During the pandemic, theme parks suffered…and the hotels that rely on all that family tourism were particularly hard hit. Disneyland in Anaheim, California was certainly no exception.
The Alamo Inn & Suites, a limited service hotel with 86 spacious rooms and family suites, found itself having to make some hard choices as the happy families and visitors to the land of Mickey Mouse dried up. Furthermore, the lucrative nearby conventions business also sputtered to a halt.
We spoke to General Manager Tony Tzeng about how they managed through the pandemic and how their tech stack has helped them bounce back stronger than ever.
Old school frustrations
“When I took over running the property back in 2014, I had no background in hospitality at all. And as it was an older property in the budget range, we really lived and died on the quality of the online reviews. But we always had an ace card up our sleeve - it was unique in that it was only 15 minutes walk from downtown Disneyland. For anyone that has visited Disneyland, that is a real selling point…
At that time, there was a very old legacy PMS in place that was DOS based. So the first major technological step I made was swapping it out for something modern and I ended up choosing Clock as it was the perfect sweet spot for us in terms of features and price. Clock gave me a platform to build on and I was soon able to tinker further with the tech stack.
“Pace’s forecasting feature alone made a profound human impact on our business during the pandemic. We could really plan the workload effectively in advance and distribute shifts and wages. As a result, over 80 percent of our staff were able to stay with us the entire time.”
Soon after I was able to start considering an RMS and we looked at a few that were integrated with Clock. We tried some competitors but they simply could never recommend good rates. We even gave their algos time to adjust - a year even - and to try get it right but they never could. No amount of manual tinkering and rule setting could help. In the end, I was really disappointed. Perhaps some algorithms simply don’t work at extreme ends of the spectrum - such as isolated areas with no hotels or highly competitive spots with hundreds of comps like Disneyland! There are well over a hundred hotels in Disneyland so it’s a competitive environment to say the least.
Then I came across Pace and was really impressed. The price recommendations far outshone the other RMS we tried. I like how Pace is gentle with their price suggestions. And after my previous experience, I now believe less in the value of an RMS that constantly adjusts around compsets. It was an absolute failure for us in a location of heavy competition, which goes to show…! Pace’s focus on demand data makes way more sense…
Oh and Pace was so easy to handle. It’s mainly myself and our rate manager that use Pace. The ease-of-use is perfect for someone like her who is not as tech savvy. It just makes sense to her unlike the other systems we tried. Pace makes it really easy to bridge the learning gap with employees as it doesn’t need a manual at all…”
“The continuous pricing with Pace has been exceptional. In fact, with our September and October rates we were only off by a few thousand dollars in comparison to a bumper 2019, which was the best year on record in Anaheim. We ended up selling 200 less rooms but were able to almost match the totals of 2019. So Pace has really boosted our ADR. We had an ADR of $90 in 2019 and our goal is to now get back above $100 with some help from Pace.
And remember that there were no conventions at all this year, which is what normally drives any growth. Just one convention makes a massive difference. There’s a big one coming up in March and then there are some Star Wars events in May. We can already see the curve peaking in March in Pace.
During the lockdown, most hotels in the area took whatever guests they could get and they were often the kinds of guests any hotel would not want. As a result, most online reviews went down for properties during Covid. We decided not to get into that race to the bottom and, as a result, our reviews have crept up. We rejected business in order to keep a good friendly brand image.
As a result of that decision, we are now recovering quicker as our reviews on Expedia are way better. The parking lots at many of the nearby hotels are still empty while we seem to have made a leap into a different category and have really nice new clientele. The reviews really do make all the difference.
But most importantly for us - the Pace forecasting features are great. I like how Pace rarely over-calculates your revenue and is conservative with it’s numbers. It gives me a great forecast graph every month and I just love it. I can prepare our entire business around that forecast graph and can plan ahead. When I need to get staff in or when I need to invest in ads and marketing - I can see if there is a boulder coming up in the road. In the end, an RMS is not just about rates! Pace has really helped me smooth out the ride in advance. For example, these days I particularly need to be able to look three months down the road to see what kind of housekeeping workload we will have…
In fact, the forecasting feature alone made a profound human impact on our business during the pandemic. Let me explain…
We’re a family business and, philosophically, we could not accept the standard business advice for hospitality operations during the pandemic and make deep staff cuts. Most people cut the majority of their staff. It was a really hard time. But we have families who have been working with us for decades and they are part of the soul of this place.
Instead, we spoke to everyone and, with their agreement, we made a bold decision. We decided to go down to minimum wage for the ENTIRE work force and then to make sure to evenly share the work time so that everyone could share wages. The only way we were able to do this was thanks to Pace. With the solid forecasting tool, we could really plan the workload effectively in advance and distribute the shifts and wages. We operated like that for an entire year - from March 2020 to March 2021.
As a result, over 80 percent of our staff were able to stay with us the entire time. Even though so many people were forced to leave hospitality for good to try find income elsewhere, out team was able to stay and earn a living. Now we are back up to 90 percent occupancy. Thank you Pace.
In the end, Pace is the perfect partner for where we are going as a property. We’re looking forward to growing with them.”