The Importance of Industry Networking
By Scott Nadel Chief Operating Officer, DMC Hotels/Dhillon Management | November 20, 2011
The old adage "It's not what you know, but who you know" is relevant today for hotel operators. Getting involved with community organizations, national, state, and local associations, publicly financed tourism marketing entities, as well as, local clubs, churches and sports teams creates strong networks for hotel managers to count on for business. Practical hoteliers who are active in a market will benefit by being aware of events happening in the market and enable them to develop smart and effective marketing strategies to capitalize on opportunities to gain room shares. By building strong relations within the community, hotel managers can improve the image of their hotel and raise awareness of the benefits they can offer to travelers. Many corporations rely on local contacts to decide where to send their business. Organizations that count on volunteers will look favorably on hotel managers that contribute time and energy. Hoteliers who diligently network to build strong relationships within a market will gain results.
A General Manager's role as hotel ambassador to and for a community is vital to the success of a hotel. This role takes them outside the hotel and into the community. When the community leaders and involved citizens see an active General Manager, a respect develops that boosts the recognition for the hotel which leads to more business. A strong commitment to not only the community but also the various organizations, associations, boards and committees ensures a positive image not only for the General Manger, but also the hotel. Towns, organizations, and associations rely on volunteers and when those entities witness a General Manager participating in community endeavors, they along with their hotel reap many benefits.
In the Hospitality Industry, who you know is as important as donors are to a politician. So it is in the best interest for hotel operators to get to know the key players in the community. The best place to start is the local Chamber of Commerce. The members are usually elected individuals who are instrumental in managing the business affairs for the town and have their pulse on what is happening in the area. Often times, you can rely on them for information on new businesses moving into the area, changes in company workforces, as well as, plans for future hotels. One of the best ways to take advantage of this valuable resource is to serve on a committee or even better, on the board itself. Another way is to host an after work hour social. This offers a chance for Chamber members who may not have visited your hotel a perfect opportunity to see your property firsthand, as local business owners outside the tourism industry typically do not visit hotels in their own city. Also, Chamber members are invited to ribbon cutting ceremonies and as a member, hotel operators can share in the limelight with the new business by contributing time and material to help promote the new business to the area. This new business relationship increases the possibility in earning new room nights not only from the business itself, but also for the additional rooms generated from having this new business in the market.
Hotel managers will be wise to stay current with community activities that can affect travel and tourism in their markets. Road closures, business closings, bonds that affect hotel occupancy taxes, as well as, changes in resources for publicly funded organizations that promote city tourism are all big concerns for hotel operators. A proactive hotelier will be involved with the city organizations that play key roles in setting these events in motion. Attending community discussions, council board meetings, as well as, public forums help hotel managers stay abreast of news that have direct consequences for the hotel business. Building strong relations with civic leaders benefit hotel managers by keeping their hotel name in the forefront of these individuals who make decisions concerning tourism. Hotel managers should offer to sit on committees to keep informed, and play active roles in deciding where tourism dollars are spent. Developing strong ties to community leaders help hoteliers be ahead of the game when it comes to competing for construction and road improvement business coming into the area.
The Convention & Visitors Bureau is a strong ally for every hotel operator in the community. Typically financed through city funds, derived from hotel occupancy taxes, the entity is your life line with the tourism activity. In fact, to some degree, hotel managers can assume the bureau works for them. They are in tune to not only local travel needs, but also for county and state organized events. Building a strong relationship with the staff at the CVB is the best way to ensure hotel operators get their fair market share of rooms and hotel operators will do well who volunteer to help this key element in the success of a community. A strong and well organized CVB program works diligently to bring conventions, special events to the area. The CVB is the biggest promoter for a town and hotels can benefit from the additional exposure through their marketing efforts. The CVB is made up of several departments which target various markets, similar to the markets tracked by hotels. Connect with the marketing manager that works best with the hotel, but do not neglect the other members of the CVB team. Look at the areas the CVB team is targeting and join forces either by advertising in their promotional material or by traveling with them to trade shows, conventions and FAB tours. The CVB always asks for hotel representatives to volunteer to work with them at events and functions, managers who do, will win big with this additional commitment.
Another organization hotel operators should be active with is the American Hotel & Lodging Association. The AHLA is an organization created in 1910 to protect hotel owners from guests who stayed without paying, as well as, dishonest employees. Today, the association with nearly half a million hotels nationwide provides its members, a plethora of information to help hotel operators succeed in managing their properties. The AHLA allows hotelier to network with each other locally, as well as, joining forces with hotels across the nation. Industry supporting businesses can join and offer hotel managers an opportunity to broaden their network with vendors as well as room generating businesses, creating strong foundation for rooms in a market. Many local branches of the organization work with community leaders to help establish charity activities that create strong impressions for hoteliers. Hotel operators will get maximum benefit from this association by serving on the board. Becoming a board member enables hotel operators to put their hotels in the best position to be aware of what is happening in the hospitality industry.