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Making ‘Magic’ and Cultivating Success with Hotel Revenue Strategy

by Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA |

A new breed of traveller – the independent, design-savvy millennials – is calling for a new type of hotel experience. They want unique rather than cookie cutter; they want a room with personality rather than a box in a convenient location. They demand a bespoke, personalised service where they feel genuinely welcomed. And they want to pay a price tailored to their wants and needs.

Meeting these demands are small hotel groups, independent properties and boutique havens of luxury.

One such property is the Nira Caledonia in Edinburgh. One of only four hotels to make up the Nira Hotels & Resorts group, the property opened in 2011.

Checking in with @NiraCaledonia’s Chris Lynch to talk #hotel #RevenueStrategy Click To Tweet

Nira Caledonia was crafted from two Georgian buildings on Gloucester Place, an exclusive residence in the heart of Edinburgh. Boasting only 28 unique rooms, the hotel has already been awarded “City Hotel of the Year” by the 2015 Scottish Hotel Awards.

In September 2015, the hotel welcomed a new General Manager. Chris Lynch, a hotelier with a vast wealth of experience working in the Edinburgh market, took the reigns and since then the property has gone from strength to strength.

In July, Nira Caledonia became the first hotel in the city to go live with Duetto.

“My proudest achievement since joining is convincing the CEO to spend the money upon Duetto because the immediate benefits it has brought,” Lynch said. “Most certainly that has been a highlight because of what it has brought to the management of revenue at the hotel.”

We caught up with him to find out more about his decision to take on Duetto, the challenges and idiosyncrasies of working in the Edinburgh market, and his ambitions to bring the Chinese market to the city and his hotel.

Chris Lynch, GM, Nira CaledoniaYou’ve been GM of Nira Edinburgh for 18 months now. What has been your proudest achievement? And what changes have you seen at the property?

We are now into dynamic Open Pricing, whereas historically we were into best available rate (BAR) pricing, whereby we would jump up or down from one BAR level to another. Duetto allows you to gain the happy medium by not necessarily changing your rate up or down one or two BAR levels. Through qualified data, price recommendations and competitor data, you can move £5 up taking advantage of the extra revenue or £5 down, therefore not missing out on £25 of revenue.

The ability to do that very quickly per day, per week, per room type etc. has streamlined our day. Before, it would take a number of hours to take into account competitor pricing, what your inventory was, and figure out demand. Now, Duetto tells you exactly what you have and you can take a very quick and confident overview of the situation.

What was behind your decision to bring Duetto to your property? And how did you champion the change at your property?

As the new guy coming in with fresh ideas I got to ask questions on practice and procedures. A lot of time was being spent on revenue management, but a lot of that time was pulling data and printing reports. It was very time-consuming.

We were looking for something to give us unique flexibility and something based upon looking forward. If you took November or January where sales are slow, it was always a challenge to fill budget. However, with a tool based on market conditions you can present one price at 30% occupancy and then grow that as the demand increases. It’s about filling your bath without entertaining flash sales practitioners or deep discounting, minimising the reliance on OTAs and cultivating your own success. Every pound you sell direct is your pound without having to deduct any commissions.

Duetto allows you to manage your price depending on market condition. At a click of a button you can push prices out to Opera, SiteMinder and all other channels; before that was very time-consuming.

The idea was presented to the CEO, who had a full appraisal of the system and its capability. We put it in cap-ex, and it was fully authorised. The worst-case scenario, it would pay for itself, and best-case scenario, we would see a healthy increase in revenue sales and KPIs.

You have a proud career history of maximising on the financial performance of your properties. What can you tell us about that and what has been your tactic with Nira?

Our tactic is being individual, being different, genuine and effective. In terms of financial performance, that’s selling through fulfilment and not through the hard sell.

Let me ask you: What is the perfect meal out? Two G&Ts, starter, main course, dessert, drinks, coffee? How do you make it perfect? By making sure you have the products to fulfil the guest’s demand. They may want to enjoy white wine with fish and red wine with their main course, but they may not want to drink two bottles of wine. The answer? You sell wine by the glass.

At Nira Caledonia we pride ourselves on having a range of products to match customer expectations. People demand choice and variety, so we offer bespoke packages. And we entice our customers by making our sales and marketing content relevant, fresh and on trend.

We are a unique, Category A-listed Georgian terraced property, offering 28 rooms, all uniquely styled and sized. We do not price rooms individually — we price them on categories. However, each guest experience is unique.

How does running Nira Edinburgh differ from other Edinburgh properties you have worked at?

It’s magic!

I’ve worked for the corporate brands and in big environments. Working at Nira, I have incredible autonomy and with that the ability to do the right thing. I can bring in new ideas, concepts and products without jumping through the hoops or having to go through authorisation in triplicate. I am trusted to do the job — to do an excellent job — and that matches up with my background.

The Edinburgh market is a busy one – with its tourism attractions, fringe and a busy convention calendar. What opportunities and challenges do these present from a revenue management perspective?

The calendar is exceptionally busy. There all sorts of events, from bespoke meetings such as the Comic Cons all the way through to the large medical conferences. Then we have our own big, international events: the month-long festival in August and Hogmanay at New Year’s Eve. Let’s not forget the 6 Nations Rugby calendar. There’s a lot of diversity in there.

From a revenue management perspective it’s about finding the micro market and finding how to maximise your occupancy and revenue for that micro market. It’s about having correct price levels for demand. Duetto shows you this in an instant. Before we didn’t have that information easily to hand, but Duetto pulls information from the entire market, empowering us to make the right decisions.

Due to demand, inventory in Edinburgh is also growing, with 1,000 new rooms added to the city in recent years and more set to come on board. How does that affect your marketing mix?

Edinburgh is a year-round destination. The constant flow of information and study has indicated there is additional demand and, in particular, luxury demand. So the new inventory is a welcome addition. The more people that come into the city drives additional demand, which makes the market more competitive and, at the end of the day, that will lead to better revenue, better ADR and better RevPAR.

The airport is doing a wonderful job of bringing in new routes. Edinburgh is now linked to New York, Chicago, Canada and North America, via Iceland. We also have Etihad and Qatar flying here, so the Middle East, Asia, Australia and New Zealand are all highly accessible, as well as the ever-expanding European routes. It’s a real hot destination. Edinburgh Airport also actively pursues a direct route to China. The Chinese are still a strong tourism market.

Is tapping into the Chinese market something that is on your agenda?

Yes. Things like that are always at the back of the mind. You box up little ideas. China has its own versions of Facebook and Twitter and, as such, it has its own online travel agents, the largest being Ctrip. So this could be a very strong distribution channel if this all comes about.

The Chinese traveller is willing to explore and to try new things. We need to build up our knowledge of the Chinese traveller: What small comforts do they need to remind them of home? Is it noodles for breakfast or a particular type of tea? It’s about being authentic and genuine as well as providing the small touches.

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Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA

Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA

Sarah is contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) for Duetto. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.
Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA

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Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA

Sarah is contributing editor covering Europe, Middle East & Africa (EMEA) for Duetto. An experienced B2B travel industry journalist, Sarah spent 14 years working in the Middle East, most notably as senior editor – hospitality for ITP Publishing Group in Dubai, where she headed up the editorial teams on Hotelier Middle East, Caterer Middle East and Arabian Travel News. Sarah is now based back in the UK.