Big-brand hotels and small, independent properties offer different guest experiences; and that’s the way it should be. Some travelers like the familiarity and predictability of staying with an international chain, while others are attracted to the unique, local experiences offered by smaller lodgings like inns and B&Bs. And some travelers could go either way.
Big or small, it’s important for properties to understand their own audiences and embrace their differences to remain competitive. For this reason — and, of course, due to differences in budgets — marketing and operational strategies vary between the big guys and the little guys. In saying that, it’s also helpful for independent lodgings to look to successful brands (and vice versa) for tried and true tips of the trade and current approaches that can benefit smaller establishments.
Develop a Strong Online Presence
A travel study conducted by Google last year showed that the Internet is the top source for both leisure and business travel planning, so your property needs to be easily accessible on the Web. This goes for the mobile Web too; the aforementioned study also found that travelers research and book accommodation across devices (computers, tablets and smartphones).
Your property should have:
- A strong, mobile-friendly website that conveys the experience of staying at your property through a variety of media: photos, video and compelling text.
- An easy-to-use, mobile-friendly online booking engine, seamlessly and prominently integrated into your website.
- Active social media profiles. Focus on social media as a customer engagement channel, rather than a direct sales channel.
- SEO know-how. Maximize your online visibility by implementing effective search engine optimization (SEO techniques).
Manage Your Online Reputation
Successful hotels understand the impact online reputation can have on a property’s bottom line. For small properties (that don’t typically benefit from widespread brand recognition), the role of reputation management is equally — if not more — important. While travelers are more willing to look past the odd negative review of a large hotel brand, negative reviews of independent properties can be more damaging due to smaller audience size and higher expectations.
Online, word-of-mouth spreads farther and faster than ever before so it’s crucial to monitor the Web for reviews and mentions of your property on online review sites like TripAdvisor and on social media. Social listening tools and online reputation management software like Revinate automate this process and make it easy to keep up with and address any concerns about your property being voiced online.
Offer Guest Incentives
From loyalty programs to seasonal packages and discounts, big-brand hotels are well versed in luring guests with incentives — and this can work successfully for small, independent properties too. A study by the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration revealed that frequent guests increase their visits and spend by nearly 50 percent when enrolled in a rewards program at independent hotels. Flexible loyalty programs for independent properties, like Stash Hotel Rewards, celebrate a property’s uniqueness by rewarding repeat guests with special experiences.
Seasonal packages and special offers are also an effective way to incentivize prospective guests by providing added value and highlighting your property’s strengths.
Invest in Your Staff
Investing in staff is something even the big guns don’t always get right, but the principle is the same, whether a property has 50 employees or just five. The success of any business is inextricably tied to the dedication of its staff, therefore, it’s important to pick the right people for the job, train them well, and foster motivation by providing opportunities for staff to excel.
Can you imagine running a 200-room hotel without powerful core systems like PMS? Large hotels have long relied on technology out of necessity, to maximize operational efficiency and service. Now, with the kind of hospitality technology available today, the days of spreadsheets are over for small properties too. Cloud technology has not only made core systems like PMS readily accessible to independent lodgings with limited budgets, but rapid cloud innovation is propelling small properties to the cutting edge. In an increasingly competitive hospitality industry, it’s essential to embrace both operational and guest-facing technology to constantly improve efficiency and service and keep guests coming back.
While small properties should never try to pose as a big hotel, the above tactics are key to the success of small establishments too — and should be applied in a way that celebrates a property’s independence and uniqueness.