The seasoned hotelier offers insight about the role of data and tech in the business.
By Ashima Sethi
Seasoned hotelier Nanki Singhsachthep was born and raised in Bangkok, Thailand. She attended university in Vancouver, Canada and the United Kingdom, followed by a post-graduate degree in Hospitality Management at Glion Institute of Higher Education in Switzerland. After working in ﬁve countries over a span of ten years, she made the decision to move back home to Bangkok.
Once back in Bangkok, she discovered that the ﬁeld of revenue management had become a more recognised expertise and was widely sought out in Asia. It is a ﬁeld that entails selling the right product, to the right consumer, at the right time, for the right price, through the right channels, in order to maximise revenue growth.
After substantial experience working for some of the biggest hospitality players in the world, she is now Managing Partner at Cypher Hospitality, a ﬁrm oﬀering a high level of revenue management expertise, which provides end-to-end solutions for pre-opening hotels to operating hotels. Cypher builds strategies and optimises revenue streams to ensure the maximum return on investment for hoteliers.
Nanki is also a Co-Founder of Avalon Analytics, a company that has embraced big data and data analytics as a means of helping diverse clientele operate eﬃciently. As this is a costly process, some large companies may be able to achieve this in-house, but at Avalon, business intelligence is made accessible to any type of hotel, big or small, at a competitive price point oﬀering solutions that generate revenue, save costs, and ultimately increase proﬁtability.
As Thailand is a nation that is so heavily dependent on tourism, there is no doubt that the pandemic has thrown a huge spanner in the works for all stakeholders in the hospitality landscape. Now as the Kingdom begins to inch towards opening back up, Nanki shares her professional insight as to what to expect and how the industry continues to rapidly evolve.
Has the hospitality industry always piqued your interest?
From a very young age, my parents have always encouraged me to expand my world views through travel. Meeting new people and immersing myself in diﬀerent cultures challenged me and allowed me to leave my comfort zone. It empowered my individual growth. Hospitality is a part of this. I see it as the purest form of education as it has allowed me to connect with so many people and better understand how they experience the world. Having lived in six countries, my experiences have fostered a curiosity that I love. I really look forward to the world opening back up and hitting my next country soon.
Can you tell us about your professional journey up until this point?
Upon completing my post-graduate diploma in Switzerland, I was recruited by Marriott International to work at their headquarters in the United States. This is where my career in revenue management and hospitality began. I was surrounded by visionary leaders in the ﬁeld and had direct access to the big leagues, which allowed me to develop a strong foundation.
I then moved to New York where I ran a portfolio of hotels across Starwood, Marriott, Hilton, and IHG. Finally deciding it was time to move back home, I took an opportunity to join Accor Hotels. At the time, there was already a great focus on business intelligence, which is something I played a key and active part of. Over the years, my role evolved to lead their revenue management initiatives for 200 properties across Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, and the Maldives.
In 2019, I ventured into revenue consulting and laid the foundation for Cypher Hospitality. With a proven track record, we were able to grow and expand very rapidly across nine countries. Our clients range from luxury branded hotels like Fairmont, Raﬄes, and Soﬁtel to independent and economy hotels like the ibis chain.
From my experience, the hospitality industry is a resource-intensive industry that has always been resistant to the adoption of technology. With the ongoing pandemic, we have seen an acceleration and conversion to new software by all major global hotel brands alongside a reemphasis in automation and eﬃciencies enabled by technology. Hotels cannot aﬀord to enter into 2022 without a tech stack and remain competitive. My company, Avalon Analytics, levels the playing ﬁeld for hotels.
What does Cypher Hospitality do exactly?
Cypher Hospitality was established because of a real world need for this kind of revenue management expertise in Asia. In the years leading up to the pandemic, there was an acceleration of hotel openings and development projects but a lack of resources to operate these properties from a strategic standpoint. Essentially, hotels were ﬁ lling up well in advance, but they were not ﬁ lling up with the most proﬁ table guests.
Therefore, Cypher’s role is to provide strategic consulting and end-to-end solutions to pre-opening hotels and operating hotels to help stakeholders understand their markets and their competitors. We evaluate where a hotel should sit in terms of pricing, what type of customer segment we should be targeting, and what channels would give you the best proﬁtability. We have a team of market experts that review trends and data daily to ensure performance is maximised so we can achieve market share. The high level of expertise we oﬀer our clients generates incremental revenue, a high return of investment for our hotel partners, improves cost saving, and ultimately increases proﬁtability.
And what was the impetus for establishing Avalon Analytics?
