by Alex Palmer | June 10, 2013
At the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference at the New York Marriott Marquis in New York City, held from June 2-4, Incentive spoke with an attendee closely connected to the industry’s interest in big data. Maryam Wehe, senior vice president of analytics firm Applied Predictive Technologies (APT), interprets data for brands like Holiday inn and Hilton to help them make decisions about their offerings to groups and future renovations and additions. We spoke with her about the hospitality industry’s embrace of big data and where she believes things are heading.

Incentive: Can you start by describing what exactly APT does, specifically for the hospitality industry?

Wehe: We work with 13 of the top 25 hotel brands. We help them analyze three specific questions regarding new initiatives to make sure they invest their dollars in a way that provides them with the highest profit — questions that the CFO, COO, or president is asking on an ongoing basis.

Incentive: What are those three questions?

Wehe: First is what is the incremental impact of a particular program? If you change an offering or package for a meeting, is that resulting in incremental revenue or giveaways from meeting planners who would have planned it there anyway? Second is If you have different variations of programs — say paid search — which is the one driving the most incremental profits? Third is, is that answer changing depending on who you target? So relative to different hotels, markets, customer segments, or meeting planners, where do we see change?

Incentive: What steps do you take to answer these questions?

Wehe: We provide them with a software-as-a-service platform on which we host transactional logs and details on hotel characteristics, so when analysts come in they can be assured the data is there and it is correct. We also provide them with patented software analytics and consulting support to answer these questions, and analyze past activity with an eye on improving profits.

Incentive: With all of this data coming in, what kind of trends are you seeing among hospitality brands and how they are working with group or incentive travel?

Wehe: We’re seeing an intersection of several factors. Many more companies are investing significant amounts of dollars in data warehouses where they can aggregate data all in one place. There is also a trend toward cloud computing, and third, there is more and more pressure on hotels to prove the incremental value that the brand is bringing. From the perspective of how they are working with meeting and incentive planners, they use this data to decide what happens if they offer different bundles of services and how that would impact profit, and how does that measure with different segments of meeting planners?

Incentive: Where do you expect analytics and data to fit in for hotels and hospitality companies in the future?

Wehe: They may be starting with meetings that are more standardized in terms of pricing and offer, but can then test a particular price point or offering for a certain set of planners. For a medical association meeting at a large hotel in downtown Los Angeles, there might be less of an opportunity because the contracts are so big. But medium or smaller-sized meetings may add up to a lot of dollars for a hotel brand. When added together with more rigorous analytics and testing, they can separate out those particular segments and how desirable they are for the hotel. Those are the kinds of questions hospitality companies are going to be asking and analyzing.