For any hotel company, forging operational consistency between numerous properties with separate flags can be a challenging and time-consuming process. But Atlanta-based Hotel Equities created a seamless, cost-effective solution to guide inter-property communications and develop an effective cross-flag sales management procedure to propel its growth.“We are different than many hotel companies,” said Elizabeth Derby, ‘sales coach’ for Hotel Equities. “We have not cut sales people as many operators are doing. Hotel Equities believes in a strong sales effort and we grade ourselves on how well we do compared to our competition in each market. Our properties will have the advantage as other companies reduce staff. Our goal in 2009 is to capture share from competitors and create loyalty. When the economy warms, guests will continue to stay with us.”
Derby analyzes the Smith Travel Research STAR Report weekly to ensure Hotel Equities’ properties are in line with the company mission of holding a RevPAR index above 119 percent in all its markets. She compares the report to information she culls from her company’s hotelSalesPro system, used at each of her hotels, which identifies hotels’ successes and challenges, regardless of flag. On average, Hotel Equities’ hotels receive 127 percent of RevPAR market share, more than double the usual Marriott/Hilton rate.
In 2007 Hotel Equities rolled out its centralized enterprise hotelSalesPro Sales and Catering system from hotelSystemsPro, which tracks all the company’s prospecting, corporate account booking and contract activity by property, region, flag and staff as well as automating each hotel’s banquet and catering operational processes. The system also measures the effectiveness of the company’s sales programs and strategies and analyzes the success of property-level teams tasked with driving sales and executing tactics. The Web-based program seamlessly connects Hotel Equities’ senior management with its 24 properties and franchise partners which include Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental Hotel Group, Starwood, Wyndham, Carlson and Choice Hotels.
“hotelSalesPro is an excellent Sales and Catering system that enables me to direct the sales activity at our properties with many different brands across diverse markets,” said Derby. “No single franchise-based system could do this for a multi-flag operator like Hotel Equities.” The central Web-based sales system will be more important than ever to Hotel Equities in 2009. It plans to open three new hotels in the next quarter while at the same time having 14 more properties under development. The company is also bringing on two new flags: Holiday Inn Express and Courtyard by Marriott.
Derby recognized a Web-based sales and catering software system was a necessity when the company grew beyond its Atlanta headquarters and Southeastern property portfolio. As properties and their sales force expanded into other states, oversight became a bigger challenge for Derby. “Before we had hotelSalesPro, I had no way to see what our sales people were doing each day.”
The system’s flexibility to accommodate different brands, property types and markets makes it a perfect tool to optimize property revenue growth through cross selling and side-by-side performance comparisons. Derby explained, “Because hotelSalesPro is Web-based and security-enabled, I can effectively oversee sales activity for my staff of 18 sales people in five states from any location to support our properties and help them operate up to plan.”
Before installing hotelSalesPro, vital property corporate account information was stored on individual computers, creating problems for Hotel Equities when sales staff changed properties or left the company. Now, Derby can secure all property leads and contacts in one database that protects the information and enables her entire team to use one system for cross selling and simplified training.
“We use hotelSalesPro to track the success of each salesperson and general manager, apply best practices, and identify any actions that might slow performance. Everyone on the corporate executive team carries the title of ‘coach’ and our GMs are the company’s ‘quarterbacks,” Derby said.
Her “sales coach” title is a reflection of the company’s team philosophy, instilled by CEO and sports fan, Fred Cerrone, who was presented with the Hotelier of the Year award at the 2009 HotelWorld Expo & Conference.
As the hospitality industry adjusts to slowing markets with a greater need for increased revenue and staff productivity, operators are turning to Hotel Equities for third party management. Hotel Equities is shifting its strategic emphasis from acquisition to management and development, to supplement its revenue. The company is on track to reach another corporate goal: to grow to 50 hotels by 2010.
“hotelSalesPro is a critical component of Hotel Equities’ growth strategy, and we haven’t even begun to tap into the system’s full potential,” said Derby