Even though the Harrah's Cherokee gaming operation has been impacted by the national economic downturn, the hotel itself continues to perform on par with previous years. Much of the credit goes to a savvy executive team that is readily handling the challenges of a changing economy and to Rainmaker's revolutionSM revenue management system used by all of Harrah's properties and which the Cherokee Casino hotel implemented at its 2002 opening.
The 576-room property is fortunate that convention business is not its primary segment. Thanks to its primarily leisure guest mix, it has avoided the downturn affecting corporate travel although leisure travel is softer than normal.
"During the months of February, March and April 2009, our admissions and day-trip traffic are improving, but people are playing below their average gaming revenue level," says Jeremiah Wiggins, director of planning and analysis for the Harrah's Cherokee property. "It throws a curve ball at our revenue managers tasked with predicting total guest value and setting criteria for the rooms we have available, but we are still performing well."
Accurate short-term forecasting is essential
The Rainmaker system forecasts hotel demand and then recommends the best room rate each night for guests based on their total customer value to help ensure that there is always availability for high-value guests. Tight integration with the hotel's property management system ensures the most current data is used and makes the rate optimization process fast and efficient.
The system uses the previous year's performance as a baseline and considers recent gaming revenue trends and input from Wiggins and his team. Wiggins acknowledges that a year ago he would have named revolution's long-term (13 months out) demand forecasting capabilities as the system's most important feature, but today it is the short-term forecasting capabilities that matter most.
Tightly focused marketing
Wiggins noted the Rainmaker solution is also valuable creating and tracking promotions that attract guests. "My team works with our marketing group to identify softer periods that will benefit from a promotion to stimulate demand. With the help of more accurate forecasting we can create promotions that are more strategic. Last year we were hunting with dynamite, and this year we are focused and able to identify the most likely guest segments that will respond to our promotions." Additionally, the North Carolina Travel Gaming Commission's requirement that guests use a player card on 60 percent of the games at Harrah's Cherokee, enables more accurate tracking of player valueinformation that can be entered into revolution as it creates optimized room rates based on total customer value.