The 2014 Wisconsin Lodging Conference aka WH&LA Annual Meeting Conference and Trade Show was packed with excellent speakers and provided ample time for industry members to meet to compare their experiences and find answers to their questions. Below I’ve complied a list of what I thought the key takeaways were from the show.
Stephanie Klett, Secretary of Tourism for the State of Wisconsin
Stephanie’s presentation was one of the most dynamic sessions of the convention. She is an energetic, enthusiastic cheerleader for all things Wisconsin Tourism. Her insights and experience provided lodging professionals with a review on where tourism in Wisconsin ranks nationwide and perspective on the contributions and responsibilities of statewide lodging properties.
1. Seek out features in magazine articles – 28% of lodging inquiries lead from magazine articles.
2. TravelWisconsin.com will be featuring a travel writer promotion, where lodging properties can invite a travel writer to visit their properties overnight (at no charge) and the writer will write about their experience.
3. Without the contributions from the hospitality industry, Wisconsin taxpayers would pay an additional $590 per household in extra taxes.
Steve Tyink, V.P., Myron Construction (previously Bergstrom Hotel Group)
Another great speaker, Steve entered the stage with a bang driving home the perspective our guests are likely to experience when making choices in lodging. Will your guests’ experiences fall into the category of 1-forgettable (70%), 2-horrible (20%) or 3-memorable (10%)? He brought a new awareness to lodging members to pay attention to the customer experience and create experiences that are pleasantly memorable.
1. “Customers are clue detectives” Learn to look through their eyes. What is their experience telling them?
2. ‘Reinvent the experience’ as explained by Steve referring to the book “The Orange Code” about ING’s revolutionary approach to the banking industry.
Data Security Panel Discussion
Moderated by Bob Dove of Bridgewood Resort in Neenah
Panelists- Don Schultz of Infratactix, Tony Jalan of Heartland, Tom Haase of Frontstream
Tuesday morning brought a lively discussion on data security. No matter the size of the company, vulnerabilities are being discovered daily. Lodging managers should pay particular attention to details like what is being written down and left on check-in counters or other public places for potential thieves to find. Today’s technology with cell phones makes is easy for a casual photo to be taken of password lists, post-it notes with guest credit cards and other sensitive info. All without the desk person even becoming aware.
1. Visit PCISecurityStandards.org to educate yourself and find self-assessments
2. New EMV and NFC technologies are coming out and will ensure a higher level of security. The rollout nationwide will be slow and gradual as equipment upgrade contracts come due and equipment is available. Owners will be responsible for non-compliant transactions starting Jan 1, 2015.
3. Use some of the password applications that store all your passwords securely (I recommended LastPass.com, which is free or $12 per year to integrate with all devices).
4. Teach your staff to be on guard with phone calls asking for specific information with offers to ‘help’, ‘reset broken systems’ etc.
Effective Revenue Management
Moderated by Lalia Rach, Associate Dean of the College of Management and Director of the School of Hospitality Leadership at UW-Stout & founder and partner of Rach Enterprises.
Panelists- Brian Burton of Marcus Hotels, Sean Skellie of IDM Hospitality Management, Dave Phaneuf, Wisco Hotel Group
An absolute favorite speaker of lodging members, Dr. Lalia Rach started the session with a brief overview of the importance of generational trends, new demands and effective revenue management. Her message “work smarter, not harder” by embracing the opportunities for better ROI through revenue management. The panelists provided a great discussion and sound advice on ways to maximize revenues for lodging properties large and small. So many, in fact, that I’ll just list many of them as ‘key takeaways’.
1. Put most simply- Revenue Management is finding the proper customer for the right day for the right segment at the right price.
2. Analyze who is staying and bring in the most profitable guest.
3. Revenue Management is something lodging managers often do without realizing it. For example, 3-5 day packages, mid-week specials, etc. bring in revenue on low demand days and/or maximize the opportunity by upselling longer periods of time or offering something of higher value to the guest.
4. Front desk staff should be questioned periodically to find guest insights on rate resistance, experience and other issues that give insights in rate management.
5. Other opportunities could be offering different room styles for different demographics, advance payment options, non-refundable discounted specials. If you give something, you should get something in return such as better terms or the ability to upsell.
It was a great conference with great speakers, moderators and audience members. The opportunity to interact with other professionals in lodging is one of the strongest reasons to attend. The resources brought by the WH&LA team were significant to any lodging owner or professional in Wisconsin. If you are not already a member of the WH&LA, I highly recommend it. It is a cost effective solution to first-hand industry knowledge and networking.
Have questions? Drop me an email or give me a call.