Automated Forecasting and Budgeting Gives Operators and Owners Tools to Effectively Optimize Profitability
September 6, 2016 – The hospitality industry is expanding rapidly. Hotel companies break ground on new build projects every week. Many operators are renovating older properties and reopening them as new brands from Marriott, Hilton, IHG and others. This expansion is based on investor capital; and investors demand a return. How do management companies deliver this return? Profitability.
“Forecasts provide extended vision to anticipate financial results on both top and bottom line, enabling hotel operators to make operational adjustments,” says Chief Information Officer for Concord Hospitality Brian Cornell. “Owners have a heightened expectation that technologically sophisticated, high performing operators have the awareness, tools and resources to aggressively target additional top-line revenue opportunities if a shortfall is anticipated. They also expect operators to proactively manage operational expenses and labor costs to protect profit flow-through.” Concord operates more than 90 properties that include Marriott, Starwood, Hyatt, Choice, IHG, and Hilton brands for multiple ownership entities. Concord Hospitality uses the Targetvue Hotel Forecasting and Budgeting Solution from Aptech Computer Systems.
Highpointe Hotel Corporation operates 15 flagged properties with two under construction. “Creating forecasts for multiple properties is a complex process. In the past Highpointe used Excel to manually build forecasts, but we were not satisfied with the process,” said Mark T. Pate, Sr, assistant controller/IT director of Highpointe Hotel Corporation. “We automated our hotel forecasting and budget processes a year ago when one of our ownership groups required line item hotel forecasting, which we felt was impossible with Excel spreadsheets. They also wanted to know where the hotel would finish its year at any point in time on a line-by-line basis. Again, this is nearly impossible to keep current with a spreadsheet. We do this today with an automated hotel forecasting system that lets us manage by the numbers to optimize profitability. It also delivers the reporting our owners want.” Highpointe Hotel Corporation also makes use of the Targetvue Forecasting and Budgeting Solution from Aptech.
Accurate, continuously updated forecasts are essential to optimizing operations for owner profitability. Concord uses its forecasting system to generate ‘business drivers’ as an operations roadmap. “A driver is a specific measurement we create in Targetvue, such as percentage of revenue from a market segment or the number of housekeeping hours per room,” said Cornell. “For example, we use the cost of per-occupied-room expenses as a driver. Our system automatically applies the updated topline forecast against the driver’s actual expenses. The system self-maintains the strategy we establish and reports daily. This enables us to manage a property effectively to plan. Our ability to forecast with Targetvue is much better and our ‘crystal ball’ is much larger. We see further out more accurately.”
Accurate forecasting also demonstrates value with its impact on revenue generation. “When a property has a continuous performance-based forecast for the coming period it can adjust rates and marketing to meet revenue requirements,” said Jill Wilder, Aptech vice president. “By refining rates and offering promotions an operator can increase occupancy and overall revenue for a better finish to the fiscal year.”
The value of forecasting is in more than accuracy. An automated forecast that gets daily updated performance data from property operations is like a continuous ‘pulse meter’ that compares actuals against plan. This ‘living’ forecast projects today’s numbers into the future. This gives operators the ability to manage a business to plan day by day for the greatest profitability. “With an automated forecasting and budgeting system like Targetvue, the numbers come in each night and the system projects how each period’s performance will compare to plan,” said Wilder. “This information enables managers to quickly adjust daily operations and processes without waiting to month end.”
Many operators also use Targetvue to compare current period and forecast to the same period last year. “The ability to compare the current forecast with the same time last year is valuable because operators can easily see trends that created last year’s performance,” Wilder said. “Imagine if your forecast dictates a certain ADR is required to meet plan, but this time last year occupancy trended downward. An experienced manager might meet with his or her revenue manager and sales team to adjust rates, create short term promotions, or call group prospects to generate business. A comprehensive forecasting system will include last year’s line item metrics for specific market segment performance. This also gives the sales team guidance on which markets have the highest revenue potential.”
The operational value of automated forecasting is equally clear. Pate at Highpointe said, “Our team was not able to efficiently create solid forecasts for all its properties. With Targetvue, property budgets reside on our server and are accessed by property managers online. We have greater confidence in our numbers because the formulas are secure and cannot be overwritten.” Now each Highpointe property works on its own forecast and is easily reviewed by the corporate executive staff. “Besides being more efficient and more accurate, there is ‘one version of the truth.’ The result is that our managers have current, more accurate forecasts on which to base their business strategy.”
In addition to profitability, owners also want timely accurate forecast on which to base their investment plans and cash flow. “Forecast accuracy is key for Concord to manage owner expectations,” said Concord’s Brian Cornell. “Our owners receive forecasting reports in addition to their financial reports. Targetvue’s reports are flexible and let us customize information for each customer who receives the information. Automated budgeting combined with our business intelligence system gives us the ability to provide daily hotel forecasting that helps property ownership see further ahead and plan more accurately for the future.”