Aditya Rajaram, managing director, Radar DWC LLC, reveals how hoteliers can keep up with the competition and secure their share of business, leisure, corporate and Gen Y travellers.
Today’s hospitality industry is bustling with new brands, upcoming properties and new concepts, so it is no surprise that the market is a highlight competitive breeding ground for the ‘next best thing’.
So in a somewhat saturated market, rife with competition, hoteliers are being forced to take steps to differentiate one hospitality product from another, and as new concepts emerge, being ‘unique’ is proving to be more of a tedious challenge than ever before.
Take boutique brands for example – The Hoxton in London is up against giant global hotel chains such as Marriott and Hilton, yet it seems that the big-boss hotels are now having to work harder to stand out and attract a new generation of traveller, whilst making sure they don’t lose the interest of the baby boomers.
Assuming a ‘one size fits all’ strategy is a certain death wish in the hospitality industry. Hotel operators and brand visionaries have to make a concerted decision about who their target audience is. Boutique brands such as The Hoxton and Ace cater to an entirely different group of travellers compared to that of a Hilton Garden Inn or a Residence Inn – so the key is: Stop trying to be boutique-unique when you are a chain that offers good old fashioned values and comforts.
While global operators are working hard to refresh their long-standing brands for the next generation of travellers, they must be careful not to confuse guests by communicating a message that says: ‘Jack of all trades, and master of none.’ Once hoteliers have clearly identified their core travel segment, they need to develop a comprehensive plan that meets guests needs from the second that they enter the establishment to the moment they leave. There is no point in creating a funky hotel brand with completely outdated, boring guestroom amenities, furniture and values, this will only annoy the guest, have the potential to generate negative feedback on social media, and eliminate any future relationship with the client.
A hotel has to represent a guest experience that matches the brand –right from building design, furnishings, software, staff and entertainment. It has to ensure it connects with its target segment through the right media and reservation channels. Creating a perfect, tech-savvy modern hotel for Gen Y travellers, only to try and connect with them through a travel agent or TV promos is a complete waste of time.
Similarly, developing a historic and luxury hotel asset for travellers from Asia and Europe without identifying and partnering with top quality travel agencies will also negatively impact the competitiveness of the hotel.
In today’s extremely competitive market, hospitality professionals need to get rid of their ego and forget how ‘awesome’ they think their hotel is. It is time for hoteliers to listen to the comments and concerns existing and potential guests air on all levels, including social media, online review sites and sharing platforms and then be able to act on them.
Travellers today want to secure the best deal with an experience and so hotels need to be able to offer both in order to secure business efficiently. If a guest complains about not receiving Four Seasons type of amenities at a Four Points Sheraton, rather than question the amenities a hotelier must identify why there was a disconnect in the positioning of the brand – essentially expectation vs. reality.
Hotels today must not be built for the current trends (that come and go) in travel and tourism, rather, they must be built for lasting guest experiences and brand identity with an almost obsessive attention to basics of lodging: Cleanliness, bed comfort, adequate bandwidth, attentive service, and convenient and affordable F&B options. Without getting the basics right, a hotel can spend millions on the latest gadgets and design but will be left with poor guest satisfaction, low repeat business and succumb to dropping rates, which ultimately damages the integrity of a brand.