You’ll learn everything you need to know about consumer perceptions of your brands.
Today I’m blogging with a call to action for all major hotel brand executives: Next time you travel, ditch your private drivers who stay professionally quiet while you check your email for the billionth time, and instead get in cabs, Ubers or Lyfts. Get yourself a chatty driver and this is where you will get real, first-hand consumer perception of your companies.
These are men and women who by nature of their work know their cities, and they know the people who move in and around those cities for business or pleasure, really using those cities—visiting, staying in hotels, going to restaurants.
As soon as I mention that I write about hotels, the conversation starts, and it’s always illuminating for me (and honestly more enjoyable than talking about my ex-boyfriend LeBron James, which always comes up when I tell them where I live).
A few weeks ago I was in London, traveling to the airport one morning and I had a great conversation with the man driving my cab. He was doubly interested in the hotel industry because of the development activity he sees driving around London every day, and also because his son is a hotel management student.
“Why does (big hotel company whose name you would recognize) have all these brands?” he asked me as we drove by an under-construction property. “I don’t know what they are or who they’re for. Why do they need all these new ones?”
I tried to explain net unit growth and pressure from owners and investors to him, and as I did it, I knew I sounded silly and corporate-speak-y.
He pointed out the hotels where he said lots of tourists go, and the ones where young professionals meet at the bar or restaurant.
“I don’t think they could tell you the name of the hotel,” he said. “But they always know the name of the bar!”
He asked me about the industry, and what his son might be able to expect, job-wise. He said his wife is worried because she’s afraid their son studying hotel management won’t be able to get a “real” job in hospitality (their other son is a lawyer and has a more stable career path, as he put it).
“He has all these ideas about opening bars and restaurants and she thinks that’s crazy,” he said. They’re a little worried because he wants to try lots of hotel- and resort-related jobs all over the world.
I did my best to assure him that it’s definitely not crazy, and that trying out different jobs is great experience. We talked a little bit about the current labor issues in the hotel industry, and that being young and hungry to try new things and move up is a great place to be for a career in hospitality.
He asked me whether executives in hotel companies usually come in from other industries—he said his wife worries that their son might be destined to stay at dishwasher-level forever. I told him that’s definitely not the case—that yes, certainly many executives come in from other industries, but just as many move up through the ranks.
(I got the feeling that Dad was reminding his son to do his time and put in the work, while Mom was worried his degree might never get him anywhere—and that’s pretty much a universal parent-kid relationship dynamic, isn’t it?)
All in all, I think I left my friend feeling better about his son’s prospects, but probably still confused about the “why” behind all the new hotel brands popping up all over. And aren’t we all, to some extent?
So I encourage brand executives to try this next time you travel, especially in a city you don’t know very well. It’s a lot of fun and eye-opening.
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