Based on the current narrative amongst scientific pundits, it’s looking like this summer will finally see us pulling off the pandemic with a steady, and hopefully lasting, recovery taking effect. That said, travel behaviors have been irreversibly shifted and thus it’s time to think about rebranding and how to adapt your business for the decade ahead.
A big trend therein to consider is ‘purposeful travel’ and the more you define this the better your odds on standing apart from the herd. A large factor for why purposeful travel will have a big impact for the decade ahead has to do with the lack of hotel marketing budgets over the past two years—for obvious reasons—in combination with lean teams.
Rebranding is as much marketing as it is new services, features and renovations. Travelers are no longer being told how to emotionally distinguish one brand from another. You would think that as travel numbers grow, most properties would ramp back up advertising efforts to hinder such apples-to-apples comparisons, but what we’re seeing through our consultancy is that many hotels have learned to maintain healthy margins and service debt on lower, mid-pandemic occupancies, thus having no immediate need to increase operating expenses or staff up.
This vacuum of advertising commitments in the travel sector can be lucrative for those brands that do in fact re-engage guests in a smart, budget-conscious way. To that end, giving your company a purpose or meaning can heighten awareness passively (that is, without incurring sizeable advertising fees) by making your brand more distinguishable to the prospective customer. Purposeful travel has huge applicability in the wellness space, but it can also pertain to activities, attractions, F&B or anything else that will bestow guests with unique experiences.
The story is in the specificity, as they say. A property with a highly specified purpose—such as, offering a tranquil, wellness-focused respite within driving distance for luxury leisure travelers—helps you to zoom in on a well-defined customer mindset then focus your limited marketing dollars on only this base. A drawback is that working within a pinprick of segmentation like this can also stymie awareness growth within vast swaths of other demographics that might otherwise give your hotel a try.
Nichification as per this ambiguous example can be exceedingly profitable, except in situations where a broad base is required, such as an economic downturn. In such bare times, a property’s survivability depends on its ability to appeal to multiple demographics so that any one group can pick up the slack when the others falter. Hence, striving for a highly specific brand purpose should be hedged by experimentation to gain new market inroads.
And yet, you still need to have a strong base of support from one particular market niche in order to make the whole process seamless and cost-effective. In the post-pandemic world, this balance can be achieved through having a shrewder eye towards data integrations. Deepening your knowledge of your guests will allow you to better discern lookalike customers and test product messaging to new audiences.
What are your core segments? Do those passively halo onto other markets? Where do you focus your FF&E to more effectively appeal to a large swath of travelers yet still be meaningful to a core demographic? These are serious questions, and with the world moving ever-faster in 2022 now is the time to codify what your customer base is and how best to reinforce your brand equity.