Brand experts and technology providers discuss hotel identities at the forum on Rebuilding and shaping hotel brands
The focus of the online discussion about ’Rebuilding and shaping hotel brands’ was on how hotels can establish a recognisable, special brand and thereby improve their market standing. ITB and the Hospitality Industry Club were the hosts of this virtual forum. Alexander Schuster of 25hours Hotel Company, Dr. Michael Toedt of Dailypoint and David Turnbull of techtalk.travel responded to questions from the moderator Sebastien Loeitner of Cloudbeds. A video of this presentation, as well as others, can be found on the new website at www.itb.com.
When establishing their own brand and profile, hotels frequently reach their limits and find it difficult to distinguish themselves from their competitors. At the same time, experts are divided over the best approach for the hotel industry. They see it as necessary for hotels to establish a profile based on their products and services. For Alexander Schuster of 25hours Hotels the focus is on customers and the unique experience of their stay, to which they are always entitled.
“This is about how well-known and recognisable a brand is. We need to think about how to approach customers and draw their attention to a hotel”, said Schuster. According to Michael Toedt of Dailypoint, that is where hotels need to use their technology and IT to specifically target customers. His company had established a key profile for each customer for its hotels. “That way, the website, bookings, marketing and hotel information are interconnected. In some cases the data is stored on up to 15 different systems“, Toedt said. He has set up an interconnected system for Platzl Hotels in Munich. They offer guests favourable rates as part of a customer loyalty program. Toedt: “After registering the receive codes which can be used to book rates over the hotel website, which ensures they are not forfeited to OTAs. The profile of a customer, which every employee can access, has a list of every desire, preference and aversion which can be taken into account the moment they check in.“ Since the program’s launch online bookings had increased from 10 to 32 per cent.
Like Schuster, David Turnbull of techtalk.travel saw hotels as having a responsibility with their products and the way they targeted customers: “The best opportunities arise when a customer is at the hotel. The customer experience is crucial and is the vehicle for establishing a brand.“ According to Schuster and the 25hours brand philosophy, the experience begins at the hotel entrance. “We must always ask ourselves what a customer’s expectations are. The little things make a difference“, is Schuster’s advice to hotel owners. 25hours customers are offered extra services such as concerts, yoga sessions or a choice of music in their room.
Furthermore, 25hours hotels distinguished themselves from their competitors with restaurants that carried independent brand names, he said. In Turnbull’s view that was a selling point that made a difference, especially for minor brands. In his opinion the major hotel chains were no longer brands, but merely portfolios instead. “Minor brands are better. Less is more”, Turnbull believes. Minor brands were more in touch with the customer and their desires.
According to Toedt, it requires tried and tested systems adapted to companies’ needs to find out exactly what a customer wants. “Hotels have up to 30 different profiles of the same customer. 99 per cent of hotels have no idea who their customers really are“, said Toedt. Many of them lacked the necessary infrastructure for analysing and sorting data. “A lot of hotels ask customers for a review after their stay, but it is not included in the customer profile. That devalues the customer’s review.“ Turnbull sees customer profiles and what they tell hotels about customers as being crucial. In Schuster’s opinion, the identity of a hotel comes first and the technology it employs second. “Brand identity is at a premium. What do we stand for?“ No technology can help convey a brand’s message. “Technology cannot make up for bad service.“