By Isabella Glendenning Dumas
The hotel industry is saturated. You only have to look at a price comparison site and you’ll find a plethora of hotels offering various deals on rooms and meals. It can be a real struggle for hoteliers to cut through the competition and really appeal to the new breed of consumer; reliant on technology and with very little time to read reams of corporate messaging.
As the British Hospitality Association identifies, there have been 100-150 new hotel openings in each of the last five years. This means there is plenty of choice for the consumer, but very little room for manoeuvre if you’re an independent hotel in a popular UK destination. It also doesn’t help that as well as the intense competition between independent hotels, there is an almost ‘predatory’ presence from the global chains, ever-ready to mop up indecisive customers using their expensive digital marketing tools.
The growing divide between independent hotels and global chains has presented the hospitality industry with a ‘David vs. Goliath’ scenario, with the independents feeling pressured to invest in expensive technology to compete with the global chains, who pour money into the latest, cutting-edge initiatives to price out their smaller counterparts.
The small independents are in need of that slingshot.
It’s not about the money
Large, international hotel groups have money at their disposal. It’s hard not to think, if you’re an independent hotel, that a multi-million pound budget means big results but it’s how you use what you’ve got that counts.
The big brands can spend as much on marketing and advertising as they like, but if they fail to interact with the connected consumer, they might as well throw the money away. If independent hotels can accurately identify their key customers, at the same time as engaging with those customers ‘on the fence’ then they automatically put themselves on a level footing with the international giants.
Research recently conducted by Appyhotel.com found that over a third (34 per cent) of hotel guests that had stayed in a UK hotel within the last year, didn’t know about the amenities that the hotel offered, such as a restaurant and bars. This suggests that many UK hotels are failing when it comes to effective marketing strategies and need to re-think the ways they communicate with the new breed of hotel goers.
It doesn’t take a seven-figure budget to effectively promote your hotel. Independent hoteliers must realise that the demands of the modern hotel guest have changed considerably and they’re thirsty for information about the hotel and what it offers.
The hotel giants do, however, give their potential customers real-time information and updates, booking times, the facilities and nearby places to visit, as well as other information, so that they have all the details they need to just click ‘check in’.
This is something that independent hotels should take note of.
Keeping it simple
Online engagement can be a daunting prospect for small independents. Allocating time to make sure there is a regular online presence can be a strenuous task and many hoteliers can’t afford to employ someone full-time to monitor and engage through various channels.
But it doesn’t require any real expertise, it just requires resourcefulness. For example, engaging with your online audience via Twitter or Facebook a few times a day can massively improve your hotel’s standing as a true competitor in an otherwise cluttered industry.
It’s really important that the content you share on Facebook or Twitter, whether it’s an interesting news item you’ve spotted or an offer that your hotel is giving away is both relevant and appealing to your audience.
It doesn’t need to be complicated. It’s really about remembering that online engagement is just another form of communication with your customers and has the same principles as traditional verbal or written interaction.
The future of technology for hotels
The modern-day consumer is obsessed with tablet and smartphone devices and indeed, they use these devices in everyday life for information about products or services and also as a purchasing tool. This provides an excellent opportunity for hoteliers.
Capturing consumers on the move should now be the ultimate goal for hoteliers and having an app that consumers can use on their tablet or smartphones will increase your chances of persuading them to stay at your hotel.
If you imagine a business person, on their way to an impromptu meeting abroad who will need a hotel at the last minute, if your hotel has an app that will give your target customer all the information they need to simply ‘check in’ en route to the airport, then they are very likely to choose your hotel.
Another important point to make is that the ‘digital generation’ have now become these travelling business people. Those that have grown up with technology rely on apps to give them up-to-date information and hoteliers need to acknowledge this.
It’s a fairly straightforward case of supply and demand. The popularity of mobile and tablet apps is something that hoteliers must embrace to meet consumer demand.
In March this year, Portio Research estimated that 1.2 billion people worldwide were using mobile apps at the end of 2012. This figure is forecast to grow by nearly 30 per cent each year to reach 4.4 billion users by the end of 2017.
It’s really only a matter of time before there is a widespread adoption of app technology in the hotel industry but, as with any popular technology, it’s important that hoteliers look to adopt as soon as possible so they can stay ahead of the curve and meet the ever-increasing demand.
The hotel industry is cluttered, but only because hotels are pursuing the same avenues for marketing success. It’s the same in any industry though. The companies that explore different methods for boosting revenue are the ones that have the best chance of climbing to the top of the pile.
The powerful presence of the global hotel chains does mean that independents can feel as though they’re swimming against the current, but they have options. App technology is something that every international chain has embraced, usually at a considerable cost, as it is the perfect way of capturing consumers on the move.
The “slingshot” that independent hotels have, is in the form of a cost-free app. There are apps that independent hotels can adopt that don’t require any in-depth technical expertise to create, are free and will allow them to stay competitive with the hotel goliaths that had previously soaked up their customers.
About the author
Isabella Glendenning Dumas is the European VP of sales & marketing for AppyHotel.com.
AppyHotel.com’s mission is to bring effective, simple and inexpensive web based technology to the hospitality sector. At a time when digital and social media, tablets, phones and computers are changing the way hotels communicate; AppyHotel.com is a friendly platform that helps hotels improve revenue, guest satisfaction and brand perception, while reducing marketing expenses.
AppyHotel.com is the brainchild of CEO JP Dumas, an accomplished luxury technology expert. His team includes veteran web and start up professionals from the US, Australia, Israel, and Europe. JP says the team’s international background is an important part of the company’s culture, and together with the close collaboration with hoteliers and hotel guests throughout the development, was instrumental in creating a streamlined user experience.
Based in Hong-Kong, the company serves leading hotel brands including Marriott, Starwood, and others around the globe.