We are in an era of transformation. Independent hospitality businesses increasingly realize that the success of their business often depends on external factors. While these changes have led to an enhancement of offerings and the possibility of attracting more guests, they have also presented their own challenges. So, as independents, how can we innovate to address these trials, and what will they mean for the future?
Online Marketing - traditional forms of marketing like billboards, newspapers, television, and radio have been replaced by digital ads and digestible content on social sites such as Facebook and Internet search engines like Google. While these channels in many ways are revolutionary and liberating, they also make it more difficult for brands to be found by guests. For example, people often never go beyond the first page of a Google search to book a hotel.
In addition, hospitality businesses lose huge chunks of their commissions to OTAs, who are the most easily found resource for consumers. Hospitality businesses need to think outside of the box when it comes to brand awareness.
Connected Consumers - the Internet has given the average customer an expansive knowledge of travel. Visitors document and take pictures of every detail of their trip. Review sites give people the power to evaluate a place without ever stepping foot on the premises. Potential guests may very well visit ten different websites (or more!) before making a booking decision. Expedia found the online booking path for a typical traveler to be a maze of website visits.
And, they have come to expect more services and perks, and at a lower cost. An arms race has begun with hotels offering inclusive tour packages, complimentary gourmet breakfasts, state of the art fitness centers, anything they can to close the deal and increase customer loyalty.
Independent hospitality businesses should use data to enhance their offerings in a sustainable fashion which will actually convert more guests and retain loyalty.
Bottom Line Concerns - independent businesses can’t afford to mess around in an industry where prolific brands rule, corporations gobble up smaller hotels and travel ventures, and OTAs grab a huge slice of the Internet pie. This customer focused industry has made many businesses focus solely on profits and lose sight of hospitality.
Independents must use their small size to their advantage; they can afford to be more responsive than monolithic entities, have more in-depth knowledge of their surrounding area and its offerings, and provide a more meaningful experience.
As Tom Corcoan of FelCor Lodging Trust says, “Hospitality has been around for a thousand years. It will continue to be around for another thousand years.” There will always be a need for travel and those who make it comfortable and exciting, but every year will look different from the last. In order to not only survive the digital age, but to thrive, adaptation is critical.