American Consumers in a Global Market Place: What Are Foreign Hotels Doing?

By Edward Donaldson VP Marketing, Small Luxury Hotels of the World | February 20, 2010

As the power of the Dollar has continued to lessen over the last year or two, savvy travelers have sought out new and interesting destinations. Mexico and the Caribbean have both seen direct impacts from this change with attractive airfares, more frequent lift and room inventories that continue to grow. Shoulder periods have become smaller and smaller and interesting packaging taking advantage of the local resources and assets has proven to be most successful.

Markets in Central and South America have seen burgeoning levels of travelers to their destinations. Asia, although horribly affected by the Tsunami crisis, enjoyed upward growth in the last year with new visitors broadening their horizons and taking advantage of widening international borders with visits to Vietnam, China and the South Seas. These destinations are perceived as offering a very advantageous value for the money. With the currency situation precarious and travelers looking further a field for value, what do the traditional destinations in the United Kingdom and Europe do to protect and attract their business? What do the little guys do to stay competitive?

The segment of the hotel industry that remains the most vulnerable is the independent small luxury property. These hoteliers are faced daily with the challenge of maintaining standards, offering value and competing with operations that often have more flexibility. The fortunate advantage that these hoteliers have is normally operating with fewer rooms to fill each night. In the last 15 years, hoteliers, especially in the independent sector, have faced these difficult challenges.

By utilizing the marketing prowess of organizations such as Small Luxury Hotels of the World as well as the multiple distribution channels offered, the independent hotelier has an advantage over much of its competition. Getting the message out to the consumer about the opportunities is the key to ensuring success. In the past, hoteliers have offered incentives such as dollar for pound rates. These were traditionally done through the larger chain operations such as Hilton, Starwood & Radisson.

As the year began in 2004 and the socio-political climate in the UK & Europe needed to be addressed, the independent hoteliers employed the same strategies with a twist in an effort to ensure that they were able not only to ensure their regular guests were protected but were also attracting new potential guests. Being independent hoteliers, they were also able to ensure that these offerings were not perceived as "bargains" but true values.

Such hotels as The Stafford and Athenaeum in London, Hotel Vernet in Paris and Hotel Art in Rome all designed specific offerings for the discerning US traveler whilst maintaining the standards of service and luxury that have made them synonymous with the best of the best. The Stafford in London decided to offer a guaranteed exchange rate of 1.75 despite that day's trading insuring guests a specific rate while The Athenaeum has made the dollar equal to the pound. Hotel Vernet in Paris simply offered a rate with which the dollar was equal to the Euro allowing American guests to enjoy Superior rooms for $280 instead of 280 Euros.

Coming up in February 2018...

Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.