Refresher: What IS a Hotel Brand?
By Pamela Barnhill President & COO, IHT, IBC and IVH Hotels | November 22, 2015
Historically, guests sought out brands for their loyalty programs and the consistency they offered. These were important for years, when the hospitality field was dominated and defined by well-known names such as Marriott, Holiday Inn, Hilton, Hyatt, Starwood and the famous membership organization, Best Western. Those brands and the membership organization continue and remain powerful.
I must admit that I, too, sought out such brands in the 1990s as a road warrior eager to stack up their loyalty benefits for my personal travel.
With the growth of the Internet and third-party providers, however, the terrain began to shift; online transparency paved the way to what we now think of as soft brands, which broaden, complicate and sometimes blur the picture.
Could it be that the customer actually didn't care as much about the consistency as their ability to predict the quality of their upcoming stay? Could it be they still care about obtaining some loyalty benefits? People can now easily see the hotel's pictures, labeled and presented by both the hotel and the customer. People can easily see reviews posted by past guests. People can search and find a hotel based on reviews, pictures and amenities first – and name second.
In response to changing travel patterns and interactions between the guest and the hotel, the legacy brands have begun marketing their boutique brands, such as Starwood's W and soft brands such as Choice's Ascend or Marriott's Autograph.
Keep in mind: Hotel collections such as Preferred Hotel Group, Leading Hotels, Chic Retreats and InnDependent Boutique Collection (IBC) have been doing this longer than many of the new soft brands. Why do they command so little attention when together they control more hotels than the historical brands and their newly minted soft brands?
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