Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel Leverages Accurate Forecasting into a Profitable Success Story with the Rainmaker Group's Revenue Management System

  • Rainmaker Group (The Rainmaker Group)
  • 08.02.11
Success often manifests in unexpected places. Rising out of a beautiful hollow in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina stands the 1,100-room Harrah’s Cherokee Casino & Hotel, one of the most lucrative slot floors in one of the world’s largest casino hotel chains.

The original Harrah’s Cherokee casino was opened in 1997 by the Eastern Band of the Cherokee Nation, and has been expanding ever since. The property is a popular drive-to destination for markets that include Atlanta, Asheville, Charlotte, Knoxville, and Winston-Salem. “We sit at the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the most visited national park in the United States,” said Jeremiah Wiggins, the property’s director of planning and analysis. “Locations don’t get any more attractive than this.”

One secret of Harrah’s Cherokee’s success is its ability to anticipate growth requirements based on accurate demand and revenue forecasts. Wiggins and his team credit The Rainmaker Group’s revenue management system for helping translate a wide variety of data into actionable future demand projections that were the basis for its decision to embark on a new 532-room hotel tower expansion.

Harrah’s Cherokee opened its first hotel tower in 2002, with 252 rooms. This was soon followed by a second 324-room tower in 2005. Wiggins relied on Rainmaker’s revenue forecasting system to estimate each guest’s total value to the property and determined which guests would be offered rooms in the hotel. “Our resort was running at 101 percent occupancy, with most rooms comped to high-end gamers,” explained Wiggins. “Rainmaker tracks denials and regrets, and prior to building our new tower its demand analysis revealed we were denying nearly 10,000 room requests a month.”

A more compelling statistic was that only one-third of the denied gamers visited the casino. “The other two-thirds of the denials were lost business to us and the local market,” said Wiggins. So several years ago, the Cherokee team determined it was time to consider another expansion.

The Cherokee Tribal Leadership insisted that any expansion plan encompass only enough rooms, slots, parking, restaurants, and amenities to turn a profit without generating excess inventory. “We used Rainmaker’s system to accurately calculate the inventory needed to address our forecasted lodger demand, and we nailed it,” said Wiggins.  “The new 532-room, 21-story tower nearly doubled our room count and we are at 95 percent occupancy and our total internal revenue is up approximately 45 percent. We never would have expanded to this size without the data from Rainmaker’s system.”

Wiggins put the revenue management system to work again recently, “We forecast two years in advance and created a marketing plan to compliment the facility that will attract new demographics, while continuing to cater to our core customer. Our current project will transform the casino into a full-service, high-end resort.” Wiggins noted Paula Deen’s Kitchen is now open, and a noodle bar, food court, and 600-seat buffet will open in the next 90 days. Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Brio Tuscan Grille will be added in the spring of 2012. “We have a 3,000+-seat state-of-the-art concert venue and an entertainment lounge with a nightclub and stage acts. Coming in 2012 is a 15,000 square-foot full-treatment Mandara Spa and a refurbished casino floor with 4,500 to 5,000 slot machines.”

Besides the dazzling gaming floor and Las Vegas-level amenities, there is one more outstanding perk to staying at Harrah’s Cherokee, concluded Wiggins. “It’s our employees. There isn’t better service anywhere in the casino industry.”




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