Caroline Cockell, Marketing Director, Interstate Hotels

Caroline Cockell, Marketing Director,
Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts

In the latest of our Spotlight series, we interviewed Caroline Cockell of Interstate Europe Hotels & Resorts, a leading operator of hotels, resorts and conference centres of all major franchised lodging brands throughout the UK,  Europe, and Russia/CIS.: 

Tell us a bit about your history in hotels:

This is actually my first role in hotels! My career to date has been incredibly varied, with posts in travel, retail and leisure over the last 12 years, but in terms of hotels per se, this is my first and I’m loving it.

Tell us about your current role and main responsibilities?

I’ve been in my current role as marketing director for around two years now. It’s a hugely varied role, with a large part of my job to inspire and empower our hotels to maximise their own marketing plans and activity.

My role is about trying to ensure our hotels are taking advantage of the marketing opportunities available to them, and provide them with the tools they need – be it social media or website support, PR advice or by using the relevant brand tools.

There’s not always somebody with marketing experience or expertise in every hotel team, so we’re here to make it easier for them and provide that support.

Most weeks I’m out and about, travelling between our properties to meet with hotel teams, share marketing ideas and advise on any challenges they’re facing.

What are the biggest challenges you face when it comes to digital marketing for your organisation at present?

There are numerous challenges when it comes to digital marketing, firstly the challenge of persuading people to book direct – an issue hotels and other management organisations across the country are facing, too.

The big online travel agents have a wealth of resource – both in terms of budget and marketing team size – and therefore can be everywhere at once, targeting both business and leisure travellers through multiple channels, in creative and engaging ways.

Competing for travellers’ attention and securing a direct booking is very difficult with less resource at your fingertips, but we are working hard to find more creative yet cost-effective ways to meet this challenge.

Additionally, a challenge we personally face at Interstate is the huge diversity of our portfolio. We are a white label hotel management company. We don’t own any hotels.

Every business is of equal importance to us and managing the very different marketing requirements of the brands and independent hotels we operate is a big task, but we have a great team on hand with widely varied expertise to drive performance in each scenario.

What is your most successful social media channel for the organisation and why?

Twitter is certainly our most successful channel at Interstate, due to the fact it allows us to engage directly with people and organisations.

Our properties use a variety of platforms, from Instagram to Facebook and LinkedIn. The latter are certainly useful, but it’s becoming very tough for our properties to get the organic reach they want on those platforms without putting budget into promotional posts and page boosts.

What do you see being the biggest trend or new innovation in hotel marketing in the next 24 months?

Video, in all its guises, is set to continue being an impactful marketing tool. It’s the way people want to consume information at the moment and I can’t see that changing for the foreseeable future.

However, as we’ve seen already on Facebook and Instagram, videos with subtitles are set to increase in popularity, as people continue to view content on mobile devices, often in public places, and therefore don’t necessarily want the sound.

I think this evolution of the way we use video will continue and we’ll see further innovations in the coming months and years.

If I gave you £30,000 right now to spend on your marketing, what would you do with it?

Make more videos! We’d love to create more walk-through style videos of our properties and bring what we do to life with truly engaging content.

What are you currently steering clear of with regards to marketing strategy or implementation?

In this industry, we’ve become very reliant on printed marketing collateral and so, as a team, we’re making a conscious effort to move away from it wherever we can.

For some hotels and their markets’, it may still be relevant but we’re finding, more often than not, it’s digital all the way, be it a shift towards online customer service tools, apps or simply e-mailing rather than printing documentation.

What’s your ultimate career goal?

In my current position, it’d be fantastic to be able to do more, for more hotels. I work within a very talented marketing team, but it would be amazing to have specialist areas and members of staff within the team to provide an even better, more focused marketing support service to our properties.

I very much believe that our hotel owners’ businesses come first, and so to be in a position with my career to deliver even more for them would be a great feeling.

What plans does Interstate have afoot?

We’re experiencing a period of strong growth at the moment. Just recently we announced another 13 hotels in our signed pipeline, taking our UK portfolio to more than 70 properties nation-wide.

In line with this growth, we’re working as a marketing team to continue raising the organisation’s profile and reinforce our position as a leading third-party hotel management company.

Thanks to Caroline for a fantastic overview of her strategies, challenges and opportunities. If you would like to participate in a future “Spotlight” feature, or would like to nominate a colleague, please email us with full details at hma@hospa.org

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