Saying Goodbye Doesn't Have to Be Hard to Do: Reflagging Best Practices

By Steve Van President & CEO, Prism Hotels | May 19, 2013

In my last column, I discussed best practices for managing a hotel renovation: telling a story, getting customers actively involved on the front end, and having a strategy to help guests and staff cope with the change. While much of that information pertains to both flag changes and standard renovations, there are certain components that apply only to brand transitions.

We are going to be seeing more and more hotels change flags this year as loans come due and many franchisors stop giving out "hall passes," to properties with no money to renovate. These franchisors are tired of waiting for properties to live up to current standards and are going to insist on fulfilling the Performance Improvement Plan or changing the flag.

Consumer preferences and expectations are also evolving in new and different ways that are having significant impact on certain markets. As my Vice President of Marketing Allison Handy told me, "when Vera Wang launches a clothing line for Kohls, you know traditional boundaries of luxury and economy are no longer clear-cut." This is an important cultural observation that we see with travelers as well. Some travelers, armed with TripAdvisor searches, no longer care about brand name and prefer independent boutique style properties. Others, still recovering from the recent economic downturn, are turning to more budget friendly brands than those they've frequented in the past.

What this means for hoteliers is they can no longer sit back and bank on a brand attracting enough of the right customers. They can't expect to put a new flag on the building and open the doors to find people lined up to get in, nor can they expect that all of their previous customers will immediately switch over to the new brand. In an industry based on relationships, hoteliers have to be especially careful not to burn bridges with past guests while actively recruiting for new guests in the process of reflagging. But done right, owners can confidently make the right business decision for their hotel without a painful goodbye.

This article explores how successful owners, managers and brands should work together during the reflagging process to maximize ROI and ensure a smooth transition.

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Coming up in June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.