Hospitality Financial Leadership - Recording Average Length of Stay
January 15, 2018 12:11pm
The one thing I see time and time again with clients is just how poorly their financial statements are set up. The statements almost always lack basic information that is readily available and is critical information for maximizing profitability: poor design and missing features. If they were a car, I would want to call them a Lada. My apologies to any Russian readers.
The flip side of this challenge is all the information that is needed to fix this reporting problem is at your fingertips. No new software is required. No real investment. Your team just needs to use what they already have and put it to work.
Typical stumbling blocks to creating better more useful reporting are twofold
Before I get into the two areas that typically hold us back from creating better reporting, let us remind ourselves why we are interested in having good and complete financials at our hotels. The reason we want to have great financial statements is that we want to use these instruments to make better decisions today for tomorrow’s financial performance. If you cannot see the results of a certain critical aspect of your business, then how are you ever going to improve it? How will that ever translate into increased efficiency and profits? It always comes down to this simple reality: What you can’t see you can’t measure. What you can’t measure, you can’t improve.
Imagine if you drove a car without a speedometer, and you kept getting speeding tickets…. The financial statement at your hotel is exactly the same.
If it is not hooked up and working properly you have no idea how fast you are really going. Or better still, how fast you could be going.
Back to the two stumbling blocks
The hotel business is more like the art world than real hardcore business. At least that is my take on it over the last 35 years. What I mean by that is most of our senior operational leaders are not financial people.
The second stumbling block is the somewhat typical financial leader who is not really interested in making their day or their job any more elongated or complicated: The fewer interruptions the better.
Why? Why is this the case more often than not? Again, I am not trying to paint the entire field of hotel financial leaders with the same brush. I am trying to make the point that most will not take it upon themselves to add financial statement features, or reporting statistics with an eye to having the best financial statements.
Why is this the case? Well, I think it comes down to two elements: One, they usually have the attitude that operations people do not know what they need when it comes to the financials. Two, it is in their mind that it is just way too much work to stop the machine, pull out the gears, insert the new gizmo feature, re-boot and see what comes out the other end in the form of a change to the financials.
In most hotels, it takes an act of Congress to make changes to the financial statements. Paramount to parting the Black Sea, it seems. But it does not need to be this way and it is certainly not complicated or expensive to make this happen. It is what I call evolution. We never really stand still. We are either hopefully moving ahead or we find ourselves silently moving backward.
Back to the title of this piece: Recording average length of stay
Why would you want to have this in your financial statements? What purpose would it serve and exactly how do you calculate this statistic?
The reason why you want to know the average length of stay for your hotel as a whole—and let’s take it one step further, by major market segment—is to understand your different customers, their stay behavior and to ultimately maximize the average length of stay. Fewer arrivals and longer stays equal lots of good things for your hotel operation and profit.
Don’t forget for a moment that the hotel business is a game of inches. There is no holy grail waiting to be discovered that will save your way to prosperity. We are a high-volume transaction-based retail business. If your hotel has 250 rooms and you run 75 percent occupancy, you sell 69,000 rooms each year. How can you save just a little on each item on my list times 69,000? That is a nice number. Flip it around and ask how much inefficiency you can create and multiply that by the same number. That is kinda scary.
Calculating the average length of stay could not be much more straightforward. You only need two numbers: room nights and arrivals. In this example last month, the hotel had 8,900 room nights (rooms sold) and 5,500 arrivals. Both numbers are readily available from your property management system or, heaven forbid, your daily reports. Just dig a little and you will find it.
(8900/5500) = 1.62 nights as the average length of stay for the entire hotel last month.
If understanding and maximizing the average length of stay is important to you then you will want to take it one step further and measure it by major market segment. In this example, we will use just three major segments. In your hotel, it might look different: tours, crew, sports teams, etc. If it does just pull the numbers apart so you can isolate the activity in the segment you want to measure.
Including these statistics on financial statements is rather straightforward. You create a stat account in each department of your general ledger and an overall stat plug to zero out the P&L effect. If you do not know what this means, ask your financial leader. If they do not know or say they do not know, then get some help. Having these numbers magically appear on your financials requires a mildly skilled person to go under the hood and add the formula to your reporting application.
Again, ask your finance person to just get it done!
You will also want these stats in your daily reporting, so you can see in the month how things are developing. Another key aspect is including this information with your rooms forecast. This provides your operations people valuable information for their expense and labor forecasting.
The last and equally important aspect of capturing the average length of stay by customer segment is how it should affect your marketing and sales plan.
These questions lack a definitive black and white answer. However, your ability to answer the questions better will be greatly enhanced with reporting on the average length of stay by segment in your hotel.
What are you waiting for?
Unlocking this information in your hotel is this simple. Go on, and get on with it already!
Tags: david lund,
hospitality financial leadership,
length of stay
David Lund is The Hotel Financial Coach, an international hospitality financial leadership pioneer. He has held positions as a Regional Financial Controller, Corporate Director and Hotel Manager with Fairmont Hotels for over 30 years.
He authored an award-winning workshop on Hospitality Financial Leadership and has delivered it to hundreds of hotel managers and leaders. David coach’s hospitality executives and delivers his Financial Leadership Workshops throughout the world, helping hotels, owners and brands increase profits and build financially engaged leadership teams.
David speaks at hospitality company meetings, associations and he has had several financial leadership articles published in hotel trade magazines and he is the author of two books on Hospitality Financial Leadership. David is a Certified Hotel Accounting Executive through HFTP and a Certified Professional Coach with CTI.
Contact: David Lund
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