2001) on function space RM and hotel yield management. With so many works on these as extensions, the core activities of hospitality RM were then conceptualized as a cyclical process involving business analysis. Further analysis includes
Figure 15.1 Core revenue management process
Source: Adapted and expanded from Noone et al., 2003
pricing strategy, demand modelling and forecast, inventory and price optimizations, distribution channel management, booking controls and performance analysis.
Figure 15.1 illustrates a concept map of the revenue management constellation of terms. In this chapter however we will focus how this whole RM system can be further improved with the introduction of loyalty cards to this method. The significance and benefits of this are further explained after the implementation stage. How the introduction to loyalty cards can improve the RM software and non-pricing techniques will be explained. The chapter will look further into how introductions to this can add more value in non-pricing techniques and better inventory management, as shown in Figure 15.2. In the end the chapter will try to give some significance to the pricing techniques to make the RM system more effective.
Implementation and improvements have been made in the RM model so far (Kimes, 1989; Yeoman and Watson, 1997) as these factors can be the greatest determinants of the success or failure of embracing and using RM (see
Figure 15.2 Revenue management constellation concept map
Source: Adapted from Ivanov (2014)
Figure 15.3). El Haddad (2015) suggests that any possible link should eliminate the existing association between reservation and strategic decision making units, as in reality, a short-term decision whether to accept, decline or reject a customer’s booking request should not correlate with long-term tactics and strategies on RM.
Introduction of loyalty card programmes
Reward or loyalty programmes arc becoming popular in the hotel industry for many reasons. According to studies conducted by Internet Marketing Inc. (2019), travellers are loyal to hotel brands they can trust, that demonstrate consistent value and that can influence customers both who are on property and between stays. The need for customer loyalty is important as this shows the strength of the relationship between an individual’s relative attitudes and repeat patronage (Dick and Basu, 1994). Customer loyalty is the commitment of the customer towards a particular brand or company.
Figure 15.3 Revised hotel revenue management
Source: Adapted from Jones (1999, p. 1115)
In tourism, this loyalty has gained even more significance. Here looking at the attitudinal loyalty is also important, since the level of customer’s intentions to revisit or repurchase at a business and their willingness to recommend a destination is measured (Li and Petrick, 2008; Yoon and Uysal, 2005). Loyalty researchers tend to observe attitudes to explain the behaviour and conceptualize loyalty from a casual perspective (Baldinger and Rubinson, 1996; Dick and Basu, 1994). Furthermore, Oliver (1999) found that positive attitudes towards a certain purchase experience also changed the attitudes toward the product or brand. It is very significant to understand that attitudinal loyalty towards a brand increases as the result of attitude development (Dick and Basu, 1994; Oliver, 1999).
From the literature just discussed we can understand the significance of customer loyalty'. Hence for this to develop in the RM of the hospitality' and hotel management sector, loyalty cards have been suggested. Card-based loyalty has gained a huge popularity especially' during the last decade (Karolefski, 2003). Usage of these cards has become very common in consumers’ day'-to-day' lives. One of the major benefits of giving loyalty' cards to customers is the collection of useful information about consumer behaviour, which can be used for marketing decision making (Ergin et al., 2011). Laskarin (2013) also explains how these cards enable companies to customize their marketing mix variables. Through this approach, gathering useful information about the consumers and accumulated knowledge, the company' can develop effective marketing strategics.
Improvements of RM through loyalty card programmes — suggested approach
Customer loy'alty programmes and cards can be added as part of the programme in RM before accepting or declining a customer’s booking request, influencing pricing and non-pricing techniques and inventory management systems. According to Sigala ct al. (2001, p. 368), “Demand is not analysed by' market segments; rather, it is analysed at a finer level of analysis concerned with the purchasing behaviour of different segments through different distribution channels against the demand conditions”. Thus, loyalty’ cards should add a new feature into the RM system, creating a better customer database that helps build a long-term customer base, without the need for excessive promotional expenses. This database can help us in understanding the demand pattern of the customers more accurately, and more loyal customers will get more preference through this approach. Such an approach can make the RM system more effective and efficient, as the right promotional activities will be directed towards the right customers.
