Bond Podcast: Catala Consulting

January 4, 2022
Posted by
Eva Fayemi

We gathered some great feedback and insights from our Live interview with Thibault Catala, Founder at Catala Consulting about the topic of Partnerships and more precisely the relationship between Hospitality Consultants and software Vendors.

Link to Youtube recording of the Interview

You can also check-out the {reduced} script below the video if you can’t be bothered to watch 18min of it.. ;) 

Bond: “Hi, I’m Eva from Bond Partnerships and today I am welcoming Thibault Catala, Founder of Catala Consulting. First of all, Thibault, can you tell us more about you and your company?

Thibault: I’m Thibault,  I’m the founder of a Revenue Management company based in London and we are looking after hotels in Europe. I have done my studies in Switzerland, in Glion. Then, I did my management training with IHG in France then I moved to Portugal to help some hotels with Revenue Management.

I have been in Revenue Management for the last 10 years, between France, Portugal, then I moved to Singapore with Four Seasons, to look after China, Japan and Singapore. And 2 years after joining Four Seasons, I decided to quit everything to start my own company.

Mostly we are focusing on outsourcing Revenue Management for European hotels, who cannot hire their own revenue manager. We can deliver this service at a fraction of the cost and hiring is gives them more flexibility.

However, our mission was always to help hoteliers access other tools and techniques depending on their needs, usually reserved to the top 1% of hotel chains. We want to help the smaller hotel play like the big ones, to help them thrive and empower them to succeed.

Bond: What do Partnerships mean to you?

Thibault: For me, Partnerships have different meanings. It could be 2 people partnering up in a new venture like you have done with Ruben. On the other hand, it could be different companies partnering up, because they work in a similar industry or vertical, to help each other scale and succeed.

More importantly, I believe Partnerships should be 2 sided, and a win-win situation for both companies. As well as being the right fit for the customer base.

Bond: Let’s try to take a step back. As a Revenue Manager, what are you trying to achieve for your clients? What are the pain points that you experience and how can a technology company help you overcome those pain points?

Thibault: We are trying to empower hotels and hoteliers to have all the tools, techniques and expertise needed to succeed and optimise the revenue. That’s our main goal - to make sure they gain market share, they drive higher RevPar year on year and optimise distribution and systems. Where we see the main pain points and blockers in the industry at the moment is that you have a lot of data available in our industry and its actually quite complicated to use this data efficiently, understand it and collect it. 

So first of all, technology has helped us to save time, because in Revenue Management we have seen this shift of moving from tactics (descriptive revenue management) to a more prescriptive approach. And this shift has been accelerated by technology.

Today, we have systems like Pace, Atomize, EzRMS, RevControl, which are helping you automate these kinds of tactics such as pricing, forecast, everything that a machine can do much better than we do. For us Revenue Managers, the most important is that we focus on strategy and this shift has been helping us enormously thanks to technology.

Bond: what is the relationship between Consultants and  Technology providers - how would you define it - is there something that could be improved there?

Thibault: I think it’s super important to have this relationship between tech vendors and Consultants because I believe nowadays tech companies still need a human in the background. As well as a Consultant without technology will not be as efficient as it is, the same is valuable for tech vendors. Tech vendors without consultants will not be 100% optimised. So I believe we need to work more and more hands in hands.

And again, to help hoteliers not by only having the tech or only the consultant, but by having both at the same time.

Bond: do you see a noticeable difference in the results of hotels working solely with an RMS compared to hotels with an RMS plus RM Consultant? Can you give us a real-life example of how you think this adds value to them?

Thibault: I can only talk about hotels who have been using us. We have been working with hotels who have never been introduced to Revenue Management before, so the added value that we are bringing to the table from day one is actually quite big when we bring some new software, some new techniques and tools. We have seen some increase of 15, 20% year on year in revenue in normal time outside of Covid just by applying some very basic revenue management. So now the best example would be the Eccleston Square hotel in London where we have changed their revenue management system, we even changed their PMS, we helped from the transition to legacy systems to more modern systems, and the first year we actually increased the revenue by 19% on the revenue with a combination of both - Consultant support/strategy with as well the consolidation with the technology. And it works well!

We have seen some increased revenue from 5% or 20/25% depending on the time they invested before, the knowledge they had before and depending on the market. But yes, it was always quite positive on the result.

Bond: what changed in your role of Consultant with the emergence of those new technologies?

Thibault: We need to be more tech-savvy in our profession, again because I mentioned before, revenue managers moved from a descriptive to prescriptive and the really good revenue managers, the ones who are driving market share are the ones leveraging the technology as much as possible. Without this technology element, we miss a lot of opportunities.

So what changed for me - I’m saving a lot of time on the report, on pricing and so I’m spending more time focusing on a strategy where I can add value!

I remember 10 years ago when I started in Revenue Management, 90% if my time was spent on pricing adjustment, manually adjusting day by day and on reporting which today can be automated with the new systems.

Bond: even though it seems as beautiful partnerships can happen between Tech and Consultants it is not always the case. In your opinion, why do you think some Consultants are not enclined to really commit to partner with tech vendors?

Thibault: I understand this kind of approach, it’s the same for us at Catala Consulting. We want to be as neutral as possible when we give a recommendation to our clients because they all have different perspectives, needs, budget and so on, and it’s always very important to recommend systems that are the best fits for the company and clients rather than the best incentive that I’m going to receive based on what I’m going to recommend. It doesn’t mean people will not recommend the system, they are doing it on some occasion, but they will still remain neutral on this kind of partnership.

Partnerships are super important and I can say that that’s a key element nowadays because we are all in this crisis together, we need to support each other. But I believe what prevents them from doing so is the fact that they want to remain neutral and not having any kind of incentive.

Bond: if you had any advice to tell those tech vendors, without particular judgment, what could they do better in finding the right partners? How can you both work better together?

Thibault: I think they have to make it as simple as possible, as smooth as possible and very important 2 sided. I feel that sometimes some companies work only one-sided. So maybe they can think as well as how you can they bring back business to the Consultant. Again, it should be a Win-Win situation, 2 sided, rather than one-sided.

More importantly, not every company will be the right fit for your product, therefore it needs to be aligned with your vision. For us helping small hoteliers, not the big ones, it’s very important to find those kinds of systems which are playing in the right segment, with the same mission and the same values. That’s super important.

And sometimes, if some a tech company or consultant turn down some offers it’s not because they don’t like the technology but because they feel it’s not the right fit for their vision or their customer base and that’s completely fine. A bond is super important - it’s the same as a love relationship because you cannot force a bond. You can’t force the bond, it has to be more natural. And sometimes if you don’t feel it, you don’t feel it. It has to be aligned between the 2 companies.

Bond: to close this interview, can you tell us more about the projects that you are building at the moment in this crisis, to support our industry?

Thibault: We have been working on supporting hotels in those difficult times; in revenue management, in distribution we have been focusing as well on upgrading some hotel stack, helping hotels upgrading their stack or change completely their tech.

We see that the revenue manager is becoming more and more of a profitability manager. So now we are also focusing on asset management to make sure we ensure the top line but also the bottom line which nowadays is very important.

Lastly, our last project consists of building an online free course on revenue management on the basics of revenue management who will be released in the next few weeks (TBC we are still working on it! ). All the content we put on there is to add value to the industry and to help and support them. Because once again, we need to support each other!”

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