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The Value of Understanding ‘Availability is King’

by Sarah McCay Tams, Contributing Editor, EMEA |

An experienced e-commerce and revenue management professional, Markus Veikkolainen has worked in hotel sales and online travel for international chains, local chains, independent hotels, self-service hotels, B&Bs, apartments and more. As revenue and distribution manager at Finland’s Primehotels, he is now concentrating on managing a portfolio of five unique independent properties with direct responsibility over results.

Here Veikkolainen talks to Duetto about managing a unique local portfolio and how it differs from working at Expedia, the launch of the Prime Guest loyalty program, and waiting to see if their flagship property – the Hotel Katajanokka, a converted prison in Helsinki – will win a World Travel Award at the end of this a month.

Checking In With Revenue and Distribution Manager Markus Veikkolainen of Primehotels. Click To Tweet

What new take do you bring to the role of hotel revenue and distribution management?

I am privileged to have had the opportunity to work closely with a wide variety of people and properties, so I’ve been able to pick up all the best practices and come up with my own style of revenue management. My strong e-commerce background also helps us to utilize different online tools and channels in a smart way.

One of the key things is Open Pricing, which is one of the main reasons why we started our partnership with Duetto. With Open Pricing, nothing is set in stone and we are able to yield anything from occupancy supplements to room type supplements.

You manage a portfolio of properties. Is there much room for loyalty pricing between the hotels? How does this work to the benefit of both the business and the guest?

Absolutely there is! Of course it might be challenging to compete with big chains in terms of portfolio but with challenge comes an opportunity, right?

We have just launched our Prime Guest loyalty program, which is unique because it is open to other independent properties as well. This way we can provide even more added value for our guests and independents can better compete against the chains in the field of loyalty.

Loyalty pricing is one of the key elements for us in driving direct business. We want to ensure our loyal guests always get the best rate when booking with us.

You worked for Expedia early in your career. What did that teach you about supply and demand in the travel industry?

Availability is king. This definitely makes sense in many ways and Duetto also supports this mentality. If you don’t have availability you can’t sell. The more availability you have spread around the baskets the more demand you will create and increase your ADR at the same time. Expedia was also a great learning experience to get to know how much the supply and demand varies in different markets, seasonality and even with different type of properties in Finland and abroad.

What did Expedia teach you about the world of e-commerce and how has that influenced your current role?

It has definitely widened my view on sales and marketing in general. At Expedia, I worked closely together with merchandising, SEM, SEO, media solutions and marketing teams. All of the interactions with all the different teams were an opportunity for me to learn how things work in each part of the e-commerce world.

I believe revenue management today is a lot about e-commerce as well. I do e-commerce-related actions on a daily basis. As an example, I am monitoring the conversion of our hotel websites and working together with our marketing team to improve our conversion. It is a great advantage to fully understand how e-commerce works so then you actually know what kind of actions you should be performing together with your marketing team in order to reach your goals. After all, most of the business nowadays is online.

What steps are you taking to make it as easy as possible for your guests to book with you?

I have three top priorities:

  1. The process starts in a traditional way by optimizing availability and rates. Make sure you have the right price at the right time in the right channel.
  2. Make sure your infrastructure and pricing supports your internal teams to sell rooms in the easiest way possible.
  3. Finally comes making it easy for your guests to book. The better you have executed points 1 and 2, the easier it is for your guests to book as well.

What would you say are the unique characteristics of Finland’s hotel market?

The construction and quality standards in Finland are high, which makes the hotel quality good. Quite often a hotel considered as a three-star hotel in Finland is equivalent to a four-star property in Central or Southern Europe.

And of course our surroundings make Finland unique. Even in the biggest cities like Helsinki, the hotel surroundings are filled with fresh air, nature and silence.

What makes the Primehotels collection different? And how do you use that to your advantage when pricing?

We are not a hotel chain but a group of unique independent hotels. We are in the H2H (human to human) business and our most valuable asset is our team. We consider Primehotels as a family and we consider our guests as family as well. We meet and greet our guests just like one would welcome someone to one’s home.

We are on the cutting edge with technological advancements but our goal is to use technology to give our team more time to spend with our guests. We are not replacing our team members with machines.

When we take care of our team we will be able to provide the best possible service for our guests. Great service results in amazing experiences, which will improve our online reputation and help increase ADR and revenue in the long run. More importantly, we will decrease the cost of acquisition by encouraging loyal guests to book directly with us, and increase ancillary revenues when they take advantage of the other services offered by our partners and ourselves.

Hotel Katajanokka, Finland has been nominated for Europe’s Leading Boutique Hotel 2017 in the 24th annual World Travel Awards. What would be mean to the hotel and Primehotels group to win this award?

This is our first WTA nomination and it would mean a lot to the whole team. Hotel Katajanokka has been known for the excellent service for years now. In 2016, we were recognized as the Finland’s Best Design Hotel in the World Luxury Hotel Awards. In the beginning of 2017 we renovated our interior fully, so now we are in a top shape.

What makes the Hotel Katajanokka unique?

The people. We have the best team with the most heart-warming service in the industry at Hotel Katajanokka.

Also, Hotel Katajanokka is a former prison transformed into a design hotel so the thick walls outside makes Hotel Katajanokka probably the most peaceful hotel in Helsinki city centre.

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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.