Implementation of this new approach
Sigala et al. (2001) proposed that in this network era, reservation management has become even more of a strategic implementation tool, with control at the head office. Through the usage of loyalty cards, more data about the customers can be stored for effective decision making and promotional activities. While doing so, the role of software is imperative. According to Guadix et al. (2010), the processing of a large database is not possible without appropriate RM software and the hotels that implement this gain strategic advantages over those that
Revenue management in tourism 263 simply rely on intuition. Since so much customer data can be collected through loyalty’ cards and can be stored, it is important to have an effective customer relationship management (CRM). Generally, RM is closely' linked with CRM. Hence there has been a great deal of study’ of these two functions amongst many researchers (Wang and Bowie, 2009). RM and CRM can have different objectives and time horizons. While RM is more short-term oriented, CRM intends to focus more on the long-term relationships between the company’ and its customers. On the contrary, Noone et al. (2003) have shown that CRM and RM should be viewed as complimentary business strategies, and RM tools can be effectively used in CRM practices. They found that RM plays a supportive role to CRM in the process of establishing and maintaining long-term profitable relationships between the hotel and its customers, whilst I will argue that CRM has to be part of RM, so that the most profitable and loy'al customers will get the most from the hotels.
CRM systems allow more functionality' to segment and analyse customer visits and spend, in the hopes of having a big customer database with information about their desire and ability’ to spend, and able to segment them by lifetime value (Go.duettocloud.com, 2019). There arc many' ways to segment customers, for instance on the basis of their length of stay, amount of expenditure to avail services and price sensitiveness, total revenue per room, total revenue per client and so on. It is one of the important components that is needed to be applied in RM (Xotels.com, 2019).
With a strong CRM system and RM practice, the next rational step would be getting connected and merged. With the help of CRM, we can calculate the profit at the customer level and segment by' those with profitability’ statistics (i.c. REVPAR, room revenue per available room; TREVPEC, total revenue per client; and so on). Those segments then can be mapped to the Revenue Management System (RMS) to offer yieldable rates per profit tier or customer segment. Each tier then can receive independent yieldable prices, which would also correspond to rate codes in the RM to deal issues like reservations, availability, check in/out, guest profiles, report generation and so on. The key’ idea would be to have such a booking engine and call centre that would run RM software, allowing the customer to be recognized at the point of booking to decide the appropriate rate code.
This way, the most valuable customers will get maximum services and hotel chains will have more opportunities to retain them, plus the reservation team can work more efficiently. This approach will become very useful during the peak season or while deciding the correct amount of discounts the customers should receive.
Laskarin (2013) further explains that with proper reward schemes and introducing guest-friendly rules hotels can boost loyalty'. Loyalty programmes are one of reasons why guests will select a specific hotel. The other three factors customers consider before choosing are location, price and past experience. Hence it can be said further that, with a proper rewarding system we can convert bargainhunting guests to loyal guests, who arc expected to come more frequently or
Figure 15.4 Degrees of guest loyalty and profitability by level of profitability and frequency of stay
Source: Adapted from Laskarin, 2013
have longer stays, which will also have a big positive impact on the revenue source of the company.
Evaluation of this suggested approach
It is also important tor management to understand that, in order to work effectively with RM, they will have to assess the potential risks of loyalty cards and consider the significant contributions of good pricing methods as well. From research of retail stores, Egin, Parilti and Ozsacmaci (2011) say that customers tend to utilize a range of store loyalty cards rather than just one. Hence from a business point of view, the company may not gain as much as it thought it has gained. O’Malley (1998) states that it is very important to consider that loyalty programmes with a strong operational plan can assist in developing a more cost-effective marketing strategies to increase lifetime value. A critical question lies in whether there is a way to give customers something valuable that cannot be duplicated by competitors. Such uniqueness mainly relies on the core benefit for customers; if done successfully, it will be less tempting for customers to switch to other brands/hotels. Such uniqueness can rely or brand value and pricing to maximize the profitability of the organization.
