Within the accommodation and hospitality industry there is a plethora of different brands.
In the hotel industry alone there are in excess of 400 different brands worldwide through the privately owned, franchised and management model structures. These brands offer a range of pricing and style from the budget hotel F1, now Ibis, (Accor) to the affordable Best Western through to the luxury Armani Hotels and Resorts through to the more boutique and unique modern style of Citizen M – for the global mobile citizen and the dramatically themed Inntel Hotel Zaandam in the Netherlands.
Brands proliferate in every style and type of accommodation from hotels to motels, from bed and breakfast and backpacker hostels to caravan and holiday parks. Like the hotel and motel sectors, within caravan and holiday parks we also encounter many brands across the world. From the two main cooperative marketing groups in Australia being Big4 Holiday Parks and Top Tourist Parks offering a wide range of style and pricing of quality camping, caravanning and cabin accommodation to Leading Campgrounds of Europe where the campgrounds are all five star properties and Les Castels where the properties are all outstanding estates and remarkable sites – both brands offering never-to-be-forgotten holiday experiences.
Whatever brand you decide to join in whatever style of hospitality you choose to offer the traveller – be it the businessperson or holidaymaker – you need to ensure that you are receiving an acceptable return on your investment with that brand. Having said that, the calculation of that ROI is becoming a far more complex reckoning these days than in the past. It is only a few years ago when brands were used by the traveller as a judgment of expected price, quality or service offering and by the branded property as a provider of a known and respected name and marque, strong, regular and successful marketing campaigns, training manuals, standardised business and operational processes, guest loyalty or club programs, annual accreditation and quality checking programs and, in many cases – particularly amongst hotel brands – a national or international reservations system. Then the ROI from belonging to one of the ccepted brands was generally unequivocal – join the brand and business flowed.
The reason that the branded chains worked so well in days gone by for both the traveller and the chain members was that booking a site or room or cabin was a lot simpler. Sourcing suitable accommodation for the businessperson or holidaymaker was simply a matter of purchasing one of the many accommodation guide books produced by the automobile associations or picking up the accommodation guide from their favoured brand and choosing the property in their intended destination or along their planned route. Past experience – either their own or someone they trusted – may also have been taken into account.
The star rating provided by the State Automobile Association or accredited rating organisation would also be a consideration and was generally used to judge quality and expected pricing. Once decided upon it was then a case of calling the property to book or calling and booking on the national reservations system. Great for the guest and money in the bank for the property – minus the franchise royalty and sundry fees and/or the booking commission. Belonging to one of the known chains or brands was a logical business decision and those who chose to remain independent did so at their own peril. The ROI was measured in bookings, reputation by association, access to business tools that helped to build income and profile and the camaraderie of belonging to a group of like-minded business associates.
Oh how things have changed! In respect of income and business generated the brands are no longer in the driver’s seat – that position has been well and truly handed over to the consumer. The Internet has completely altered the consumer’s accommodation researching and booking process.
According to Redshift Research 20 per cent of leisure travellers worldwide turned to social media platforms when researching their travel plans. Sites such as Facebook, Twitter, ReviewPro, WAYN (Where are you now) and TripAdvisor – to name a few – have provided an unparalleled source of comment and opinion on the quality, pricing and offering of accommodation properties by recent past guests. TripAdvisor alone states that they receive 60 new contributions posted to their site every minute and from the Australian Tourism Summit 2013 it was revealed that 53 per cent of travellers will not book a property that does not have any reviews on TripAdvisor. Facebook, too, has become many consumers’ go-to researching resource amongst friends and relatives on intended property stays.
With the momentous change in referencing resource that has occurred in recent times, brands today need to become far more diligent in their understanding of consumer trends, the market demographics of who uses or would potentially use their brand and how they directly contribute to the bookings of their branded properties. With the advent and growth in importance of social media comment in booking decisions of potential guests it is now more important than ever that brands also maintain strict control over the quality of service, presentation and value-for-money that their branded properties offer.
With the strength and immediacy of social media comment now being what it is even the best branded property’sreputation can be tainted by the actions or poor service of a branded colleague property. In the past independent properties would struggle against the branded properties. In today’s climate where your customer is now your marketer and advocate or worst critic, through their ability to comment – both positively and negatively about the experience they had – the independent can survive and grow. They can now build and market – through their guests – a strong and positive personal brand. So long as they display robust values, consistently excellent service, value for money and a positive and memorable experience they can grow and prosper. They must however, have a commitment and dedication to remaining in touch and regularly communicating with their guest database to build their loyalty and activate those guest’s word of mouth advocacy and attract new customers by understanding and responding to the changing or developing trends.
There is a place for strong branded chains in today’s changed marketplace. Choosing the right one for you will depend on what you are looking for. Obviously increased business is a given requirement and so ROI needs to be measured in direct bookings and contribution to the bottom line after all costs of belonging are extracted. However there are other areas in which the branded chain can assist members to navigate and survive in what has become a very socially interactive market. These include providing technology support and training to help generate and manage guest feedback. Support for members in managing the many booking avenues that consumers now have access to is also a must in today’s marketplace where the consumer has so many options. Of course any branded accommodation organisation today must maintain a watchful eye on consumer trends and be able to educate branded affiliates on how they should adapt themselves to take full advantage of these trends – preferably as they are emerging rather than after the event.
As a branded affiliate or member you too have a commitment to represent that brand as your own in order to achieve and allow the brand to provide the highest return. You have a responsibility to the other affiliates or members to uphold the values of the organisation, support your fellow affiliates and you have the right to expect the same in return.
So, which brand for you?