Chain hotels usually have certain standards of service, products and practices that they maintain across all their locations worldwide. While these may make them more dependable than other hotels, chain hotels can suffer from seeming less “cool” or personable than independent or boutique options. By contrast, independent hotels arguably have more flexible rules and policies, and may have more character than larger brands. While hotel chains can provide amazing stays to their guests and have the resources to develop sophisticated loyalty plans, marketing strategies and referral programs, independent hotels have their own individual strengths that attract guests to their properties.
Both types of properties have their benefits, but big chains can definitely stand to learn from the little guys, and could benefit from studying how certain independent hotels are successful. Let’s take a look at what independent hotels do well and examine how big hotel chains can learn to keep their best customers returning and interest new potential guests.
They Appeal to Millennials
Smart hoteliers will become experts in what millennials want. It’s projected that by 2020, the millennial traveller will make up 50% of the world’s hotel guests. Independent hotels have fared well with millennials because they appeal to their affection for customized service and high-quality products. As millennials become a greater proportion of the traveller market, hotels will have to find ways to appeal to this demographic through more customized experiences, digital convenience on-site and stronger social media branding.
Already, chain hotels are catering to millennials’ needs. Moxy by Marriott, for example, is a newer offshoot of the Marriott Hotel that offers boutique hotels geared towards young people. Their website foregrounds their craft cocktails, quality coffee and fast WiFi. By tapping into the desires of millennials—to receive boutique service at hostel prices—Marriott has intelligently ensured that they will stay relevant and popular even as millennial travellers search for hip, boutique-style properties for their trips.
They Cut the Red Tape
Independent hotels can afford to be nimble. With no corporate policies or restricting rules, these hotels have more freedom to make changes on the fly. They might be able to go out of the way to immediately customize perks and special services for guests and provide the kind of experience that creates brand ambassadors. Policies, plans and marketing efforts handed down from a corporate office located in another city might not always fit the exact feel of a property. Independent hotels have the opportunity to create a personality unique to their city and adopt the best approach for reaching their demographic.
Large chains can reap the same benefits by allowing for autonomy and trusting hotel managers to know what is best for hotels in their individual cities. If hotel managers are equipped with an innovative PMS, they can ensure a degree of organization and control over the property, while turning their focus to creating memorable stays. Hoteliers should give front desk staffers the autonomy to make guest-directed decisions, such as offering customized perks based off of guest preferences and booking history. When staff are equipped with complete guest information, they can better tailor services to the needs of their customers, creating unique and positive guest experiences. By updating guest information in real-time, your staff will be empowered to make these decisions.
They Have a Strong Social Media Presence
There is no marketing effort for hotels more affordable or effective than a compelling social media presence. Boutique hotels often have unique designs that gain attention online. Being able to market a distinct style can help attract guests to your hotel and convince them that your property offers a unique guest experience.
Large hotel chains should work to create a strong social media presence that entices guests to visit. Whether by sourcing top photos from brand ambassadors or hiring a social media manager, hotels need to ensure that their content highlights the best services and amenities they have on site. Hoteliers should work on building up their social media presence by engaging with and responding to guests, providing platform-specific promotions (e.g. asking guests to use certain branded hashtags in order to win rewards) and making sure that their best photos are featured on Facebook, Twitter, TripAdvisor and so on.
With an open mind and a few simple modifications to their strategy, big hotel brands can ensure that they are just as attractive to travellers as their independent competitors. By working to appeal to younger, more tech-savvy demographics, these chains can still win the big spenders of the next generation.
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