In this section, we have discussed the usefulness of loyalty cards and their implementation. By using loyalty/membership cards effectively, there is a good
Revenue management in tourism 265 scope to create brand loyalty. Hence the significance of pricing methods is discussed next, so that the company can maximize its revenue and remain more unique at the same time.
Many scholars (i.c. Cross et al., 2009) have identified the importance of pricing and changes in price in accordance with the state of market in order to create a sustainable competitive advantage. Findings from Koenig and Meissner (2010) state that in the hotel industry the most commonly used pricing revenue management tools include dynamic pricing, price discrimination and lowest price guarantee.
Researchers like Palmer and McMahon-Beattie (2008) state that one of the fundamental concepts of pricing nowadays is dynamic pricing. It allows hotels to maximize revenue and yield by offering a price that will reflect the level of demand and availability of rooms and services. With this process, customers will pay different prices even when they have similar booking details such as length of stay, number and types of rooms, board basis and so on, depending on the moment of the reservation. However, such changes in price may lead to criticism by customers. Nevertheless, dynamic pricing can offer that extra bit of profitability which often may get sacrificed due to loyalty offers. Ivanov and Zhechev (2011) warned that charging at different prices should be applied with caution and should provide plentx' of information to customers about booking terms and conditions.
Another important RM pricing tool, known as price discrimination, is considered to be the heart of pricing strategies (Hanks, 2002; Kimes and Wirtz, 2003). Price discrimination in practice means that a hotel charges their customers different prices for the same rooms or hotel facilities. The main reason behind this arc the differences in price sensitiveness of hotels’ market segments. For example, it can be seen that business travellers are less sensitive to price compared to leisure travellers, and are ready to pay higher prices if required. However, one major risk from this approach is that consumers may migrate from high-end services and products to low-end services and products. In order to avoid such migration, Zhang and Bell (2010) suggested introducing price fences, or conditions under which specific products are offered on the market. Many researchers (i.e. Hanks et al., 2002; Kimes and Singh, 2009) at different times suggested different types of price fences which include conditions like day of the week, duration of the stay, cancellation, amendment, payment, exclusive guests (i.e. president of a club, government officials, etc.), age and lead period.
The lowest price guarantee is another RM pricing tool. Carveil and Quan (2008) point out that hotels tend to provide their customers with the lowest price guarantee. This means that if the customer finds a lower price for the same or similar hotel within 24 hours after their booking, the hotel will match that lower price. This approach is also quite popular. According to Demirciftci et al. (2010), the lowest price claimed by several US hotel chains is a great source for advertisement on their websites.
A case study is summarized next, where little to some revenue management was practised. This case study takes place in Bangladesh, and involved exploratory research to analyse the data and their findings. Here the data were collected through a structured questionnaire and daily revenue was collected through data directly from field. Some pricing information was also collected from brochures or leaflets.
Tourism at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
According to Chowdhury and Chowdhury (2015), Cox’s Bazar became the tourist capital in Bangladesh, amongst a lot of tourist spots. The researchers conducted and compared the results of their sample hotels between 2008 and 2014, where in 2008 they collected data of four private and four public hotels in Cox’s Bazar, and during 2014 they collected those same eight hotels, with three more private hotels. To calculate guest occupancy and profit, some specific data was very important, and those data included variable cost per month, per bed daily revenue and occupancy. From their findings some interesting information were found in revenue in terms of private and public, as from 2008 to 2014 there were significant differences between the occupancy and profit of the public and private hotels. During 2014, private hotels had significant differences in occupancy and profit. Their findings signified that private hotels had better revenue management compared to public hotels. The researchers affirmed that the participation of the government was quite inadequate, and the contribution of investment from the public sector was very nominal. From the findings of Chowdhury and Chowdhury (2015), during 2008, public hotels enjoyed higher profits but in the course of seven years, the scenario reverses and it was the private hotels which were enjoying higher occupancy and profitability.
