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Navigating Profitability: The Crucial Role of Customer Acquisition Cost

06 June 2023
In today's ever-evolving and competitive hotel industry, more than the traditional focus on generating top-line revenue is required. Instead, the need to maximize profitability has become increasingly critical. This transition has ushered in a new approach - Profit-Oriented Revenue Management (PORM). At the heart of PORM lies a crucial factor that can dramatically influence a hotel's profitability: the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). According to research from Kalibri Labs, CAC is now 15-25 % of room revenue, up from 5-6 % twenty years ago. The bad news is that there is a high risk of an increasing CAC over time without effective and efficient management.
In this blog post, we delve into the concept of CAC, its impact on profitability, and strategies to optimize it within the PORM framework. So, whether you are a hotelier seeking ways to improve your bottom line or a hospitality professional looking for insights into innovative revenue management strategies, this article is for you. Explore how effectively managing CAC can revolutionize your hotel's financial performance and set you on higher profitability.

What is Profit Oriented Revenue Management (PORM)

Profit Oriented Revenue Management (PORM) represents a paradigm shift in the hotel industry's approach to financial success. Traditional revenue management methods focus primarily on driving top-line revenue, often emphasizing occupancy rates and RevPAR (Revenue Per Available Room). However, while necessary, these metrics paint only a partial picture of a hotel's financial health.
PORM offers a more comprehensive lens. It shifts the focus from mere revenue generation to actual profit realization, considering the revenue and costs associated with earning that revenue. This more holistic perspective provides a clearer view of a hotel's true profitability.
In the PORM model, every department in a hotel, from operations to the commercial team, plays a critical role. They work collaboratively towards a unified goal - maximizing profit, not just revenue. To achieve this, it's crucial to understand and effectively manage all costs associated with generating revenue.
Among these costs, one of the most significant and often the most challenging to manage is the Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC). Understanding and optimizing CAC is a cornerstone of successful PORM implementation, and that will be our main focus in this blog post.

The importance of Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC)

Understanding and effectively managing Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is critical to profit-oriented Revenue Management. CAC refers to the total cost incurred to acquire all guests and customers. For example, the hotel industry includes expenses related to marketing and advertising, commissions paid to travel agencies or other booking channels, costs associated with reservation systems, and loyalty program costs.
The reason why CAC is pivotal in PORM lies in its direct impact on the net revenue and, thus, on the profitability. Every dollar spent on acquiring a customer reduces the overall revenue generated by that customer, and if not managed carefully, these costs can quickly erode profit margins.
In the traditional revenue management approach, the focus often lies solely on driving bookings, regardless of the cost of securing those bookings. However, under PORM, it's not just about booking a room; it's about booking it profitably. A booking with a high customer acquisition cost might boost occupancy rates and top-line revenue, but it does little for the bottom line, which is the actual profit.
Furthermore, understanding CAC allows for more strategic decision-making. By knowing how much it costs to acquire a customer through various channels, hoteliers can make informed decisions about where to invest their resources to attract guests. This can lead to a more effective allocation of marketing spend, reduced costs, and improved profitability.
In essence, managing CAC is about finding a balance. It's about investing in customer acquisition efforts wisely to attract and retain guests without compromising profitability. In the following sections, we'll explore the components of CAC and provide strategies for managing them effectively.

Understanding Customer Acquisition Cost

Definition and Components of CAC

Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is the total expenditure to attract and convert a potential customer into a paying guest or customer. This expenditure comprises several components to form the cost structure of acquiring customers.
  1. Commissions and Third-Party Fees: The hotel industry relies heavily on various distribution channels to reach potential guests. These channels include online travel agencies (OTAs), global distribution systems (GDS), and traditional travel agencies. While these platforms widen a hotel’s reach, they also charge commissions or fees for their services. These charges form a significant part of the CAC and can vary based on the agreements in place with each partner.
  2. Transaction (Reservation Transportation) Costs: This category refers to the expenses associated with processing bookings. These can include the cost of using a central reservation system (CRS), a channel manager, or a booking engine on the hotel’s website. Furthermore, there could be costs related to integrating these systems with other platforms, such as a channel manager, property management system (PMS), or revenue management system (RMS).
  3. Loyalty Program Costs: Hotels often run loyalty programs to attract repeat business. The cost of these programs forms a part of CAC. These costs can include offering discounts or free services to members, the administrative expenses of managing the program, and the costs associated with fulfilling the rewards and benefits provided to members.
  4. Marketing and Sales Costs: These include all costs related to promotional activities designed to attract new customers. It encompasses spending on advertising, digital marketing campaigns, social media promotions, public relations efforts, and even the personnel costs of the marketing and sales team.
Each component plays a significant role in determining the total Customer Acquisition Cost. By understanding these costs and how they contribute to CAC, hoteliers can strategically optimize customer acquisition efforts, reduce costs, and ultimately increase profitability.

