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‘Luxury For The Curious’ Gives Independents Price Advantage

by Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA |

After 10 years working in revenue management for IHG, Jon Murphy joined the independent Abbey Hotel Bath as Director of Revenue in 2015. Since then, his revenue management career has provided new challenges and opportunities as he works to implement a revenue management solution to support three very different properties in Southwest England.


Jon-MurphyThe Kaleidoscope Collection now consists of the original Abbey Hotel Bath; Villa at Henrietta Park, a five-star boutique hotel in central Bath; and No.15 Great Pulteney – giving Murphy a total of 123 rooms in Bath.

Without the large-scale revenue management teams that come with major chains, Jon turned to Duetto for a solution that provided not only forecasting accuracies, but also the expert support provided by an account management team made up of fellow hotel revenue managers.

I am very lucky to have owners who see the importance of revenue management and they bought into the idea of having a revenue management system to support their properties’ development,” he said.

We caught up with him to find out about transitioning over from a big brand to an independent hotel set up, the challenges of operating three very different properties in a highly competitive market, and the value of selling an emotional experience.

How does revenue management differ across these three properties?

When I first joined we were using different systems at different properties. Now we have everything under the same umbrella. We have one PMS and one RMS across all properties. That means we are able to use the pricing rules for the various room types. We see a big swing between our loft mini doubles from £120 per night versus the junior suite at £500 per night. As a revenue manager, it’s a difficult to get a balance in place. However, now we can price by demand. If we see more demand for the junior suites we can increase the supplements or if not, then we can drop the rates to stay competitive.  

Coming from a chain environment it’s been a learning curve. However, it is great having somebody I can bounce off, like Juan [Ruano, Customer Success Manager for Duetto] who has a revenue head on. As revenue manager of an independent hotel you can feel isolated when making decisions.

There can also be a lot of juggling and its great to know that I have Duetto running in the background if I miss something – its invaluable.

What have been the main changes to your role after moving from a large chain to independent hotels?

Being an independent you tend to have more of a say in the systems you use so picking the right one is vital. Duetto, for example, is a great support tool to assist you in making quick pricing decisions backed up with pricing rules. With this working around the clock you can focus on other areas of the business and may be able to take a holiday without losing too much sleep!

Jon Murphy of @abbeyhotelbath discusses the transition from #RM at a big brand to an… Click To Tweet

With the big chains, people expect the room they book to be exactly the same as what they see online. It’s not always the same for independent hotels – our rooms vary. As a revenue manager, the challenge is getting the balance right between the pricing and the offering.

How does revenue management on a 22-room hotel such as No.15 Great Pulteney differ from revenue management on a 250-room brand hotel?

The fundamentals are the same albeit your segmentation may not be as extensive. You can’t rely on large amounts of base business from corporates and groups, for example. Plus, you are more reliant on the transient market.

The key in a smaller property is not filling too quickly, spotting the movement and reacting to it – especially during higher demand periods.

What are the challenges and benefits of marketing an independent property in a high-demand market such as Bath?

Consumers are looking for something different and even more so these days. People look for the unusual, which is why we are positioning our latest property No.15 Great Pulteney as ‘Luxury for the curious’. It is very quirky in terms of furnishings.

As an independent hotel, we are constantly asking, ‘How do we get people to drive the business through our own website?’ We get a lot of traffic from the OTAs, but we want to drive business direct so we don’t rely on these OTAs quite so much.

PayPal system is one area we are looking at. We see people looking at our website, but then booking via an OTA. What do we do to keep them on our website? We are also looking to grow our CRM systems with pre- and post-stay emails. We can do better. We need to engage with the people when they are here so that they book direct the next time. It’s a challenge.

We are looking for people coming to stay for an emotional experience. We want people to phone us up and say ‘When can you fit us in?’ Bath is a great city with a lot of great hotels, which means that a lot of people are coming to visit the city, not the hotel.

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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.