1 HM: Looking into your crystal ball, how will the hotel industry fare in 2014?
PB: My view is consistent with the consensus of analysts predicting mid-single digit RevPAR growth across the industry.
2 HM: What should hoteliers look out for in 2014?
PB: What people need to watch is whether the costs of acquiring customers and bookings continues to skyrocket. The recent HAMA-Kalibri Labs study indicating that third-party commissions are growing at two to three times revenue is alarming and unsustainable and yet few companies are focused on watching net revenue rather than just gross revenue.
3 HM: Most pundits are predicting healthy growth for the industry over the next three years, but what out there (government or otherwise) has the possibility to upset this optimism?
PB: Market observers rarely predict the timing of shifts in economic cycles so there is always some downside risk to these predictions. As for catalysts, the typical risks are always in play from government shutdowns, to terrorism, wars, regional financial collapses that spread, etc. The growth in customer acquisition costs is a growing threat to the profitability of the industry over this time period. In the New York City market, acquisition costs are reported to be running as high as 40 percent of revenue and this is probably common in many other markets too.
4 HM: Technology and social media play major roles in the hospitality industry today. What is your company doing on those fronts to stay ahead of the curve?
PB: Technology is central to everything we do to leverage big data analytics to arm hoteliers with actionable intelligence to optimize their demand and acquire new customers profitably. Social media data, along with web shopping data, airline ticket sales, weather forecasts and macroeconomic indicators is central to our strategy of providing hotel revenue directors and other hotel executives with customer-facing data to drive smart decisions.
5 HM: As you lay your head down on December 31, what will your perfect industry dream be?
PB: I dream of a hotel industry that takes back control of its pricing and distribution so that our hotel owners and operators thrive.