Independent hoteliers have to be clear about why they are in business if they are to stand out in a crowded marketplace, the Triptease European Direct Booking Summit was told this week.
Geoff Andrews, chief executive of Worldhotels, told the event in Amsterdam that it wants the independent hotel sector to not just survive but thrive.
But he said there was a battle for the customer going on with online retailers competing for bookings and international hotel brands opening ‘so-called’ independent competitor brands.
“In many ways there has never been a better time to be an independent hotelier. On the other hand what that opportunity brings with it is a whole series of challenges,” he said.
“There is a battle on out there for the consumer. How does the small guy hope to compete in that kind of arena when everyone is trying to crowd in?
“How are you going to make your voice heard and be distinctive in such a crowded marketplace? We have to do better at this.
“The fundamental thing is how you make your story and narrative really compelling for the audience.”
Andrews said Worldhotels has devised a training scheme for its independent members in partnership with Performance Solutions.
He said this is based on what best-selling author and motivational speaker Simon Sinec set out in his book ‘Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action’.
Andrews told delegates it was vital that managers and hotel owners involve frontline staff because they are the people who interact with guests and will deliver the experience.
“This goes deep into the NDA of the hotel. You are asking them to engage and uncover what’s already there. It’s a discovery process.
“It has to penetrate and integrate across all departments You need more compelling stories about your properties.”
Andrews cited the success of Worldhotels member Royal Park Hotel in Rochester, Michigan.
He said the hotel had managed to increase total revenue by 5%, 7% on rooms and 8% in the restaurant, pushed up occupancy by four basis points and added $10 to its Revenue Per Available room.
Its approach to working more closely with local suppliers and businesses saw it win a six-month customer service training contract and a catering contract at a nearby hospital.
“Unless you have a grip on what you are all about then what ever you are going to do in distribution is going to be suboptimal,” Andrews added.
“Things will work a hell of a lot better if you can really understand, project and live the DNA, the why of your hotel.
“The challenge is for hotels that actually do not think they are special, that they have not got a story to tell, but there is always a story to tell.”
Andrews said there is increasingly little appetite among consumers to read lots of copy and descriptions online.
But he said the key was reviews and delivering great customer service so people leave glowing feedback.
“Those are the things people are reading,” he said. “Consumer experience is driving this. That’s why we put so much emphasis on what’s happening in the hotel and getting the whole team involved.
“This is not just a marketing exercise, it will fail if that’s all it is.”