Wouldn’t it be nice to do a year end review of the year’s bookings and see if there are areas that can be improved? As the calendar year draws to a close, our natural tendency is to take a look at how we did this year. But what will give you that information? Most of us will look at total revenue, total number of room nights sold, and perhaps one or two other statistics, and then hope we’re on track and getting better. What else will help us measure our performance, and decide what changes could increase performance?

In this post we’ll talk about the sources of information we’ll need. In our next post we’ll talk about how to organize that information so we can evaluate not only our performance, but the performance of our paid directory listings and other paid advertising.

Where Does the Information Come From?

Our purpose is to review our annual performance in several areas, to see what changes might improve performance in coming years. Certainly knowing total revenue and number of rooms sold, compared to prior years, is helpful, but that hardly gives us any information to see how to improve.

Information about bookings, revenue, etc.

Ideally we would like all the information about our bookings and guest behavior for our year end review to come from the reports in our booking systems. As we’ve pointed out in our product reviews, the greatest weakness of most booking systems is their lack of adequate reporting. Even those few who do offer a reasonably good selection of reports may not have one that gives you exactly what you need.

If you find that your booking system doesn’t provide all the information you need in its reports, there are several steps to take:

  1. Determine how much of the information can be obtained from existing reports – even if you have to get parts of it from more than one report
  2. If you can customize reports, can you create a custom version of the report that includes what you want?
  3. Will your vendor create new or customized reports for you (this sounds like a nice advantage, but if it isn’t done with good business practices in mind, it becomes just a huge collection of arbitrary reports – as our review of SuperInns showed.
  4. For any data you need to collect, that isn’t reported the way you want in the booking system, create a spreadsheet (use Excel if you have it – if not, Google Docs or OpenOffice, among others, provide free versions that can exchange documents with Microsoft Office) to collect that information.

We’ll be looking at occupancy rates by room, revenue by room, the value of an average booking, comparisons with prior years, and more.

Information about website performance, referral sources, etc.

For this information we’ll need reports from your statistics or analytics system. Most will be using Google Analytics, so that’s primarily what we’ll talk about. However any stats system should be able to provide much of the same information.

We’ll be looking at referrals, conversions, online bookings, return on investment (ROI), and additional value from referral sources.

What if I haven’t been collecting that information?

There is no time like the present. See what information can be pulled from your booking systems reports. Make sure you consider collecting some information from each of several reports. If the reports don’t have all you need, start collecting the information now, and keep it in a spreadsheet so you can use it in the future.

It sounds daunting to start from scratch now. However, we had some information we wanted to capture, but it wasn’t in our reports, either. We started collecting it that year, and have continued up to the present. We now have several years of data that is very helpful! Time flies…

Speaking of time flying – the next part of this series will post December 31, 2012.