Marketing that Works for the Industry: Hotel Executives and Consultants Discuss What They Would Like to See in Marketing in 2019
Whatever their holiday gift list may be during this season of giving, hospitality leaders have some common wishes for the industry for the year ahead when it comes to marketing. These include doing better targeting selling to travelers, focusing more on direct bookings from guests, and examining pricing with a closer eye.
Here are some of their wishes for 2019:
SHAKE UP HOTEL BOOKINGS
"I would like to see us turn the tide on the direct booking dilemma. Airbnb and online travel agencies (OTAs) have disrupted our profits dramatically since the beginning of this century, and trends have not yet turned enough toward direct bookings," said Robert Rauch, chief executive officer and founder of RAR Hospitality. "It's time we implement a concerted effort to disrupt OTAs and Airbnb.
More OTA competition would actually be beneficial to the lodging industry, Rauch added. If Google, Amazon, Facebook, or another global company become serious about the OTA space, this is one place where more would be better.
"There is no doubt that OTAs are feeling the heat from Airbnb," Rauch said.
The bottom line is to keep up the pressure on Airbnb, to ensure its guests are safe by requiring third-party inspections and proper insurance, he noted. If this is done right, guests will have safer choices, cities will have ordinances that protect neighborhoods, and hotels will compete on a level playing field.
Hotels should focus on driving traffic to their own property or brand website for bookings rather than OTA's to keep revenue in-house and reduce OTA commissions, agreed David Sangree, president of Hotel & Leisure Advisors, a hospitality industry consulting firm. Steps to achieve this may include rate discounts, special incentives, or complimentary amenities that are only available through the property website and not to the OTA customer.
WORK THE DATA AND TAKE SOME RISKS
A wish would be that hotels increase their use of data analytics to attract the most valuable customers and respond more effectively to their needs on property, Sangree said.
"Hotels should identify their target demographics and determine the best way to reach them whether by print, online, or other media - rather than follow the herd mentality that social media is always best," Sangree said.
And, Sangree said he wishes that technology would be used more in the marketing process. He would like to see opportunities for streamlining processes and maximizing the benefits of integrated platforms through the brand apps and other smart devices. For instance, hoteliers can give consumers the ability to tour properties and get a 360-degree view of guest rooms, meeting facilities, restaurants, and the pool area.
There also needs to be some more bold moves made by hotels, as part of the marketing wish list.
"I want to see more earnest innovation and risks taken in hotel spaces, and less watered-down projects that replicate a lot of what we've already seen," said Sam Gelin, who developed and opened the 108-room MADE Hotel in September 2017 in New York City. "It would also be refreshing to have more people in hospitality remembering what business they are in."