Cornell and SAS Webcast Focuses on Strategies for Lodging and Gaming Industry

Jun 10, 2010

Contact:  Jennifer Macera, 607.255.3101, 

Cornell and SAS Webcast Focuses on Strategies for Lodging and Gaming Industry

Key issue is to get past recession by focusing on value creation

Ithaca, NY, June 10, 2010 – Although the hospitality and gaming industries continue to struggle with the effects of recession, the time is now to address strategies for bringing back customers and addressing pricing issues. Panelists focused on the industry's top issues in the newest SAS and Cornell Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) webcast, "The Things that Matter Most: The hottest trends and biggest issues for hospitality and gaming industries".

Although recovery from recession was a hot topic, webcast participants wanted to get past recession concerns and focus on strategies for the next decade. The webcast offered a mixed media approach of prerecorded commentaries and live discussions among the panelists. This is the last webcast in the first series offered jointly by SAS and the CHR.

Still feeling the effects of recession, industry practitioners are working on strategies to improve revenues. Much of that recovery will involve efforts to manage price discounting. James Ruttley, VP of client services of IDeaS, pointed out that the issues with discounting involve not only how much discount to offer, but how to discount and who will see a particular discount. Marco Benvenuti, executive director of enterprise strategy, Wynn Las Vegas, agreed: "You have to be strategic about rate."

On balance, discounting didn't help the industry bring in revenue, noted Duane Vinson, VP of STR. "Discounting of transient room rates affects contract and group rates in ways you might not want to see," he explained. "As the economy improves STR is tracking a slow recovery in transient room rates; however, group rates will be slower in coming back and it could potentially take several years. It took the hotel industry about six years for rates to recover from the last recession."

In that regard, Radhika Kulkarni, VP of advanced analysis, SAS, warned of the dangers of untargeted discounting. Instead, she suggested paying attention to the services and features that add value. "Analytics is valuable for this purpose," she added, "because you can collect information about customers and note all sources of revenue." Kulkarni further stressed the need for the revenue management group to work closely with the marketing group to ensure that the right discount is offered to the right client at the right time and place.

Picking up on the theme of adding value and acknowledging that existing customers were affected by the recession, Dave Norton, SVP of Harrah's Entertainment, suggested that his firm is working on attracting a broader set of customers. Resorts and vacation ownership firms are also taking similar value-adding approaches, suggested Mylene Young, corporate director of revenue, Sonesta Hotels. For Wyndham Exchange, Jeremy Ten Bush, VP of global analytics, specified that this means enhancing and extending value through the membership process and improving customer interactions at every possible point.

Although the recent recession cast a long shadow, webcast panelists looked forward as they cited the top issues for the industry. "Even as hotels anticipate a recovery, they must address operating costs," said Cathy Enz, Lewis G. Schaeneman, Jr. Professor of Innovation and Dynamic Management. "We see these human resource issues resurfacing as top concerns: retention, training, and motivation. Immigration laws will come to the fore in many nations. At the same time, a big question is the role of the U.S. government in business."

Looking at human resources issues, Vinson suggested watching employment. "As employment improves, we'll see most of the hiring in the service sector. This will create new opportunities for training. As personal income improves, we'll finally see larger booking windows," he said.

Ruttley suggested that need for proactive revenue management in hotels will remain critical—a fact that now seems to be widely acknowledged in the hotel industry right up to the level of hotel owners. "As in any industry, hotels have to deal with labor turnover," he said. "Whereas in the past a property may have considered it acceptable to go without a revenue manager for a while, this increasing realization that revenue management is a 'mission critical' activity has had an additional impact. Hotels are becoming more amenable to fulfilling their needs with outsourced revenue management, and in an increasing number of cases, this means covering an ongoing longer arrangement for the provision of revenue management services."

Kulkarni pointed to another technical issue, namely, how to use new techniques, such as identifying the key opinion leaders in social networking, and how to find and connect people.

Previous six webcasts are:
• Getting In on the Conversation: The power of social media in the hospitality and gaming industries 
• Sustaining a Balance: Green Initiatives for Hospitality and Gaming 
• Preparing for Recovery 
• Loyalty, Rewards and Value: What Do We Want from Our Customers? 
• Right People, Right Jobs, Right Time: The Art and Science of Labor Planning 
• Where's My Data? Tips and Tricks for Designing a Strong Data Quality and Data Integration Strategy

About SAS
SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions delivered within an integrated framework, SAS helps customers at more than 45,000 global sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world THE POWER TO KNOW®.
About The Center for Hospitality Research
A unit of the Cornell School of Hotel Administration, The Center for Hospitality Research (CHR) sponsors research designed to improve practices in the hospitality industry. Under the lead of the center's 81 corporate affiliates, experienced scholars work closely with business executives to discover new insights into strategic, managerial and operating practices. The center also publishes the award-winning hospitality journal, the Cornell Hospitality Quarterly. To learn more about the center and its projects, visit

Center Senior Partners: Hilton Worldwide, McDonald's USA, Philips Hospitality, STR, Taj Hotels Resorts and Palaces, and TIG Global

Center Partners: Davis & Gilbert LLP, Deloitte & Touche USA LLP, Denihan Hospitality Group, eCornell & Executive Education, Expedia, Inc., Forbes Travel Guide, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Fox Rothschild LLP, French Quarter Holdings, Inc., FX Real Estate and Entertainment, Inc., HVS, Hyatt, InterContinental Hotels Group, Jumeirah Group, LRP Publications, Maritz, Marriott International, Inc., Marsh's Hospitality Practice, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Proskauer, Sabre Hospitality Solutions, SAS, Schneider Electric, Southern Wine and Spirits of America, Inc., Thayer Lodging Group, Thompson Hotels, Travelport, and WATG

Center Friends: • American Tescor, LLC • Argyle Executive Forum • Berkshire Healthcare • Cody Kramer Imports • Cruise Industry News • DK Shifflet & Associates • • EyeforTravel • Gerencia de Hoteles & Restaurantes • Global Hospitality Resources • Hospitality Financial and Technology Professionals (HFTP) • • • Hospitality Technology Magazine • Hotel Asia Pacific • Hotel China • • Hotel Interactive • Hotel Resource • HotelWorld Network • International CHRIE • International Hotel Conference • International Society of Hospitality Consultants (ISHC) • iPerceptions • JDA Software Group, Inc. • Lodging Hospitality • Lodging Magazine • LRA Worldwide, Inc. • Milestone Internet Marketing • MindFolio • Mindshare Technologies • Parasol • PhoCusWright • PKF Hospitality Research • The Resort Trades • RealShare Hotel Investment & Finance Summit • Resort and Recreation Magazine • • Shibata Publishing Co. • Synovate • The Lodging Conference • The Wall Street Journal • TravelCLICK • UniFocus • USA Today • WageWatch, Inc. • WIWIH.COM