Position Your Hotel as a Valuable Member of the Local Community

By Richard Takach, Jr. President & CEO, Vesta Hospitality | May 11, 2014

Community programs must start with a genuine desire to be involved in the society about us and, then, evolve from the clear needs of the local community, the interests of our team and the guidance of our organization, including its ownership group. Furthermore, they demonstrate or embody the reality that no hotel can or should thrive in isolation from its greater, surrounding community. Moreover, in our experience, individual hotel properties perform better when they are active community citizens. As a result, there are many good reasons to get involved, as we shall consider in this article ways in which to position a hotel as a valuable member of the local community.

Starting Off On the Right Foot

Where do we begin when attempting to become a valuable member of the local community? With what activities should we become involved? In my experience, the first step for a hospitality executive new to a community is to join local groups, from the Rotary to the Red Cross, from general business and merchant groups to economic development, historic preservation or cultural groups. In this way, you can learn what makes the community "tick" and form relationships with its business and professional leaders. It also helps you learn about projects under way in the local community, as well as some of the issues that it is facing.

For example, a new downtown merchants group may be forming. Or perhaps the community is focusing on a proposed stadium or highway that is expected to help grow commerce. Is homelessness, literacy or job training an issue? Does the community have a strong interest in historic preservation? In smaller communities, is there a college, university or major business around which much of the activity seems to center? These insights help us make intelligent and useful choices about what resources, financial and personal, we might devote to community programs.

Yes, there is some prospecting involved. Certainly, being known in the community and forming relationships with decision makers will help draw business to our property. But that is fine. When we are engaged in the business world, reciprocity is an important principle. It is only natural that many organizations will make donations to those groups that are also a client.

Most importantly, be visible and accessible. Be ready to help when asked. Sincere and genuine involvement on your part will be recognized and appreciated for what it is: an effort to be "of use" to the local community.

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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.