Although it has been a painful and diﬃcult year in the hospitality industry, it has also been an extremely exciting and interesting time. There is an explosion of trials happening in the digitalisation of travel space. There is so much room for innovation, and that is why Pierre Lefebvre and I decided to establish Avalon. As Co-Founders, we recognised that there is fundamentally no way to forecast travel and demand based on prior years of experience. You need tools that are real-time in order to do this.
Avalon is a powerful hotel business intelligence analytics platform that turns your data into a strategic asset. It can tell you what your guests are looking for and distributes to them the right oﬀ ers at the right time. The tool allows owners to have more real-time visibility across their entire portfolio, viewing trends by brand, cluster, city, and at country level. Avalon allows you to lead with conﬁ dence and build resilience into your future.
As the pandemic has undoubtedly aﬀected Thailand’s hospitality industry, how has this aﬀected your work and how have you helped your clients overcome the challenges of this trying time?
Our tourism has always been heavily reliant on international travellers but as borders remain closed for most countries, domestic travel has been the biggest trend of the last year. Several of our hotels joined the Alternative State Quarantine (ASQ) programme.
For our hotel partners that continued operating, we were able to grasp opportunities within the current market conditions using Avalon’s technology that allowed us to understand guest behaviour, booking patterns, and room type preferences. Adapting to these patterns, we were able to maximise higher room categories for properties in Khao Yai, Hua Hin, and Pattaya, which continue to perform at 100 percent occupancy levels on the weekends.
On the other hand, our Phuket hotels had little or no presence in the Thai markets. This is where Cypher Hospitality came in as we were able to reposition the hotels. Our experts focused on tailor-made campaigns and revenue-generating activities to gain exposure and improve visibility in order to drive families and couples to this destination. Diﬀerent markets require diﬀerent strategies, each hotel is unique too.
For Bangkok, we focused on long-term stays and marketing food and beverage oﬀers to engage residents. Despite the challenging year the health crisis has brought on the global tourism industry, we still had some big wins!
As someone with a substantial amount of experience in the realm of hospitality, can you give us some insight as to where you expect Thailand’s hospitality business to be in the near future?
We are seeing strong recovery trends in the US and UK markets, ‘revenge travel’ is the new buzzword. This continues to be the reason we focus our initiatives on Avalon so we can anticipate changing consumer behaviour and leverage our data to see how it all pans out.
The Phuket Sandbox is a welcomed initiative after having seen the experience of other markets like the Maldives. We recognise that it will take a while for the necessary infrastructure to be put in place. Trust in travel is heavily tied to the number of COVID-19 cases, the vaccine rollouts, and an overall sense of stability. These three elements are what will bring out the conﬁ dence in international travellers.
Challenges that remain include the fact that there are other countries that are already open and easier to access. Long-haul guests tend to book far in advance. We must also keep in mind that supply is currently limited as many hotels remain closed. As properties reopen, it will be more challenging than ever to beat the competition and a high level of expertise will deﬁnitely be required. All of this and other trends we have evaluated suggest that Q4 is where we will be looking towards a more positive recovery.
In your opinion, what skills or tools does one need to succeed in the industry you’re in, speciﬁcally for those who want to pursue professional opportunities in a similar ﬁeld?
Charles Darwin puts it best: ‘It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, it is the one most adaptable to change.’
Agility: what we look for most when we hire internally.
Problem solving: we look for revenue leaders that lead the conversation, identify and interpret the data, and execute such decisions.
Entrepreneurial spirit: you need to be curious and push the boundaries.
Technology: Successful candidates need to explore and be aware of new technologies especially in the BI realm, how data and the use of AI will make your job a lot faster, so you can focus on what matters and make yourself indispensable.
Be bold: As a female entrepreneur in a largely male dominated industry, I encourage people to use data as a tool to be conﬁdent and daring.
What are your goals for the near future?
With everything that is going on, I believe we have a chance here to write a new narrative. With the lean teams we are operating in, we need to be open to partnerships and outsourcing key expertise rather than trying to build everything in-house.
We need to rethink how hotels are actually run and I believe that Avalon will play a part in this movement. We can already see that there is a signiﬁcant impact on hotels using the system. There is no doubt that the industry is waiting for a comeback and there is renewed interest in agility and productivity. For hoteliers looking for that, we want Avalon to be their ﬁrst choice as our ultimate goal is for Avalon to become a global player.
Overall, I am incredibly excited for the future! I’m ready to be tech-enabled and to help leaders navigate our way out of the pandemic to ensure that hotels rebound quickly and eﬃciently.