Maximizing Your Hotel Communication in an Uncertain Market

By Gini Dietrich Founder & CEO, Arment Dietrich Inc. | November 27, 2009

Is the unstable economy throwing shadows over your sunny vacation destinations or business travel hot spots? In these uncertain times, you are undoubtedly re-evaluating your business plans, sales strategies and of course, ways to cut costs. Often when budgets are cut, marketing is the first thing to go, but now is not the time to stop talking. In fact, it is more important than ever to be out there communicating with your current and potential customers and the people who play one of, if not "the" most crucial role in promoting your brand - your employees.

The mistake that many companies make across all industries is when business gets tough, all communication becomes price driven. Don't get me wrong, the right pricing strategy can make or break a business, but if price is the only message that is communicated, then what you offer guests becomes a commodity conversation and that is a scary place to be and an impossible position for growth. When the dust settles, organizations that build up their identity and brand emerge the winners.

Public relations is one of the most effective and economical communication strategies. Not only does it build awareness, it builds trust and let's face it, that is hard to find in the current economic climate. When a reporter "chooses" to interview you, when a leading organization "asks" you to speak, or when a
well-know blogger "engages" you in a conversation, it sends a message that you can be trusted and have something useful to say. So how do you go about building relationships with these key influencers?

Transcend Commoditization

Two major challenges afflict the hotel industry in tough economic times - smaller budgets mean less travel and hotel sales become price driven. In tough economic times, hotel stays become a commodity
rather than a service. Business travelers and vacationers search online for the least expensive stay. When your brand touts its quality and experience rather than its prices, stand out from the competition using communication in a down market.

Think of ongoing communications during uncertain economic times as an investment in the future. It is analogous to being the first hotel on an island. You invest more capital upfront in the development of roads and sewer systems, but in the long run your business stays ahead of the game providing rooms for travelers while your competitors are still under construction. Maintaining strategic public relations through rough economic times gives you a competitive advantage and keeps you ahead of your competitors in the
long run.

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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.