The global economic downturn of the last two or three years has taken a significant toll on the hotel industry, with many hoteliers trying their best to stay afloat by adopting a range of different marketing and operational techniques. Some of these methods have proved successful, whilst many others haven’t.
Experimenting with a marketing strategy can prove costly in terms of time, money and human resources, with hotels of all sizes having to spend within their means. It seems that many businesses have adopted and embraced new technology and the use of non-travel related social media to generate trade, but this type of interaction, which can be argued has de-personalised the relationship with customers, is still to make an impact for individual hotels.
In a recent interview with hotel-industry.co.uk, senior lecturer in international hotel and restaurant management at London Metropolitan University, Ionnis S Pantelidis, said, “The social media growth is exponential, so although we know it is taking the online part of the business by storm we really have no idea of its offline implications. It depends on a number of factors including the size of the company. For example, large corporations have the resources to manage their e-brand, whilst small hotels that are reliant on independent travelers could be badly affected by negative online reviews.”
Balanced Hotel Marketing
During the current financial climate, 2011 may be the year for hoteliers to return to a more balanced strategic marketing plan where the internet and other electronic forms of marketing are used to supplement sales efforts, rather than replace them.
Many hotels have been forced to abolish or not replace some key positions in their corporations, meaning that remaining staff were asked to multi-task, forcing them into taking on additional responsibilities and tasks. With an improving business environment it is anticipated that a return to hiring specialist sales staff to boost contacts and trade could be seen as hotels try to re-connect with customers once more.
Hotel revenue management will also come under the spotlight as it experienced a resurgence of interest amongst hoteliers during the tough fiscal times. A reduction in sales meant that businesses could not rely on the ‘hard sell’ and were forced to ‘sell smart’ instead.
Revenue management was created to take the focus off simply selling rooms to concentrate on building net income by maximising occupancy through rate and inventory management. A number of hotels drastically dropped their rates in an attempt to capture business, but many of these hoteliers will find it increasingly difficult to bring them back to more profitable levels as the recession recedes.
There has also been a growing trend for hotels to outsource their internet and electronic marketing. This allows time and money to be freed up and redirected towards sales efforts and core marketing policies that were used before the days of the internet to build long term business.
There is no denying the positive impact that the internet and electronic publicity has made in the hotel industry over the last decade, but adopting ways to engage with consumers directly should always be a fundamental marketing strategy.
By Phil Benson