Why should you care about bedroom management?
Conference operations, especially those at colleges and universities, are constantly managing a myriad of logistics from meeting rooms and setups to equipment and food service. Yet there is one piece of the logistical puzzle that is widely under-managed and often undervalued: bedrooms. Some operations believe it is enough to simply have a residence facility listed as a resource in their software with the number of available beds as a resource quantity and others use only spreadsheets to manage bedroom occupancy.
What is wrong with this picture?
Comprehensive bedroom management is important for three compelling reasons: Safety and Security, Occupancy Revenue and Financial Reporting.
Safety and Security
Ideally, a guest is assigned to a specific room and upon arrival, checked-in to that specific room in the same principle as anyone staying in a hotel. Knowing into what room a guest has been checked in ensures that in an emergency, you are prepared to provide emergency services with the most accurate information possible to aid them in their role during a high pressure situation.
Ask yourself, if an emergency occurred in the middle of the night, could you quickly and accurately account for all of your in-house guests? How will you know all occupants have exited the building? How would you direct emergency personnel to the correct location of a missing guest? Can you quickly and easily identify which rooms are occupied by guests who may be in need of assistance due to a physical limitation?
If your current method of managing bedrooms does not allow you to accurately address any of the above questions, you are putting your venue and your guests at risk.
The hotel industry relies on a calculation knows as RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room) to determine their true occupancy rates as well as to set their accommodation rates. While many universities and conference centers do not operate exactly as a hotel, there is a benefit to understanding the true picture of your occupancy.
Using occupancy rates, RevPAR or other forms of occupancy measurement will allow you to know what of your bedroom stock is selling and what is not. It may be a specific building or a room type or a period of time during the conference season that sells best (or worst). Understanding these fluctuations and demands will enable you to respond with rate changes, anticipate deficits in your budget and develop a plan for filling empty beds.
Many universities’ student housing departments have a staff member responsible for monitoring occupancy because maximizing occupancy equates to maximizing revenue. Genuine accurate occupancy management is not purely a numbers game of making sure the available beds equals zero or close to zero. Without having software that can manage bedroom occupancy at its most detailed, you are essentially leaving money on the table every summer.
When you have a software system that allows you to assign a guest to a specific room, check them in and check them out, you have a complete electronic record of their actual occupancy. With this complete record you can ensure you are charging your customer the correct amount for their conference invoice. There is no dispute as to how many guests stayed in what types of rooms, at what rate for how many nights. When you are relying on a pure numbers resource or a spreadsheet, you leave yourself open to dispute and leaving even more money on the table by under-invoicing.
Another implication of failing to have a detailed electronic record is related to taxes. Many states, provinces and/or cities impose a hotel tax, occupancy tax or accommodation tax. To accurately report your taxes due to the taxing entity, you must know your exact occupancy every night a guest is in-house. You may be over-reporting and overpaying your taxes due, or worse, under-reporting and underpaying your taxes due, both of which have their consequences.
When it comes to managing the moving pieces to a conference, many conference operations fail to see the value and importance in effectively managing their bedroom stock. Student housing offices at universities will employ a staff member responsible for occupancy management and yet in conference services, it is seen as a nice, but not necessary, element. Having an effective system for managing your bedroom stock will increase your guests’ security, increase your revenues and ensure your financial house is in order.