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AI in hotel revenue management

AI in hotel revenue management: no longer sci-fi

Attila Mátó
Aug 18, 2022 3:13:13 PM

From the very beginning, computers and their systems have required human input to function. The degree of human intervention required is constantly decreasing and changing, but in some form, it is always present – and RMS (Revenue Management System) is no exception.

RMS is tasked with analyzing huge amounts of data and making forecasts based on that data to help revenue managers in their work. Currently, even the most advanced artificial intelligence-based systems can’t think on their own – and that’s okay! – but they can be a huge help to professionals on a day-to-day basis. Let's see how.

What is an RMS?

An RMS (Revenue Management System) is a tool that helps revenue managers to work more efficiently. It has a number of useful features, such as 24-hour price monitoring, speeding up data collection, analyzing data in some cases, making recommendations, and even taking action.

A properly configured system can support the revenue manager’s work in many ways. Its main advantage is that it works 24 hours a day without getting distracted, which can be especially useful for hotel professionals who manage multiple properties. However, the system cannot function effectively without human intervention. Just as an artificial intelligence-based search engine is developed by software engineers, an RMS becomes functional and efficient by processing and understanding the data entered by a revenue manager.

AI in hotel revenue management

Types of RMS

In general, there are two basic types of revenue management systems: rule-based systems and artificial intelligence-based systems. For the time being, the former is still more common, but the number of hotels using AI-controlled systems is constantly increasing.

  • Rule-based systems

A rule-based system is significantly simpler than an AI-based one. Its operation is typically based on a basic algorithm using just a few variables. These variables may include occupancy, competitive prices, the level of market demand, or other basic factors which are usually quantitative in nature.

They usually work on an “if X happens then do Y” basis. For example, if occupancy increases by X percent, the price should increase by Y euros or Z percent. They can be used by almost anyone and require little or no experience in revenue management. Such systems are easy to use, but that simplicity also comes with limited results.

  • AI-based RMSs

With a well-configured artificial intelligence-based RMS, revenue managers have a much more efficient tool to work with. This combined system takes into account all the variables that I mentioned in my article on dynamic pricing – and more. Artificial intelligence responds to change through machine learning. Of course, any machine-based system must be taught and constantly calibrated to assist with and partially take over the work of a well-trained revenue manager.

Hotel revenue management

The need for human intervention

Once the revenue manager has set up an AI-based RMS, it can work quite effectively by following observed market trends and past patterns. Many may think that after a certain amount of time, human inputs become unnecessary. This isn’t true, however.

The dramatic events that have shaken the world and thus the hotel industry over the past few years, notably COVID-19 and then the war in Ukraine, took many unexpected turns and quickly revealed the limits of computer systems as well.

In the hotel where I worked, we had to completely shut down our artificial intelligence-based solution shortly after the COVID-19 outbreak, as we were receiving completely irrelevant recommendations from a system programmed based on past experience. It had no solution to these unexpected circumstances. Of course, not only our property but many other hotels that had used AI successfully in the past found themselves in this situation. Professionals everywhere had to intervene to find solutions to generate new demand, explore new markets, and develop new strategies.

Whether positive or negative, unpredictable events are an inescapable part of life. Because even the best RMS systems base their recommendations on past experience, any unexpected future event will confuse them, forcing revenue managers to shut down the system and take control. Software alone cannot provide the sophisticated predictions and creative ideas that a professional needs, at least for the foreseeable future.

AI in hotel revenue

Final words

There are those who say that RMS will completely take over hotel revenue management and there will no longer be any need for professionals. However, they often confuse revenue management with pricing, two concepts which are certainly not synonymous.

Although pricing can be fully automated in most cases, it is only one part of revenue management. Pricing is the end result of a complex decision-making process – and even if pricing is automated, there is always the possibility of another unexpected event that requires humans to take back control. Therefore, I am convinced that although RMS systems represent the future, they cannot function effectively without skilled revenue managers.

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