Best Western slashes analytics costs, improves operations worldwide using Amazon QuickSight
This is a guest blog post by Best Western Hotels and Resorts. In their own words, “Best Western Hotels & Resorts is an award-winning global network of hotels located in over 100 countries and territories that offers accommodations for all types of travelers.”
With 18 brands and varied ownership structures across geographies, Best Western Hotel and Resorts is a large and complex organization. We recently moved our data analytics to AWS and adopted the Amazon QuickSight business intelligence (BI) service to help our stakeholders worldwide access insights more easily. In this post, I discuss our journey to the cloud and what QuickSight has meant to our business.
The ability to share data and glean customer insights is essential to remaining competitive in a service-focused industry. At Best Western, our team supports analytics for the entire enterprise. Our company had been using IBM Cognos for about 15 years, but the platform was showing its age. It ran in our data center and required significant maintenance investment. With Oracle licensing, it added up to more than $200,000 annually. It lacked robust, real-time dashboarding and other tools that are in high demand from our business users and restricted our ability to quickly iterate and develop new features.
Discovering the potential of AWS
We looked at a number of BI solutions and ultimately chose QuickSight because it natively integrated with the rest of our platform and offered a true software as a service (SaaS) model with no infrastructure for us to manage.
We began with a proof of concept (POC) for a cloud-based analytics solution. We rolled out a system using AWS tools, including an Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) data lake, an Amazon Redshift data warehouse, AWS Lambda serverless compute for data transformation, and AWS Glue to provide serverless extract, transform, and load (ETL). These services integrate with QuickSight for the BI front end. The POC was so successful that it inspired Best Western to go all in with AWS, offering us the opportunity to officially create an enterprise analytics team and continue building out our capabilities.
The uptake of QuickSight in our organization has been extraordinary. We have over 23,000 registered QuickSight users and more than 7,000 regularly active users. All of these individuals have new modern analytics capabilities far beyond what our previous legacy platform provided, including real-time dashboards. That means we’re democratizing BI, making it accessible to users who never previously had access. The ease of use and low pay-per-use pricing enables us to provide analytics to many more people.
The following screenshot shows a sample dashboard from QuickSight that displays booked rooms in a calendar view.
Additionally, we always get the latest features right away without having to upgrade anything—a stark contrast from Cognos, which took nearly 18 months for the most recent upgrade, at a cost of over $700,000. Overall, we’re running QuickSight at less than 30% of the cost of our previous BI solutions.
Powering up analytics across the business
QuickSight and analytics built on AWS have positively affected our business in several ways. The first is in the area of revenue management. This is a large team that helps hotels decide what rates to set for a room. Previously, they relied on static reports of limited data. With QuickSight, they can access a much broader set of data and run real-time reports. That makes each member of the team much more efficient, as they develop recommendations for rates with a higher degree of accuracy. In addition, our S3 data lake has allowed us to create a new app that helps them manage more hotels per user than they were able to before.
The following sample QuickSight dashboard shows booked rooms by rate level.
Another significant example is our property dashboard, which is shared with every property owner and general manager throughout the organization. In the past, the data was provided once a quarter in a static report, which was stale before it even reached users.
Now we provide it as an interactive QuickSight dashboard. The data is always fresh—sometimes updated in real time. They can break down their revenue numbers in many different ways to understand their markets and distribution channels, and they can access the dashboard any time, from any device.
The following sample dashboard shows occupancy by room type.
The dashboard also integrates multiple data sources that were previously separate. For example, our post-stay guest survey results used to be located in a disparate tool, as was a third-party competitor benchmarking tool. Now they’re both in QuickSight. This has increased responsiveness to emerging market trends and made us more competitive in an industry hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Other teams are using QuickSight as a source for marketing statistics, advance booking patterns, daily occupancy rates, loyalty program information, and more. We even use it inside the analytics team to monitor QuickSight usage itself. We can see which reports and dashboards are being used and by which groups, so we can identify where to direct our focus.
Reducing cost while improving access to insights
Our platform has also allowed us to add value for our affiliate companies. In Europe, a licensee runs the brand and has its own set of reporting tasks. In the past, it got data from a limited raw feed into its own data warehouse. We also created our own backup solution using QuickSight APIs, which allows us to capture changes to analyses, datasets, and dashboards on a daily basis.
As of this writing, we’re rolling out the ability for affiliates to develop reports in QuickSight directly from our data warehouse. This system gives them access to a broader range of data and eliminates the need to run their own data warehouse or business analytics software, resulting in massive cost savings. It’s also very easy to learn, so no training is required for the users. Plus, the system is extremely responsive. Reports that took 30 minutes to run in Cognos are almost instantaneous in QuickSight.
Innovating the future of hospitality
Adopting cloud-based analytics and business intelligence through AWS has completely transformed how our business uses data. For our team, it greatly reduced the cost and complexity of providing analytics to the business. It democratized those analytics, empowering a wider audience with real-time data. And it enabled our teams to identify and respond to market trends faster—which is critical in a rapidly evolving business.
We’re excited to continue building on the capabilities of the platform. For example, we currently pay a third-party company millions of dollars a year to do forecasting. We want to bring that all in-house using Amazon SageMaker and other machine learning services. A three-month POC performed in late 2019 demonstrated that we were able to beat the results of the third-party model by a significant margin. When that project is complete, it will deliver huge cost savings and, more importantly, give us control over the model so we can optimize it to our needs.
That’s the power of analytics on AWS. It puts the reins of innovation in our hands.
About the Author
Joseph W. Landucci | Sr. Manager | Database and Enterprise Analytics
Best Western® Hotels & Resorts