Lara is a 30 year Hospitality industry veteran and Revenue Management Executive.
Lara’s experience includes brand expertise and certifications with Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood, IHG and Choice Hotels, as well as luxury independent, select service and full service hotels throughout the United States, Canada and the Caribbean.
When Lara is not trying to gain share and solve the Revenue Management puzzle she is a passionate fan of all professional New York sports teams.
How did you get into Revenue Management?
I worked for a restaurant connected to a hotel in college. Learning F&B management, and getting involved in operations was very interesting. A VP of Operations asked if I was interested in learning to work the front desk. It took off from there and I never looked back.
As front desks became computerized I was able to get training and learn how these inventory systems could work together. There weren’t many hotels in the area and I realized I could charge more on a sunny February Saturday in Florida – when it’s minus 10 degrees up North. It made sense – the airlines were already doing it, why aren’t we? Printed rates were pigeonholing us.
I then became an AGM and then GM of a property. I had some great success with a hotel that implemented rates based on demand. It was one of our most successful seasons. My company let me spearhead creating our own revenue management system which I loved. The puzzle of finding how to make the most revenue excites me.
Is it more complex today?
There’s a lot more data. The challenge is data overload – if you don’t understand what you’re looking at, you can make mistakes. More pressure is applied. I enjoy it – the more data-hungry I am, the more potential revenue my properties have to make. It’s all about forecasting and leveraging intuitive revenue systems and reporting game-changers like Demand360.
It’s not the only reason we’re successful, but these tools help.
How do you navigate big data?
You can easily get lost in the data. You can dice up these reports and spend forever looking. We don’t have that time, so you need to prioritize hotels in need, but also hotels that had more opportunity than expected. It can be overwhelming for sure, but it pays off.
Do you enjoy travel?
I do love travel. I just got back from Norway (where my Dad’s family is from). My absolute favorite place is Florence Italy. Nicest place in world. 1. The wine 2. The food 3. The people are so welcoming. The scenery, history, and art are amazing. You HAVE to go.
2017 was full of surprises, how can hotels prepare for 2018?
Q1 is a continuation of Q4. Q4 was impacted by natural disasters. However, some of our Q4 performance had to do with us being future-forward thinkers and leveraging intelligent data.
We are aggressively pricing and setting strategies now for up to 18 months in advance to try and price correctly. If we continue to see good growth, we can make adjustments and potentially do just as well.
It’s really about keeping a finger on the pulse and paying attention to need periods. Your need periods aren’t necessarily slow periods. They might be shoulder dates or against the comp set. We factor in how the comp set is doing. Having that knowledge in advance allows us to set strategies smartly, and it’s paying off.
Have future conversations further out. The data is available to you. If you’re just using historical data – you’ll leave money on the table. Look at it well in advance; before your booking window. See what’s available to you and utilize it. There’s many competitors that are.
How do you decide when you use Hotwire?
There is so much information you give us in advance (what’s going on in the market and neighborhoods) that if it’s the missing piece for one of our hotels getting to our RevPAR goals, we should be looking at it. I love the relationship we have with Hotwire.
Hotwire is a lot more than same-day inventory. It’s challenging when hotels don’t understand what an opaque customer and room is. If you’re only using Hotwire for same day, you’re not analyzing your rate enough to get that right client in. Look at it from further out, or see when you’re down, or even just know that you want to build a base. I like that information you give us, and it doesn’t require us to give a significant discount if we plan and do it right. That’s an area of opportunity many people don’t take advantage of.
Thoughts/experience on being a woman in this industry:
I never felt limited in my experience (which is different from friends of mine). I’ve worked for some great companies with women in leadership. One in particular I remember from my early years in F&B was the VP of HR. She was a great role model. I think the hospitality industry has embraced women for a long time. In my experience, it’s been about work performance as opposed to who you are.
Advice for aspiring women in the industry:
Yes, Eleanor Roosevelt said this and I think about it often; “do one thing every day that scares you”. These don’t have to be giant risks, they can be educated risks. This has helped propel myself and others into bigger and better positions.
Advice for this year?
Be bold. We are seeing great numbers and it continues to grow so take advantage. Make the rest of the year remarkable.