How CAC Affects Profitability

Understanding the impact of Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) on profitability is crucial in the hotel industry. Profitability is not solely about the revenue generated from room sales or additional services offered by the hotel. It's equally important to consider the expenses incurred to bring customers through the door, encapsulated in CAC.
High CAC indicates that a significant portion of your revenue is consumed to acquire customers. If CAC is too high, it eats into your profit margins. Therefore, finding a balance where the CAC is sustainable and allows for a healthy profit margin per customer is essential.
On the other hand, low CAC can result in higher profitability, as a smaller portion of the revenue goes towards covering these costs. However, it's essential to ensure that reducing CAC does not come at the expense of quality service and customer satisfaction along the whole guest journey, such as the booking process, as these factors significantly contribute to customer retention and lifetime value, influencing long-term profitability.
By incorporating CAC into the revenue management strategy, hoteliers can make more informed decisions about their sales and marketing efforts. A clear understanding of how CAC affects profitability allows for optimizing marketing spending, negotiating with third-party distributors, and managing loyalty programs. The goal is to increase the net profit per room sold by reducing CAC, enhancing the hotel's overall profitability.

Strategies to Manage Customer Acquisition Cost

Optimize Distribution Channels to Reduce Commissions

It's essential to manage and select distribution channels strategically. Direct channels, like the hotel’s website or call center, typically incur lower costs than third-party channels. However, online travel agencies and other intermediaries can provide extensive visibility and access to a broader customer base. The key is balancing and prioritizing cost-effective channels that align with your customer demographics and booking habits while maintaining a wide market reach.

Streamline Reservation Processes to Minimize Transaction Costs

Transaction costs can add up quickly if not kept in check. Investing in technology like a robust Property Management System (PMS), access to a Central Reservation System (CRS), and Channel Manager can streamline booking processes, reduce errors, and optimize costs. Additionally, these systems can enhance the customer experience, increasing satisfaction and loyalty.

Manage Loyalty Programs Effectively for Optimal Return on Investment

Loyalty programs can be a powerful tool for customer retention but come with costs. Managing these programs effectively is essential, ensuring the benefits align with customer preferences and genuinely foster loyalty. Regularly review and adjust the program based on performance metrics and customer feedback to ensure it's delivering a good return on investment.

Efficient Marketing and Sales Strategies to Attract Profitable Customers

Identifying and targeting the most profitable customer segments can significantly reduce your CAC. Tailor your marketing and sales strategies to these segments, focusing on their unique needs and preferences. This approach can improve conversion rates and customer satisfaction, leading to higher revenues and lower CAC. Invest in training for your sales team and use data analytics to continually refine your strategies based on performance.
Effectively managing your Customer Acquisition Cost is crucial to Profit Oriented Revenue Management. By implementing these strategies, you can reduce costs, enhance profitability, and ensure the long-term success of your hotel.

Demand Calendar manages CAC

In the era of digitization, it's become increasingly clear that managing CAC manually is time-consuming and error-prone. A hotel needs a robust, dedicated system to effectively and accurately manage CAC. Demand Calendar is a solution designed with a comprehensive module to manage CAC efficiently and accurately.
Demand Calendar takes a holistic approach to CAC management. It allows hoteliers to set up their variables once, and from then on, the system automatically calculates and tracks CAC. This removes the need for constant manual input and monitoring, freeing up valuable time and resources that can be utilized elsewhere in your business.
Demand Calendar’s CAC module identifies the most profitable segments, enabling the strategic allocation of resources. In addition, it provides insights into costs associated with each booking, including commissions, loyalty programs, and transaction costs. This way, the hoteliers can make informed decisions, optimize pricing, and ensure the highest return on investment from their customer acquisition efforts.
Furthermore, Demand Calendar is designed with a user-friendly interface, making it accessible to all team members involved in revenue management. This ensures a unified understanding and management of CAC across all levels of your hotel, leading to better alignment of strategies and more effective decision-making.
In essence, with Demand Calendar, managing CAC is set on autopilot. It's not just about reducing costs but optimizing them to drive profitability. By leveraging Demand Calendar, hoteliers can take a significant step towards implementing a Profit-Oriented Revenue Management approach and revolutionizing their hotel's financial performance.


As discussed throughout this blog post, Customer Acquisition Cost (CAC) is essential in Profit-Oriented Revenue Management (PORM). Effective management of CAC is critical to improving profitability and creating a sustainable and successful business model in the hotel industry. Optimizing your distribution channels, streamlining reservation processes, effectively managing loyalty programs, and implementing efficient marketing and sales strategies are crucial steps toward this goal.
Moreover, leveraging the power of dedicated systems like Demand Calendar significantly simplifies managing CAC. You can put your CAC management on autopilot by setting up your CAC variables once in the system. This allows for a more accurate, efficient, and hassle-free process, freeing your team to focus on other critical aspects of revenue management.
Demand Calendar reduces and optimizes costs, ensuring maximum return on customer acquisition efforts. In addition, its comprehensive, intuitive interface brings all stakeholders onto the same page, fostering better decision-making and alignment toward profit maximization.
As a hotelier in today's challenging and competitive landscape, it's time to reassess and optimize your CAC. You can leverage the capabilities of Demand Calendar to streamline your CAC management and embrace a Profit-Oriented Revenue Management approach. By doing so, you're not just increasing revenue - you're enhancing profitability, ensuring your hotel business's long-term success and sustainability. Take this step towards improving your hotel's financial performance.