Anniversary of success: Hotel des Balances and HotelPartner celebrate 10 years of partnership

If it could talk, this hotel would certainly have many stories to tell; the building of today’s Hotel Des Balances, located near the Lucerne Fish and Wine Market, dates back to around 1200. Under its current name, the hotel has been known since 1836 and has hosted many important personalities over the years. This four-star hotel is one of the finest Lucerne has to offer. Since 2014, HotelPartner has had the privilege of supporting the historic establishment in the area of revenue management – and since then, both parties have celebrated continuous top performance together.

In this interview, Hotel Director Peter Büsser and Front Office Manager Raquel Mesa, together with Robin Czullay (Senior Chief Portfolio Manager) and Kathleen David (Senior Portfolio Manager) from HotelPartner, reflect on the past 10 years and shed light on the success factors of their collaboration.

Mr. Büsser, Mrs. Mesa, what do you think makes the Hotel des Balances so special?

Raquel Mesa: You can feel the hotel’s history throughout the building, whether it’s the slightly crooked staircase or the period rooms. But it’s also part of our USP (Unique Selling Proposition); our American guests in particular love the historical aspect and appreciate the paintings that make the property a real work of art.

Peter Büsser: About 60% of our guests are American and Swiss, all individual guests, and the nationalities are very balanced. Because we’ve been in the market for so long, Americans are familiar with the hotel from past holidays with their parents or even grandparents. Our central location in Lucerne also contributes to our high occupancy rates.

You decided to work with HotelPartner almost 10 years ago. How did that happen and how did you manage your revenue management before?

Peter Büsser: At that time, we had been part of a franchise group for years but had decided to separate from the chain and stand on our own two feet. Being one of the best hotels in the best location, we were confident it would work out. However, we were concerned about losing bookings without the chain’s reservation system. So, we looked for a replacement. A friend who is a hotel director recommended HotelPartner to us, and together, we quickly laid the groundwork for a successful partnership.

Raquel Mesa: At that time, dynamic pricing was far from as sophisticated as it is today. However, even before partnering with HotelPartner, we were already practicing dynamic pricing, although in a more rudimentary way. We couldn’t manually evaluate all the factors that play a role today, so our pricing was based on occupancy. However, manually inputting this into all channels, alongside our daily tasks, was extremely time-consuming.

Robin Czullay: Yes, indeed, Hotel des Balances had already accustomed its guests to different prices for August or February, so the transition to dynamic pricing wasn’t entirely surprising. Since Lucerne experiences strong seasonal business, we can charge double the prices in summer compared to winter. Many repeat guests are accustomed to this seasonality and price difference.

Thus, the decision for a partnership was quickly made. What has changed since the start of the collaboration, and what successes have been achieved together?

Peter Büsser: Shortly after starting the collaboration with HotelPartner, a positive development was evident: there were more room nights at higher average rates. We were very satisfied from the start since maintaining the numbers from previous years was important to us. However, the biggest success of our partnership is that since the beginning, we have been able to achieve significantly higher prices and occupancy rates every year.

Raquel Mesa: Collaboration with HotelPartner also significantly facilitates operational work in revenue management. The manual monitoring and maintenance of all portals are eliminated, making the work much simpler. Once a year, we discuss the strategy in detail and then implement it. So, I can be sure nothing goes wrong. Nevertheless, I keep an overview and can create offers or close deals on all portals if I receive a group request. The latest availabilities are always visible in real-time. It’s faster, clearer, and more efficient.

Robin Czullay: From our perspective, the biggest success is that in this ten-year collaboration, every year has been the best year for Hotel des Balances. Even in 2023, we were able to increase by 15% compared to the previous year – not just initial increases at the start of the partnership but continuously over such a long period. This is truly outstanding and relies on the fantastic cooperation with the hotel team.

Peter Büsser: We can definitely confirm that! But I approach 2024 with respect – it will be difficult to surpass this performance because we already have an occupancy rate of over 90%, and prices are at a very high level. Now it’s about maintaining this level together in the long term.

You’re already addressing the future. What do you collectively aim to achieve next in the partnership, also considering the future challenges of the industry?

Robin Czullay: Since, as Mr. Büsser said, it will be difficult to further increase prices without jeopardizing the 9.0 rating from, we see another way to optimize results: minimizing discounts and offers as much as possible by reducing loyalty programs, eliminating long-stay discounts, or extending minimum stays. Revenue management must always be viewed holistically.

In general, I see a strong trend in the industry in the coming years where not only room prices in hotels are dynamic but also, for example, breakfast prices or parking fees. This is not yet common today or very rare.

Overall, I am optimistic about the future: I believe people will continue to want to travel because they realize it affects their personality. And there will be a parallel development of self-operated hotels with self-check-in and only housekeeping on one side and upscale and luxury properties with human experts at reception and as concierges on the other. Additionally, software and AI will increasingly take over repetitive tasks, allowing hoteliers to focus on being hosts with heart and soul.

Peter Büsser: The biggest challenge currently is certainly in the area of personnel, and this challenge will certainly accompany us for some time. Here in Lucerne, we are fortunate that the market is good and stable, allowing us to focus more on working with the systems. Our wish for HotelPartner is, of course, to stay technologically up-to-date and continue optimizing the system to keep pace with technological advancements so that we can maintain our position in the market. In this regard, I am optimistic about the future.

Kathleen David: I also believe that technological development will accelerate further in the coming years. Especially in the field of revenue management, AI will play an increasingly important role. However, human expertise remains essential to fully exploit the system’s potential. Factors such as a deep understanding of market changes and the integration of influences traditionally not part of revenue management, such as OTA ratings, are crucial for a holistic revenue management strategy and cannot be achieved solely by a “AI autopilot.”

Raquel Mesa: Since we have also successfully overcome the greatest challenge, the Corona period, together, I am also very optimistic. I think our guests feel the warmth in the hotel – so it’s not just the product itself but also the people behind it. The way Mr. Büsser has been leading the staff for so long plays a big role, and guests notice that too.

What makes this partnership with Hotel des Balances so special for you, Robin and Kathleen?

Robin Czullay: I have actually been part of the partnership almost from the beginning and can say that much has changed over time: Back then, much was still manually controlled. Over time, technology has developed, and, for example, a 2-way interface with an integrated channel manager has been added; we now have many more opportunities to react to market changes quickly and efficiently. The HotelPartner system today is worlds apart from what it was in 2014! Experiencing this change over time with a partner like Des Balance is great. I enjoy accompanying the steady performance improvement and always looking for areas to tweak and experiment. Furthermore, this partnership is special to me because it is so uncomplicated, and we are entrusted with so much trust. We always approach each other very respectfully and on equal terms, pulling in the same direction.

Kathleen David: Even though I haven’t been here for long, I can only confirm that. I also appreciate the open and honest communication and the respectful interaction. We have one goal: to achieve the best results together – and you can feel that every day in this partnership.

And how would you summarize the partnership, Ms. Mesa and Mr. Büsser?

Raquel Mesa: I would say: clear, simple, and it makes us proud.

Peter Büsser: For me, it is profitable, efficient, and provides security.

This also sounds very promising for the future. Thank you very much for giving us these insights into the performance of Des Balances and the collaboration with HotelPartner and all the best wishes for the next joint steps.

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