Establishing and Growing Strong Business Partnerships for Your Hotel

By Richard Takach, Jr. President & CEO, Vesta Hospitality | February 09, 2014

Some of relationships are, by their nature, short-lived. Others can last a lifetime. More importantly, some evolve into something more formal, a partnership, characterized above all by a written, legally enforceable contractual agreement. These partnerships in many ways define our organizations and are a key factor in our overall success and profitability. Thus, the ability to form successful partnerships, similar to how we build an internal team of executives and staff, is an essential function and distinguishing skill of all hotel executives.

In this article, we will consider methods and strategies in selecting business partnerships for a hotel. We will consider partnerships at the corporate level, specifically investors and other financial partners as well those at the operational level. The latter includes the many vendors, suppliers and strategic partners, including franchise affiliations and management agreements, upon which any hotel depends.

On Common Ground

Partnerships begin with knowing ourselves. What we need and are looking for in a partner. The style of relationship and, thus, partnership, that works best for us. The specific skills, experience, resources or assets that we require and what we are willing to "pay" for them. We must also develop or know what we expect from a partner in terms of returns on investment and/or performance and how these will be measured.

It is best to meet prospective partners in-person to better gauge compatibility and other intangibles that can make or break any relationship. Next comes the courtship period. For any partnership this is akin to a marriage, right down to the vows we call contracts. This prenuptial period is the time to get to know your potential partner better and ask any questions about the prospective relationship. It is also helpful-and a good sign-when our potential partner has questions that they ask of us. We invite such scrutiny.

All these preliminaries make for smoother, less stressful negotiations when it's time to conclude a formal agreement. Moreover, they help build a reserve of understanding and commitment to shared success for the future.

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Social Media: Getting Personal

There Social media platforms have revolutionized the hotel industry. Popular sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube and Tumblr now account for 2.3 billion active users, and this phenomenon has forever transformed how businesses interact with consumers. Given that social media allows for two-way communication between businesses and consumers, the emphasis of any marketing strategy must be to positively and personally engage the customer, and there are innumerable ways to accomplish that goal. One popular strategy is to encourage hotel guests to create their own personal content - typically videos and photos -which can be shared via their personal social media networks, reaching a sizeable audience. In addition, geo-locational tags and brand hashtags can be embedded in such posts which allow them to be found via metadata searches, substantially enlarging their scope. Influencer marketing is another prevalent social media strategy. Some hotels are paying popular social media stars and bloggers to endorse their brand on social media platforms. These kinds of endorsements generally elicit a strong response because the influencers are perceived as being trustworthy by their followers, and because an influencer's followers are likely to share similar psychographic and demographic traits. Travel review sites have also become vitally important in reputation management. Travelers consistently use social media to express pleasure or frustration about their guest experiences, so it is essential that every review be attended to personally. Assuming the responsibility to address and correct customer service concerns quickly is a way to mitigate complaints and to build brand loyalty. Plus, whether reviews are favorable or unfavorable, they are a vital source of information to managers about a hotel's operational performance.  The February Hotel Business Review will document what some hotels are doing to effectively incorporate social media strategies into their businesses.