How Marriott's Most Global Brand Thinks Local

Sheraton Reveals It's No Longer 'One Design Fits All'

By Erin Hoover Vice President of Design, Westin Hotels & Resorts and Sheraton Hotels & Resorts | October 30, 2016

"The human species thinks in metaphors and learns through stories" - Mary Catherine Bateson

Until mid-20th century, a hotel's aesthetic was unique and customized to each location - either by design, as in the case of luxury properties built at the beginning of the 20th century, like the Waldorf Astoria or St. Regis, or by default, in the case of humbler regional hotels, motels and inns. The trend toward design standardization started in the 1950s in North America. Middle class prosperity mixed with modern interstate highways and cars designed for longer trips fueled an increase in leisure and business travel.

But to offset the boundaries being pushed in personal exploration, travelers desired predictability in lodging. Whether traveling for business, or on a family vacation, guests wanted to know that cleanliness, level of service and standard amenities, such as bathroom products or on-property dining, would be consistent, and most importantly, dependable. This idea of standards and reliability was also applied to decor and design, creating a total brand experience that connoted quality and safety to travelers.

Holiday Inn was one of the first movers in mandating that properties have consistent standards in 1957, when the chain began franchising in North America. This strategy was successful, allowing regional chains to expand throughout the US and, in some cases, beyond. And so, the idea of brand loyalty was born, and further reinforced when hospitality loyalty programs were introduced in the 1980s.

Before the rise of online rating sites and the ability to see guest reviews and photos, travelers relied on brand consistency when making their booking decisions. They were attracted to big box brands like Sheraton because they knew what to expect: a clean, safe room, with a consistent decor scheme. With the increase in global travel, advances in technology, evolution in photo-sharing and humblebrag nature of social media, we're seeing a swing in the other direction: guests still want consistency in safety, cleanliness and service, and of course the value of brand loyalty programs, but they're also seeking engagement with the locale when they stay at a hotel. Everything the guest experiences now needs to have a connection to the destination. And it needs to feel unique and different each time.

"Good design is good business" - Ian Schrager

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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.