“I work a lot with data and numbers. The most interesting aspects of my work are interpreting these numbers and turning them into stories so that the surrounding work community understands our position in the market and how we can develop our operations.” This time VALO’s employee interview features Santtu Ahola, who works as our Revenue Manager.
“In 2014, I went to the Netherlands to study for a degree in international hotel management, where I got to know the industry from many angles. My fourth year consisted of a ten-month internship, and I was interested in looking for something related to marketing, where I could study and understand the surrounding market, as well as be involved in creating processes,” Santtu Ahola describes his studies.
Interest in the market and learning “something new” finally led Ahola to the path of Revenue Management:
“I got an offer from a contact at my school to go to Aruba to a wonderful resort hotel for an internship in Revenue Management. During this wonderful experience, I learned a lot about where to find customers for the hotel.”
After my studies, there was a transition to working life ahead. This path led quite quickly to VALO, where Santtu Ahola has been in the Revenue Manager role since January 2022.
“After my internship, I ended up in the capital region and worked in operational tasks as a reception shift manager. I did the job in question for three years until my predecessor in my current job contacted me quite casually and asked if I would be interested in working with Revenue Management. I took the opportunity and haven’t regretted it!”
The job of a Revenue Manager is strongly focused on following data and numbers and tourism-related trends. This may suddenly sound quite technical, but the work also involves a storytelling aspect, the purpose of which is to get the data bundles into an easily understandable form for other work community members.
“As a Revenue Manager, my daily work consists of monitoring the development of accommodation sales and staying on top of the market development and the Helsinki hotel market. I work a lot with data and numbers. The most interesting aspects of my work are interpreting these numbers and turning them into stories so that the surrounding work community understands our position in the market and how we can develop our operations. In addition to turning data into stories, what makes my work interesting is the continuous monitoring of the market, trends and the development of the tourism industry.”
In the Revenue Manager’s job description, it is also essential that the hotel’s reservation channels work reliably and that the reservations are transferred to the system as desired.
“My area of responsibility also includes ensuring that all the reservation channels are in order and that the reservations go from these channels to our hotel’s reservation system correctly. The whole system is significantly more complicated than I imagined before my hotel career, and solving problems can sometimes be nerve-wracking. Still, when a problem that burdens our operations can be solved is enriching, like completing a nerve-wracking puzzle.”
When talking about Revenue Management, there are many kinds of tools, which, e.g. automate processes, collect essential data, and even predict the future.
“I have several tools that automate a large part of my work and collect data. I also have real-time information about Helsinki’s tourism market, and I constantly monitor upcoming events in the city to anticipate demand. One of my most important tools is a system that predicts the demand for the coming year daily so that we know how to develop our sales measures to where we could find business. I call this system a crystal ball.”
In addition to the tools that are more unknown to the general public, some programs and applications are familiar to all of us and that we use daily.
“I work a lot with Excel, and since my formal training in that software is very limited, I count YouTube and Google as vital aids in my work.”
The hotel industry has been living through difficult times since 2020. However, with the lifting of travel restrictions, many companies in the industry have gotten the ball rolling quite smoothly. This also applies to VALO, a relatively new addition to the Helsinki hotel scene.
“Domestic guests have found VALO brilliantly well through different kinds of booking channels, and the interest in our slightly special concept has been respectably enough, considering that we have had to build recognition from the beginning on our advice, without a brand known by the whole nation behind us.”
The future challenges of a brand that is exceptionally well known at home are aimed at foreign audiences from the perspective of Revenue Management.
“We are not yet a very familiar name to international guests, so we are working hard to make our brand representing domestic tranquillity more widely known to the whole world and to bring guests from every corner of the world.”
If the two previous years (2020-2021) have been an actual golden age for domestic travel, the removal of travel restrictions has led to the fact that more and more Finns are releasing their pent-up travel needs in the form of trips abroad. Fortunately, this shortcoming has been fixed by the fact that many foreign tourists have once again turned their eyes to Finland and Helsinki.
“Understandably, domestic tourism has decreased slightly. On the other hand, interest in Finland as a tourist destination has grown enormously in recent years, and international tourism is returning to its pre-pandemic levels. In addition to this, as a domestic destination, Helsinki is a classic with strong characteristics, where you can find history and entertainment with a huge offer for leisure travellers, and for business travellers the versatile opportunities of the domestic economic pump.”
However, the exceptional period left behind has also permanently changed people’s travel and working habits.
“These two segments, leisure travel and business travel, have always been significant compartments in the tourism industry, into which customers have been divided to understand the needs of their guests. However, the last few years have changed travel habits radically with the possibility of remote work and thinking about the environment. Many travellers now combine their trips, for example, by working on a weekday and then staying at the destination for the weekend, getting to know the local culture, food, history and nature. Helsinki has noticed a growing trend, and the city has excellent capabilities for attracting this kind of global passenger base.”
The ongoing war in Europe and the energy crisis can potentially lead to an increase in the popularity of domestic tourism again.
“Recent events in the economy and the energy market have also affected people’s ability to plan trips abroad, so this may once again increase interest in domestic tourism.”
In addition to following data jungles and travel trends, what makes working as a Revenue Manager at VALO fascinating is how different people you can come across in a communal hybrid hotel.
“At VALO, you don’t have to work alone. In addition to having super nice co-workers, when I work in the coworking area, I constantly meet new people from different fields with different backgrounds and stories about how they ended up in their current position. You can learn a lot from this. Sometimes you have to take your own quiet space in a corner to get your work done instead of going into a pretty nice chat, but I see this as a positive problem.”
On the other hand, communication within VALO’s work community is so accessible and natural that Santtu Ahola is not afraid of presenting even crazy-sounding ideas.
“The in-house gang is also extremely helpful, and I feel that new ideas are boldly brought forward in our organization. In an organization doing new things, people must be encouraged to share their stupidest ideas because one of them might be a breakthrough innovation. VALO has succeeded in this quite spectacularly, and I constantly bring out my brain farts in the hope that one of them will be an excellent insight. Sometimes they come too!”