Lakota is the Area Director of Revenue Management for Hyatt Regency Boston, Hyatt Regency Cambridge, and Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor. She has led revenue management for DoubleTree, Hilton, and Hyatt properties over the last 14 years and received several accolades, including the Hyatt Revenue Management Leadership award. Lakota is a Boston native. She enjoys spending time with her husband and kids along with her dog Sugar.
What brought you into the hotel industry?
After college I took some personality tests to see what those might lead me to, and they revealed that I really enjoy working with different kinds of people. I always felt that I was an introvert and started my career in operations in the front office. At the time, revenue management was really starting to pick up, and become its own department. I found it fascinating how you can work with numbers and make changes every day that would impact the revenue for the hotel. I had the opportunity to go into revenue management as an analyst and never looked back – loved it and still do.
What is your favorite and least favorite thing about it?
My favorite thing is that it’s always changing. There is never a dull moment and there are frequently major strategy changes that need to happen so you can never get too complacent. I love that because it keeps you so engaged in your job. I also love that I am able to help people grow in the revenue management field. Many people are interested in it but think they don’t have the skills for it. I like to educate people at the front office or in sales on how revenue management can work with their role – and that opens their eyes to the other possibilities in their career path.
My least favorite thing is that the industry never closes. Everyone doesn’t go home at 9 o’clock. There’s never a time you turn-off your brain from work. That’s one thing I’m a bit envious of my friends in other industries.
Best hotel you ever stayed at?
It’s actually a Hyatt [laughs]. The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in the Bahamas. It’s on Nassau and my family and I have been there three times. We just love it. It’s very luxurious and has eight pools and nightlife and beautiful Caribbean views.
What’s an interesting fact or hobby about yourself outside of revenue management?
I love to challenge myself and do things that scare me. In the past few years, I’ve run three half marathons, completed a Tough Mudder, rappelled 25 stories down the side of a hotel, white-water rafted in the Rocky Mountains, and gone hot air ballooning. Every year I try to find something new to challenge myself.
How long have you been in Boston?
I am a native Bostonian. I have worked in hotels outside of Boston (Green Bay, Connecticut, and Upper State New York) but still while based in Boston.
What is unique about this industry in Boston?
It’s very much like a small town in the hotel industry. There’s 90 hotels in downtown Boston and the airport, but it’s very common to know people at multiple hotels and have connections and a network throughout the city. You have an understanding of what’s going on in the market because everybody knows each other and worked together at some point. That’s due to it being a condensed market and often when people come to Boston, they love it and stay. There’s a wealth of knowledge out there because people have been here so long.
What do you like about the market?
I appreciate the demand is very strong and the market is dynamic – so while we have peaks and valleys – very strong Springs, Summers, and Falls – there’s still enough people traveling and at our airport that even in February it’s not a ghost town and there are things you can do in your strategy to get occupancy levels up. For example, Hyatt Regency Boston last January—when it was 5 degrees outside, our occupancy was 96%. There’s opportunity, you just have to think ahead to pull it in.
If someone were moving to Boston for hotel revenue management, what advice would you give them?
Everyone knows each other so you should definitely take the opportunity to get out and meet your counterparts at the other hotels. Whether that’s at an Expedia networking event or others – get to know them. You can get so much information by talking to one another about what’s going on. You’ll hear generally if others are up or down, or upcoming renovations, etc. Be fun and open, and that will encourage others to do the same for you. Once you get in, you’re there.
Are there concerns about the development happening in the Seaport area with new properties and businesses?
Definitely. Every new hotel that opens, you can feel it ever so slightly. Many are concerned about the Omni opening in 2021. Everyone has been closely watching the Encore opening – not sure how strong the demand pull would be. It’s been peak season since their opening, so no pull yet, but Winter is coming…
As a local, what do you like about the The Hub?
The neighborhoods and walkability. You’re able to easily walk from one neighborhood to another. There’s always something fun happening and new restaurants and breweries opening – I love the beer scene in Boston.
As we’re wrapping up Q3, how did the industry do? Any surprises?
In Boston we saw a lot of growth, but quite a few people were surprised at how soft the end of August was. Often we see big numbers for college move-in, continued leisure demand, and smaller city-wide activities but that was down this year. July was strong and September is expected to be as well.
How do holidays impact the Boston market?
Winter holidays are very soft – Summer holidays are very strong. There are also many international visitors for college opening and move-in weekends.
Any tips for how to thrive in Q4?
Planning ahead is key. Identify your soft dates and build a base – Hotwire is a great partner for this. Work directly with your market manager for the right pricing strategy on that. It doesn’t always have to be as low as you think!
What industry topics/trends are you following?
I’m really interested in ways to sell ancillary products and after booking add-ons for amenities or room type upgrades. These smaller revenue sources really can add up.
How can hotels stay relevant to the customer?
Identify your hotel’s story and customer instead of trying to catch everyone. We find success in listening to what our customers want and selling that need. Sometimes customers say “I want a big room” but if you can dig deeper and find out why they want a big room, or what their small preferences are, you can really make a big impact and cater to those. Our philosophy is to care for someone so they can be their best. And by identifying their wants, you can then show that care.
When should hotels use Hotwire?
It might be the reaction of a revenue manager to use Hotwire in the short-term. In my experience, if you do load it further out, you can control it and see where there’s pick-up so you can identify where there’s some incremental demand you might not know of otherwise. If you set-up some base further-out, you also might be stealing share from a competitor who hasn’t thought that far-out. So short, AND long-term business!
What’s do you like about Hotwire?
Hotwire is my preferred opaque vendor. It gives me what I need and my relationship with the market manager makes it easy to use it. I love the weekly mails I get from my market manager on what the pricing is across all stars and neighborhoods – it’s very helpful for me to know what to price at.