In an exclusive interview with Robert Holland FIH, Managing Director UK & Ireland at HotelPartner, we learn about his experience in the hospitality market and his standpoint on the current industry trends using the knowledge of the brand’s partners across Europe.

Please introduce yourself and tell us about your expertise in the hospitality market. 

I’ve been the Managing Director for HotelPartner in the English-Speaking markets since 2017, but my career in hospitality started long before that. In 1989, I got my first job at the Hilton International in Strasbourg, my training then took me across Europe with summer stints at Cornell University in upstate New York. Hotels, Contract Catering and Restaurants were some of the hospitality roles that followed. Prior to joining HotelPartner, I was responsible for a small cluster of hotels in central London. During this time, I developed a deep understanding of the unique demands and intricacies of independent hotels. As part of a small team, we needed to identify market trends, create innovative marketing strategies, and optimise our operational efficiency.

What are the current challenges presented to hoteliers in terms of revenue management and distribution?

Like in many other areas of hospitality, a key challenge is clearly recruitment of qualified talents. At my own hotel, when my Revenue Manager of seven years gave her notice, I struggled to recruit a replacement and when I did, it took her a while to understand our market and position. The world of distribution is constantly changing, with OTA’s offering countless promotions to consider, new routes to market focussing on different audiences and fluctuating commissions. In an independent hotel, the revenue manager often has the responsibility of taking reservations and calls, perhaps carrying out the occasional duty management shift and also the requirement to train their team, as well as attending hotel management meetings. Revenue management in a busy environment and needs constant monitoring and cannot be dipped in and out of and that’s why I believe that managed automation is essential. But with so many pricing and revenue management systems available, the choice can be overwhelming for hoteliers with many factors to consider, such as how often they update the prices, if the suggested restrictions make sense or if the systems can be managed by channel, to avoid unnecessary commissions. Adding to all that, is learning how to work with and keeping up to date with these systems, all of which is a rather time-consuming task!

With over 500 partners across Europe, creating invaluable knowledge on the market, what changing trends have you noticed?

Notably, we’ve observed a surge in personalised guest experiences driven by advanced technologies, reflecting guests’ desire for tailored stays. The shift towards sustainable practices is also prominent, with guests showing increased preference for eco-friendly accommodations and services. The rise of online platforms and social media has transformed how to approach distribution and marketing strategies, emphasising visual storytelling and user-generated content.

Since the pandemic, we have noticed an increase in last-minute travellers, with the average booking time moving more and more towards the month of the arrival. Therefore, flexible booking options have gained traction, providing guests with greater control over their reservations. These trends underscore the necessity for hotels to remain adaptable, technologically adept, and environmentally conscious to meet the evolving preferences of today’s travellers.

What shifts do you predict to see in the hospitality industry in the coming years, and how can HotelPartner help hoteliers navigate this?

As the hospitality industry evolves, revenue management is becoming more integrated with other disciplines, including marketing, sales, and distribution. It is becoming essential that revenue managers work more closely with marketing teams to develop pricing strategies that align with the hotel’s overall marketing goals. They may also collaborate with sales teams to develop targeted promotions and discounts. Without a deep comprehension of sales and marketing, the marketing funnel, the scale up and down of advertising, this partnership will never flourish. Many hoteliers that share this view of revenue management are transitioning the role to that of a commercial manager with responsibility for revenue, sales and marketing, recognising that these disciplines must work together to be most effective. Within this framework, specialists can look after individual areas and third parties such as HotelPartner can be left to manage daily pricing and distribution changes.