August letter: Making the right investments

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By Bharat (Bruce) Patel, AAHOA Chairman (2016-2017)

In the 1970s, FRAM oil filter commercials were famous for the slogan, “You can pay me now, or pay me later.” The message, delivered by a grease-covered mechanic, was clear: Invest in a high-quality product today to avoid paying hefty repair and maintenance fees tomorrow.

As hoteliers, AAHOA members know firsthand the importance of a solid investment. They know that a good landscaping firm or a professional website designer can be pricey, but it’s pricier, by far, not to make the investment at all. The problem arises when we fail to diversify our portfolio and rely too heavily on outdated means to generate new business. And, as the commercial says, you can make the right investments now or pay the price later.

Think about video. Images and music can be far more persuasive than words printed on a page. Hoteliers are often selling lifestyle as much as location or price. And, video can allow you to tell your story in ways that will help guests make an emotional connection with your property. Video doesn’t have to be expensive. And, it can be easily distributed through your website or social media.

Embrace multi-channel branding. Having an attractive website and a strong social media presence is a must, but be alert for opportunities to reach out and meet your guests where they are. Triumph Hotels of New York City recently launched a wildly successful, HSMAI award-winning campaign titled, “Countdown to Your New York City Dream.” The company sought out potential guests in the early stages of trip planning with savvy content marketing and sold them on Triumph before they even reached the booking page.

Join forces for good. As part of its “Project Wake Up Call,” Red Lion Hotels has teamed up with local charities in at least three major cities to combat homelessness, earning the company a reputation for good-doing and social outreach. You can do the same, albeit on a smaller scale, by partnering with a local chapter of a national charity. Establishing a history of giving back is a crucial investment in your hotel’s future, particularly as more and more consumers expect businesses to be socially engaged.

Meet guests where they “live.” As Hello Scout CEO David Temple pointed out at HITEC back in June, the age of the app is at an end. The future of hospitality marketing and guest retention, Temple believes, is messaging. Case in point: IHG recently launched its Facebook-messaging initiative, which sends pre-stay notifications and allows guests to communicate directly with hotel staff on stay preferences.

Ask any seasoned hotelier how he or she measures success and you’ll probably get a mouthful of alphabet soup. For better or worse, RevPAR, ADR, OCC and MPI rule our industry. If your hotel isn’t posting good numbers, it simply won’t last long in a competitive market. It is still true, however, that those numbers won’t put heads in beds because they make no difference to the guest experience.

Get to know your guests; find out who they are, what they want and what kind of experience they’re looking for. It’s one of the best investments you can make in your property’s future.

 

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