Are You Managing Your Competitors or Are They Managing You?

By John Manderfeld President, Marin Management Inc. | May 06, 2010

Can you really manage your competition? Well, you can certainly manage your competitive relations and the impact your competitors have on your business. And, in good times and bad, there are ways for you to always come out on top.

Start by being realistic about who your competition is. Too often we like to flatter ourselves by imagining that we directly compete with hotels far more luxurious and packed full of more services than our own. A guideline that I use is that if a nearby hotel's rates are usually within 30% of mine-higher or lower-they are a direct competitor. And that means I need to treat them as a competitor.

Here's how with seven ways to manage the competition:

1. Build strong relationships with your competitors. Know that your competitors are not your enemies. In fact, they can be your best friends and your most active source of customers. Other hotels can send you more customers than any other single source. Treat your competitors with respect and consideration. Don't fight over the small things.

I knew a hotel executive who did not talk to a competitor for years over one hiring an employee from the other (and a couple even less important issues). The result: thousands of lost room nights from referrals.

Building strong business relationships is more than just an occasional friendly telephone call or lunch. Do something with the leaders of your competing hotels-go to a ballgame, entertain them for dinner or play a round of golf. Let's face it, when you cannot accommodate a single guest or a large group, you refer the business to someone you like.

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Eco-Friendly Practices: Corporate Social Responsibility

The hotel industry has undertaken a long-term effort to build more responsible and socially conscious businesses. What began with small efforts to reduce waste - such as paperless checkouts and refillable soap dispensers - has evolved into an international movement toward implementing sustainable development practices. In addition to establishing themselves as good corporate citizens, adopting eco-friendly practices is sound business for hotels. According to a recent report from Deloitte, 95% of business travelers believe the hotel industry should be undertaking “green” initiatives, and Millennials are twice as likely to support brands with strong management of environmental and social issues. Given these conclusions, hotels are continuing to innovate in the areas of environmental sustainability. For example, one leading hotel chain has designed special elevators that collect kinetic energy from the moving lift and in the process, they have reduced their energy consumption by 50%  over conventional elevators. Also, they installed an advanced air conditioning system which employs a magnetic mechanical system that makes them more energy efficient. Other hotels are installing Intelligent Building Systems which monitor and control temperatures in rooms, common areas and swimming pools, as well as ventilation and cold water systems. Some hotels are installing Electric Vehicle charging stations, planting rooftop gardens, implementing stringent recycling programs, and insisting on the use of biodegradable materials. Another trend is the creation of Green Teams within a hotel's operation that are tasked to implement earth-friendly practices and manage budgets for green projects. Some hotels have even gone so far as to curtail or eliminate room service, believing that keeping the kitchen open 24/7 isn't terribly sustainable. The May issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to integrate sustainable practices into their operations and how they are benefiting from them.