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COVID warped the hotel market. Here are four ways Radisson Hotel Group Americas adapted to a new reality.

Using Oracle Hospitality’s OPERA Property Management and Oracle’s Nor1 upsell solutions, the global hotel enterprise improves the bottom line and delights customers.


By Margaret Lindquist | September 2021

As the hospitality industry emerges from the global pandemic, Jennifer Schneider, vice president of revenue optimization for Radisson Hotel Group Americas, has one piece of advice.

“Don’t expect everything to be the same.”

Hotels are struggling to hire qualified staff. Supply chain issues plague the industry, from shipping containers getting stuck at ports to manufacturing slowdowns affecting the supply of linens and textiles from India. “We have to set guest expectations before they arrive,” says Schneider. “And we have to tell them why things aren't the same.”

Despite the challenges of the past year and a half, the global hotel enterprise is coming out of the pandemic strong, with 16 new properties or property conversions in the first four months of 2021 alone. To attract and retain new customers, Schneider balances room rates, discounts, and service. “The demand is back,” says Schneider. “We want to be sensitive to cost concerns for our customers, but we don’t want to leave money on the table.”

Here are four business insights company leaders are following as Radisson recovers from the pandemic.

Insight #1: New travel patterns bring new business practices

After a year of pandemic restrictions, the hotel group’s leaders were apprehensive at the start of 2021, but business picked up unexpectedly. “We needed to ask, ‘Who's out there? Who's traveling?’ We have to understand that,” says Schneider. “Nor1’s CheckIn Merchandising helped us enhance our analytics to make it easier for us to get the data and slice and dice it. We know much more than we did previously.”

For example, during January, when business spiked unexpectedly, Schneider’s team had the data to understand the root causes, as the vaccination program started and pandemic restrictions eased in some states—and, even more importantly, get a granular view of hotel activity. “We didn't make these broad strategy decisions,” says Schneider. “It was very state by state—we knew where it was coming back and why.”

 

“We want to pull in all those analytics and all that data and be able to easily provide that to our hotels so that they can spend more time with guests and create those experiences so that they come back.”

Jennifer Schneider, Vice President of Revenue Optimization, Radisson Hotel Group Americas

Radisson Hotel Group Americas started using Nor1 CheckIn Merchandising and eStandby Upgrade products and Oracle Hospitality OPERA Property Management prior to Oracle’s acquisition of Nor1, working with two separate teams from the two companies. With the acquisition, the combined products now offer real-time access to inventory information and automation of the entire guest process from booking through the guest stay.

Insight #2: Customer expectations are rising

In 2020, as business travel came to a virtual standstill, a popular Radisson amenity was the mansion room, on a floor converted from an executive lounge floor.

“The 13th floor is our upgraded floor, upgraded furnishings, and it sat empty,” says Tee Phan, director of guest services for the Radisson Blu at the Mall of America in Minnesota. Phan realized that her team needed to get creative. “So I said, ‘There's got to be people who just want to be on the highest floor with upgraded furnishings. Let's sell it at a cost and see what happens.’ Guess what our number one is in quantity of upsells now? It’s the 13th floor.”

Creating the mansion offerings was a stroke of ingenuity, but keeping them going meant understanding the customer mindset. Not just a revenue enhancement tool, Nor1 CheckIn Merchandising also improves the guest experience. “We're about providing memorable moments, and I think using the CheckIn Merchandising software helps us provide those moments,” says Steven Dickey, director of commercial strategy and analytics for Radisson Hotel Group Americas.

Radisson

Radisson Blu Mall of America’s Fort Blu kids camping package includes books, s’mores, and a pup tent to sleep in.

Overall among Nor1 customers, according to Oracle Nor1 Vice President Jason Bryant, since the pandemic started, guests’ willingness to pay for upgrades has increased by 10%, partly because they weren’t able to spend as much time outside of their rooms as usual.

Insight #3: For successful promotions, timing is everything

Schneider says that analytics were what really drove her team’s day-to-day activities in 2020, and they’ll only become more valuable in the months to come. There are 185 Radisson Hotel Group Americas properties on eStandby, a Nor1 product that offers upgrades to guests on a standby basis during pre-arrival, either on the booking engine or in a confirmation or pre-stay email. “The product automates the process of offering customers an option that they won’t know they got until they arrive,” says Phan. “It added a new opportunity without taking any employee time.”

Radisson Hotel Group Americas has made eStandby mandatory for every hotel that joins its family, and strongly encourages all hotels to start using CheckIn Merchandising. “We want to pull in all those analytics and all that data and be able to easily provide that to our hotels so that they can spend more time with guests and create those experiences so that they come back,” says Schneider. “We're trying to support as much as possible through technology.”

The analytics delivered by the Nor1 software helped create a bright moment for Radisson Hotel Group Americas executives during the darkest days of the pandemic. “There was a time where there really wasn't too much good news,” says Schneider. “One Friday I sent our executive leadership team a note on our Nor1 results, and I said, ‘I think everyone needs some good news today.’”

Insight #4: The front desk is a source of intelligence

For Phan, CheckIn Merchandising has greatly reduced manual tasks for her front desk and call center staff by automating the process of identifying upsell opportunities. “The automation between CheckIn Merchandising and OPERA—just them talking to each other—that eliminates a whole step for the front desk agent,” says Phan.

Melissa Tashiro, one of Phan’s most successful customer agents, uses the information she gets from CheckIn Merchandising to take part in friendly competitions with agents at the lobby desk. She can see in the Nor1 interface how other agents are doing and she’ll reach out to encourage them. “I always play with the kids out there,” says Tashiro. “Look, I'm here. Catch up with me. We can do this. Come on, let’s go!”

Dickey says that it’s easy to train staff on CheckIn Merchandising and many individual properties are seeing success within the first month, with 5% to 7% of all guests accepting an upgrade offer. Phan is using the analytics capabilities to generate reports in less than a quarter of the time it used to take—from 3 hours to fewer than 30 minutes—and spend more time looking at analytics because the data is so easy to access. “On the reporting side it’s a dream,” says Phan.

The essence of hospitality stays the same

For Nor1’s Bryant, upsell offers are opportunities to give guests more of the unique, personal experiences they want from a hotel stay. For Schneider, the Nor1/OPERA combination gives her vital real-time awareness of the market.

“Whether we're in a pandemic, or in a season where there's tremendous amount of demand and/or recovery, we still have to make sure that our strategy is on point for the current market, and that we’re marketing the right message.”

Photography: Courtesy of Radisson Hotel Group Americas

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist

Margaret Lindquist is a senior director and writer at Oracle.