New Hospa chief executive Jane Pendlebury tells James Stagg how she plans to extend the organisation's reach
Hospa has changed considerably in the past five years, with the name change from BAHA and the inclusion of disciplines such as revenue management and IT.
What is the remit now?
My history with BAHA goes back some way. When I was at Agilysys we were a sponsor of BAHA and I helped Carl [Weldon, previous Hospa chief executive] launch the first IT directors' lunch. In 2011, when they transitioned from BAHA into Hospa, I was part of the committee. The purpose was to encompass more than just finance and to include revenue management and technology.
Did that change the member profile?
Since then the membership has grown significantly. We still have a real stronghold of finance people, but the revenue management side is now strong, as is technology. And I'm focusing hard on continuing to grow that membership.
The typical path to revenue management is through reservations, so revenue managers tend to come from the front office side rather than through the finance side. However, it's getting to be a more senior role and often they will report in to a commercial director or directly to the top. They're not necessarily involved in finance.
We also signed a management contract with the Hotel Marketing Association earlier this year, so that's giving us a new audience with marketing people.
We appeal to anyone involved in technology, finance, operations or the commercial side. They can partake in formal development if they want to, but if they don't want to get involved, then just coming to members' meetings can really broaden their knowledge and help them learn more about other disciplines.
Is the change in member profile represented in your training and qualifications?
We are well-known for finance qualifications, and we have the revenue management course too, which has now received extra funding from the Savoy Educational Trust. This has enabled us to revamp the revenue management course and make it more modular and that means people can take bite-sized chunks rather than a six-month course. They can choose the bits that are appropriate for their business.
You launched a joint membership agreement with Hotel Technology Next Generation. What has that brought to members and how do the two organisations dovetail?
We have a reciprocal deal, where members of one organisation can top up to join the other. We're about to do a similar deal with HFTP too [Hospitality Financial & Technology Professionals]. I'm trying to strengthen relationships with the BHA, the Institute of Hospitality and Springboard too, so that we can work more closely for the good of the industry and put out a united front.
Is revenue management practised well in hospitality organisations currently?
It's forever changing and a dynamic part of the business. I have a history in revenue management and I always think it's hard to be an expert as it's so diverse. Some of the big hotel chains do it very well, and some of the independents have got high-quality people. But it's an analytical role, so it doesn't necessarily suit someone being promoted from reservations. They don't necessarily make the best revenue managers.
The standard is forever increasing and it's becoming more recognised as an important role in a hotel. Some revenue managers take on responsibility for a lot of marketing, maybe reservations and the sales office too. Others will be focused purely on flexing the rate.
As a discipline it's definitely better understood in the industry nowadays. When I started in revenue management in 2001, I used to have to open every meeting explaining what revenue management was, and that's rarely the case now.
The airline industry does remain much more sophisticated than hospitality in terms of revenue management. Do you think there's still plenty of room for improvement?
The hotel business is much more personal and we mustn't lose sight that a good hotel is successful because of the people in the relationships. Airlines do service well but it's not the same. They're a great industry for us to follow, but we don't necessarily want to emulate them completely.
Which technologies do you see as really taking off in the next year?
It's key for operators to get the back office right too. There's lots of attention on guest-facing technology, but if you haven't got the back office systems right, then it's difficult to deliver at the front end. Also, operators need to make it easy for the people on the desk to interact with guests, rather than having to worry about anything on their PC.
How should operators be looking to futureproof their business?
It depends very much on the type of hotel. Some people don't want to speak to a receptionist and just want to use their phone to check in and perhaps even have their phone as a key. But those staying with their family will want more interaction. So you really need to continue to be aware of your client and deliver accordingly.
CV: Jane Pendlebury
Jane Pendlebury's career in hospitality began as a management trainee with De Vere hotels in 1985 while studying for a degree in Hospitality Management in Bournemouth.
Her next move was to the Castle hotel in Taunton, working for Kit Chapman. "I ended up being offered a job by a hotel regular," she explains. "So I went to work at a conference booking agency where the salary was almost double."
From there, Pendlebury sold technology to hotels - property management systems and point of sales systems by firms like Eltrax and EasyRMS - before landing the role of vice-president for Europe at Agilysis.
She adds: "I had my second child and carried on working for a year with two young children at home before deciding it would be easier to be self-employed, so I set up Penrose Partnership and took contracts, which suited my stage of life much better.
"I mainly helped new companies launch into the UK before working with Hospa to run the membership and events office. I did that for a couple of years, working closely with Carl Weldon, before jumping at the chance to apply for the role of chief executive."