It has to be to be noted that during these seven years private hotels made significant investments, as backed by Islam (2013). He further states that the Bangladesh government also played a positive role in promoting domestic and international tourism from the private sector. Another factor that can affect tourism adversely was the political unrest during 2012, as elections took place. This was one of the many reasons why no further development took place in the public sector.
Tourism at Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Firstly, from an industry perspective, public hotels can provide seasonal discounts, better management of variable costs and have better understanding of the contribution margin per bed as suggested by Chowdhury and Chowdhury (2015). There is no doubt that the hotels in the public sector of Bangladesh need
Revenue management in tourism 267 investment in areas like infrastructure and technology, in order to be more competitive and profitable like private hotels. Secondly, they need to have a more up-to-date RM system. From the findings of El Haddad (2015), implementation of RM has strongly impacted Unidom Hotels’ sales and improved their profitability. This has helped the hotel to maximize most returns from their peak demand days. For public hotels in Cox’s Bazar, they can start by implementing thorough pricing strategies, like introducing dynamic pricing or lowest price guarantees. With dynamic pricing a higher price can be effectively imposed during high season and a lower price charged during low season, and also if they book much earlier, then their booking price will be lesser and vice versa if they try and book at a very short notice. With lowest price guarantee strategies, they can attract more customers very easily, who are looking for budget hotels. Furthermore, loyal or profitable customers can be offered more facilities or services or kind gestures, like free drinks, breakfast, free mattresses and so on. These are some non-pricing strategies which can be implemented by public hotels.
Having a good RM system and a strong CRM system where a big customer database can be built will be very beneficial for business. The most profitable customers or services can easily be identified with a good RM system. This can help the company in sending them promotional rewards. The areas and scope for a good RM system are clearly shown in Figure 15.3. Customer response and feedback can be stored and can make the management decision and plans even more effective. The introduction of loyalty or membership cards will strengthen the CRM software, enabling them to provide better promotional offers to loyal customers. This will help customize the offers and may provide easier terms and conditions for booking (i.e. providing discounts in booking, etc.).
From the review of different academic literature and case studies in the field of hotel RM, it is evident there is more scope for research in this area. Hotel revenue practices have come a long way in the last two decades and developed a lot as they are used heavily in the hospitality industry. In the case study we have found that many public hotels in Cox’s Bazar are underperforming compared to private hotels. Some of the basic problems that were noticed were due to lesser investment and no modern RM system. To enhance the performance of those hotels, some valuable suggestions are provided, from the perspective of revenue management. Ivanov and Zhechcv (2011) state many big hotels have gone with advance forecasting models, I however believe that the whole hospitality’ industry has to evolve and cope with online distribution and more intelligent approaches through technology’ in order to thrive. Improving and depending on customer database and software technology is imperative in order to make effective loyalty programmes (through loyalty' cards, etc.) or effective pricing. This way companies will greatly’ enhance the functions of revenue management systems, generating more revenue for the company (short and long term), and reduce operational costs and as a result gain more profits at the end.
In conclusion, revenue management in the old school sense cannot provide enough value for hotels. It has to become more of a strategic and tactical tool for revenue managers, other than simply becoming a tool for managing customers efficiently. This chapter has observed that the introduction of loyalty cards into RM, collecting more information from CRM and implementing the ideas in theory and case is possible. Thus, it was found that hoteliers will be able to provide their best services or available rooms to their most profitable customers. Companies will have more control over which customers to give discounts and not giving discounts and so on. Hence in the end of this literature paper a few RM tools for pricing were discussed.
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