Tuesday, 19 April 2016

What Do the World’s best Hotels and Hoteliers have in Common? Part 2 – The Brand ‘Big Picture’!

Hoteliering is indeed an exciting line of business, far detached from the ho-hum and banality of a lot of other businesses. There is never a dull moment, with each department running itself into a frenzy of heightened activity. There is always that mad dash to deliver the service to the most discerning of guests and to present the brand values in the best way possible. 

There is a perpetual sense of fire in the business of hotels – for one, the quintessential hotelier has the fire in his belly to endeavour for excellence in the simplest of tasks, to smooth out the rough edges and to envision creative strategies for the future path; then there is, obviously, fire in the kitchen and finally the fire stemming from work exigencies and a myriad crises that wrought a normal hotel work day.

With no two work days being alike and no two guests with the same set of traits and demands, hotels are always evolving and differentiating; attempting to develop the most suitable template for their target audience.

Amidst all this are hotels that reach the pinnacle in their game plan – that of putting out excellent infrastructure beset within an exquisite piece of architecture, boasting a team of zealous superstars, aligning themselves with the changing guest demands at all times, ensuring safety and privacy and offering the hospitality of the finest order. 

The world’s finest, having taken care of the ‘basics’, always have a ‘Big Picture’ to address on the strategic blueprint – 

1. Your flag on the map

It has been seen that location is many a time the key deciding factor in brand selection, a little more than the other facets. On a business visit, a city centre hotel is of main consideration. When transiting frequently, the airport hotel regardless of its standards is what we tend to pick out. On a holiday, the location with the best views or close to main attractions or with special features of its own is what we are keen to choose.

As a hotel owner, do a lot of due diligence on the location. I recall the location issues the top sub-brand of a leading international hotel chain had to battle as the Chain opened their Five- star deluxe hotel in the Commercial Capital of India with much fanfare but with a view of a large cluster of slums. 

No amount of fine dining, finer aspects of luxury, a pulsating events calendar and the charms of a great Spa and Wine Cellar could help the hotel downplay the negatives of its disastrously unenviable location. 

“The location has to be right and the size has to be right. You can’t build the hotel and then build the market,” asserts Biki Oberoi, the father of modern hoteliering in India in his interview with a leading Financial Daily. 

As a proprietor, choose wisely before allowing the plan to take birth. And as an on-the-line hotelier make the most of your location. It is a strong force of attraction for your clientele and a strong selling point.

2. Keeping the guests ensnared

While working with one of India’s oldest hotels, I along with the Art & Antiquity Manager delighted in giving an art tour of the in-house galleries to the discerning guests. That the hotel houses a large collection of lithographs and period artefacts made for such an inspired walk-through and a splendid activity.

Jules Undersea Lodge in Florida, world’s only underwater hotel that guests have to ‘dive’ 21FT. to enter offers an experience which breaks away from every other tried and tested mould. Yes, there is the mandatory scuba diving, but living amidst sea life, dining with the sharks and reading your favourite piece of literature while being watched by a floating whale here or a sea horse there is a matchless experience that will stay with you forever. By delivering a fresh pizza to you through a diving delivery man, the Lodge turns something banal into bombastic.

At the other end of the continuum, Ananda in the Himalayas – arguably the best Destination Spa Resort in the world – urges you to rediscover yourself in its tranquil surroundings. At the mountain resort, just meditating, watching the skyline, strolling around the hill scape make for such alleviated levels of pleasure and contentment.

Therefore, whatever kind of place that you may run and wherever it may be located, ensure that there are things to ensnare your guests and entrap them in the homegrown or locational string of activities or non-activities. 

3. Nurturing a Corporate Conscientiousness

At one of the international chains I worked with, we committed ‘X’ number of volunteering hours to be spent with inhabitants of a Blind Relief Society. At another place, we kicked off a cleanliness drive on World Environment Day and carried the ardour through the year not only to clean up the neighbourhood but also prominent riversides and beaches in designated cities.

In a 2009 Study on ‘Corporate Social Responsibility in the Hospitality Industry,’ Professor Christine Lynn, PhD states that “Disaster management, such as needed after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, found several takers from prominent global chains. Best Western, Hilton group, Accor, Intercontinental, and Six Senses committed over $2.5 million, and other chains also provided aid.”

Brands that do good also do well – a Study in 2003 HSMAI Marketing Review gives an example of social inclusiveness. “Marriott’s “Pathways to Independence” program puts welfare recipients through rigorous training to enable them to move into employment positions with Marriott,” the Study cites. “Charity is good, but integrated pro-poor activities such as these enable people to help themselves out of poverty while at the same time benefitting the benefactor,” reasserts Lynn.

In a Paper titled ‘Corporate social responsibility: What are top hotel companies reporting?’ that appeared in the 2007 edition of the International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management, J. L. Holcomb, R.S. Upchurch and F. Okumus write that “Eight out of the ten top hotel companies (80%), as designated by Hotels magazine (official publication of the International Hotel and Restaurant Association), reported giving charitable donations, 60% reported having diversity policies, and 40% mentioned social responsibility as part of their company mission statements. 

The top ten hotel companies’ websites and annual reports were analysed and the information found was categorised into community, environment, marketplace, vision and values, and workforce. Hilton Corporation was found to have the most comprehensive CSR reporting. Marriot came in as second most comprehensive and the Accor hotel group was third.”

There are several benefits at so many different levels to being socially responsible. If you are a conscientious, socially responsible corporate then you are viewed as a wholesome leader of the pack, are respected by customers on both ends of the fence – the employees look up to you and the guests hold you in high esteem, your brand recall value is far greater than when you put in large percentage of your earnings into hugely expensive media plans. What’s more, being socially responsible not only makes you look good, it makes you feel better.

There is no better approach to imprint your positive image on the collective mindscape of your target audience and to leave, inarguably, an indelible footprint on the global hospitality stratosphere.

Picture Courtesy - Google Images

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