Industry Insights with Penn State’s Hospitality Services’ Emily Bowen

By , Account Executive


University hotels gain ground with revenue management tech

  • Finding the balance between revenue and profit through advanced pricing and forecasting tactics
  • Managing year-round special events and complex group business
  • Competing with off-campus hotels and understanding unique market position

In recent years, a growing client base of IDeaS has been college campus hotels. Colleges and universities have increasingly invested in hotels to help promote a school’s brand and enhance a school’s experience, as an amenity, for campus guests. While many traditional hotels claim to be “unique” in their market, campus properties have some very distinct business positions, including the college being a demand driver.

I asked my friend and IDeaS user Emily Bowen of Penn State Hospitality Services (PSHS) to share how a revenue management system (RMS) helps these special types of university properties like Penn State’s two hotels, The Nittany Lion Inn and The Penn Stater, be more successful.

  1. Like many colleges, Penn State considers its hotels to be an integral part of the university. What was Penn State’s vision for both of its properties? How does IDeaS help support these visions?

We strive to support the outreach mission of the university by giving people around the world a place to gather and advance the research and development in their disciplines. We find incredible value in this mission and in the experience we provide each of our guests, particularly with our full-service events. While there will always be rate competition for overnight guest rooms in our market, we assess a premium to the value of the on-property experience at our hotel properties.

IDeaS helps us to make decisions based on objective data relative to our long-term strategies and allows us to effectively measure the performance of each of our demand segments to most appropriately maximize the opportunities to match our guests’ needs with our business needs as many times during the year as possible.

  1. How does IDeaS RMS help PSHS find the proper balance between revenue and profit when it comes to Penn State rates, external rates and offering optimal prices?

As a university hotel partner, we are sensitive to the wide array of needs that the university has across their departments for arriving guests. Our desire to provide support to the often unique requests of the university needs to be balanced with sound business intelligence to support the financial performance goals we have as self-sustaining hotel units. With a real-time view of our last-room value (commonly known as a hurdle rate) on any given day in our forecast window, IDeaS RMS provides an objective way to make more granular decisions on the value of any of our negotiated rates and makes rate availability a much more unemotional decision that is based on performance data.

  1. How does IDeaS RMS help PSHS manage its many year-round special events?

Our guests are intelligent and understand the value of our hotels as much as we do—and we value their stays on all dates of the year. We are able to approach our selling strategies in a long-term view with IDeaS RMS as opposed to maximizing rates on individual dates. We feel good about the overall value we provide on any day of the year, and the opportunities to strategically deploy rate decisions throughout the year is a better investment in our guests and helps us to maintain a more unique market position.

  1. How does IDeaS RMS help PSHS manage its complex group business?

IDeaS RMS helps us to quickly evaluate the impact of each element of our demand requests and to respond more appropriately by measuring displacement effects, forecasting future demand and pace activity to allow us to offer the best value for each of our market segments based on our forecast instead of current availability. Our ability to better manage business mix, particularly during peak dates, allows us to evaluate each individual event and provide responses and alternatives when necessary to meet the needs of the client and the hotel property.

  1. How does IDeaS RMS help PSHS forecast its business?

Forecasts and budgets, particularly within a university setting, are often reviewed by multiple people, including non-hoteliers. IDeaS RMS helps to provide easy access to data that makes it much easier to validate forecasts, define budget expectations and help account for performance variances to isolate any areas of weakness. It is invaluable in creating forward-looking strategies for business mix relative to group-blocking practices by allowing us to easily examine quarterly performance reports on the market segment groups.

  1. How does IDeaS help PSHS compete with off-campus hotels while understanding its value and position in the market?

The ability of IDeaS to integrate seamlessly with other fantastic data providers allows us to see a robust picture of our internal data combined with market data so pricing decisions can be assessed on multiple levels in a more thoughtful, objective and consistent way. The amount of efficiencies gained by having IDeaS RMS as my core platform has an immeasurable impact on my individual performance and contributions to a multi-property team.

  1. Penn State has an industry-leading, well-respected School of Hospitality Management and is also an academic partner of IDeaS in its classrooms. How does PSHS use its properties and IDeaS RMS to add practical, hands-on experience for its students?

We actively work with students studying revenue management and integrate live data into classroom projects to afford them the opportunity to make pricing decisions based on RMS data, followed by feedback on their recommendations. The live data environment has been a valuable model to convert data application and insights into pricing recommendations and is a unique integration experience between the classroom and hotel properties.

For more insights on why other college campus hotels select IDeaS, check out these press releases from Cornell University as well as Duke University.

Emily Bowen is the director of revenue, reservations and distribution for Penn State Hospitality Services, with more than 15 years of experience leading teams in operational and strategic management at independent properties and luxury resorts. Her extensive professional development has expanded her consulting roles beyond revenue management into group sales, marketing and social media.


Emily holds a degree in recreation and tourism management from The Pennsylvania State University, is a certified revenue management executive and was the 2016 recipient of HSMAI’s Single/Multi-Property Revenue Management Professional of the Year.

Jeff Roark
Account Executive

Jeff has been with IDeaS since 2011, bringing his energy, enthusiasm, and expertise to hundreds of hotels in the Americas region. Jeff previously held AE roles with Staples, RR Donnelly, Winmark Capital, and Oracle. He also served on the board of directors for HSMAI’s DC and North Carolina chapters. Jeff received a BA in management and his MBA in marketing and professional sales from Kennesaw State University.

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