In 2018 I would love to see hotel marketers regain control over the customer decision-making & booking process. There are now so many hotel brands with a lack of clarity as to what each brand stands for. And I have no doubt that this has played a huge part in the increasing commoditisation of Hotel bedrooms and the ongoing growth of the Online Travel Agents (OTA’s). Marketers have allowed the OTA’s to in essence take control of their inventories and pricing because customers don’t understand what each brand delivers. They subsequently prefer to choose a Hotel based on price and review rating, via an OTA. Loyalty to an OTA is often stronger than loyalty to a Hotel brand.
I believe it is no coincidence that successful hotel companies such as Premier Inn & Four Seasons only have one brand, and great clarity as to what that brand represents. If a brand has a strong personality and clear values & standards, as those two do, customers will go out of their way to choose those hotels. Strong branding produces strong brand loyalty. And that ultimately drives the customers to the hotel company website, rather than to that of an OTA.
An increasing number of companies now value their brand in their Balance Sheet. Are any hotel brands valued in this way? It certainly should be the ultimate objective for any Marketing Director! I have always sensed that the hotel industry just doesn’t take branding as seriously as many other industries. In recent years it has paid the price for this negligence. Perhaps in 2018 ‘branding’ could become THE buzzword?
Written by Pamela Carvell, November 2017.