Bill Barnett, managing director of C9 Hotelworks Company, shares his thoughts and experiences on hotel chain communication and distribution throughout the crisis.
While we are still in the midst of the evolving Covd-19 storyline, one thing that is apparent is how massively ill-equipped global hotel group’s sales and marketing and distribution systems are for disruption.
Over the past three months not one single hotel I stayed in last year has contacted me, bothered to connect or even reach out to say hey. I stayed in over 50 individual hotels last year. I find this strange as a host of people I barely know have checked in on Facebook, Linked In, email or WhatsApp during the crisis, but businesses that rely on loyalty have fallen insanely mute.
I’m a hotel loyalty member of Marriott, Hyatt and ACCOR, and travel frequently. Aside from the monthly regular mailings that bear no reference to the global crisis and show nice pictures of hotels in places I cannot go, there has been zero communication.
Yet, I do frequently hear, or see hotel deal sites that actually sell hotel rooms for all these chains responding with value propositions. In Thailand take a look at MEGA Tix (www.megatix.in.th) and all of the lead offerings are prepaid vouchers to chain hotels.
I’ve asked a few friends who work in chain properties why they go to outside groups to do their sales and marketing, and their reaction is that either their own distribution models can’t handle the ad hoc prepaid deals, or else they don’t want to damage their own corporate business base by being seen to sell these direct. So, they use an intermediary to do what should be their jobs, while shouting to owners how much cashflow they generated.
Now, if I’m a hotel owner who is paying both fixed and variable expenses for these seemingly large-scaled global systems that can’t even address a downturn in trading, where is the value? I’m paying both the hotel group and also the deal site for massively discounted business. I’m not sure that makes sense.
That said, hotels now are all jumping hoops to make cash flow to simply cover running cost so it’s revenue at any cost. But what confuses me is why are the sales and marketing systems running afoul? Why aren’t hotels connecting to repeat guests? Where is engagement or even simple communication? Electronic distribution has created a great wall to customers and in many cases, hotels are simply too lazy to talk to their customers versus posting a lame photo and offer on their Facebook site that no one will respond to.
As a hospitality industry observer, I can already see how the crisis is going to create deal sites like Luxury Escapes into instant Gods through mass selling of added value room offerings at commodity pricing. The next round of mass offerings will likely be large hotel chain properties because, after all, selling a branded hotel at half price is simply too good to be true.
In a nutshell I have nothing against deal sites; they have found a great niche and they, like OTAs, exist due to the inability of hotel groups to innovate, adapt and create real world strategies that go beyond the rigid company line. As for the readers here, when was the last time in the past few months you heard from your favourite hotel? Something has to, or should change in the murky world of hotel chain distribution. Hello? Is anyone out there?