A more targeted approach focused on the customer experience, increased utilization of video and fully transparent websites were among the key themes emphasized by a handful of hospitality executives as the most effective sales and marketing techniques for their hotels and brands, respectively.
The panel discussion, “How To Make Your Hotels Stand Out In The Evolving Digital Marketing Landscape,” took place during the recent BITAC Operations event in San Diego. Moderated by Nick Horgan, chief sales officer, Tambourine, the panelists were asked to elaborate on just how their companies were differentiating themselves from the competitive set.
Jamie Pena, vp, commercial solutions, Hilton, emphasized that the McLean, VA-based mega-brand company is “hyper-focused on the customer” and detailed how the company is honing in on specific attributes.
“We’re working on really selling the way the customer wants to buy and being able to attribute our inventory. The way we’re going to stand out is having the right content and really being able to paint a picture for a customer of exactly what they want to buy,” she said.
Pena further added, “What’s really changing in the landscape is that each point of sale might have different inventory types for sale. For example, an OTA [online travel agency] might have a more traditional offering, but a brand experience might be curated and special to the customer, depending on what attributes they value,” she said.
Mary Bennett, vp, marketing and digital strategy, Omni Hotels & Resorts, weighed in on the focus of the Dallas-based privately-held brand company.
“For Omni, in particular, it’s all about creating remarkable guest experiences. Whether it’s in a city hotel, a convention hotel or a resort, we’re always asking ourselves what else can we offer the guests to compete in the market we’re in?” she noted.
Bennett specifically referenced a couple of large projects—the Omni PGA Frisco Resort in Texas, which represents one of the brand’s largest resorts and is scheduled to open in spring of 2023, as well as the Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport, which just recently opened—as she further explained the importance of a cohesive digital strategy.
“We’re selling the hotel and resort experience. We do that through video and photography and hopefully a great website or app experience. However, I want to make sure that whatever digital experience we design it’s connected and not so siloed,” she said.
Mindi Premo, executive director of sales, Bellagio Hotel & Casino, pointed out that the iconic Las Vegas property has fully recovered from the downturn with occupancy at an all-time high ranging between 93 and 98 percent.
“It is really exciting to see it come back; it’s stronger than ever,” she said.
However, Premo did acknowledge some changes to the local market that have forced the property to refine its sales strategy.
“Vegas is definitely forever changing. We are now bringing on some new inventory, which we haven’t had in about 10 years. So we’re now learning how to sell to the customer journey and how important that really is to continue to maintain loyalty,” she said.
Premo continued, “We always remember who we are. Bellagio has a targeted customer who comes for what Bellagio offers and it is the service, it is customer experience. We are updating, doing things a little differently to try to move our guests into the new world, but for the most part it’s truly just keeping everyone happy and welcoming them back.”
John Elston, chief revenue officer, San Juan Capistrano, CA-based SCP (Soul Community Planet) Hospitality—a holistic hospitality company—acknowledged that “building a brand is very difficult” as he profiled the brand’s guests and the inspiration for the company.
“We decided to build this brand in 2017 with a mantra and tagline of ‘healthy, kind and green.’ We believe there is a conscious consumer and that conscious consumer is willing to come to a place where their stay will make a difference. There’s this convergence—especially with the younger generation—where this need and want to give back was essential for them,” he said.
As it relates to digital marketing, Elston went on to maintain that the focus in the industry should be shifting from building the best website more toward transparency, particularly as many guest services have been cut back due to labor shortages.
“We have to be able to tell that guest before they get there what the expectation is going to deliver. Is it going to match? I think that’s part of our way out in this digital piece is being very honest and not overselling on our websites. We started seeing our guest scores go up after we started being really honest about what the experience will be, still trying to improve upon it,” he said.
Finally, Elston insisted that the corporate investment in sales and marketing needs to increase during difficult times not decrease.
“We should all be spending more on optimizing our sites, hiring experts for reputation management, and setting the expectation right for the guest,” he said.