Hoteliers must be subtle in marketing security
24 FEBRUARY 2016 7:16 AM
Experts share ways hoteliers can market the security of their hotels to guests.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Travel always carries some degree of security risk, so when guests look to book a hotel where there have been terrorist attacks or some other acts of violence, they need to know they’ll feel safe during their stay. Hoteliers can convey this feeling of safety without highlighting the issues that cause travelers to seek additional security.
Security is something that always comes up as a top reason for choosing a hotel, according to Steve Cohen, VP of research and insights for marketing firm MMGY Global. Guests want that sense of safety when they’re there, he said, down to the deadbolt lock on their door. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s best to draw too much attention to a hotel’s security efforts.
“You want to have it, but you don’t want to make it so prevalent,” he said.
Security is something that never drives guest satisfaction—until there isn’t any, he said. Then it becomes the No. 1 driver of dissatisfaction.
Taking a subtle approach
The most important thing not to do is send out news releases talking about a hotel’s safety and security measures, said Karen Weiner Escalera, president and chief strategist for KWE Partners. All that serves to do is remind people or alert them to the fact there are issues, she said.
“For people who might otherwise not have known, it could serve to alarm them, which is the opposite of what a hotel would want to achieve,” she said.
Instead of creating a news release or email blast, hoteliers should prepare a statement to use if guests or potential guests contact the hotel with questions, she said.
“The goal is not to broadcast but be ready with a statement if and when there are inquiries,” she said.
In a recent project for a resort group in Mexico, Escalera said her team prepared a letter to send to tour operators and agents to inform people asking about what the property was doing to eradicate mosquitos on the grounds to prevent spread of the Zika virus. There was also a version of the letter for the sales center and contact centers, she said.
Along with explaining the resort’s efforts, Escalera said, it also explained specifically there were no reported problems at the destination.
“It’s also extremely important to advise everyone in the sales and marketing team to advise people internally of what the statement is,” she said. “Internal communication is critical. That’s where you’re proactive: internally.”
A more visible presence
If there has been some act of violence in the past, Cohen said, it’s good to have a visible show of security. Guests want to know there are people there taking care of them, and they want a uniform presence of staff they know is properly trained. If something happened in the area but not necessarily at the hotel, he said, the uniform presence is still nice to have but not necessarily a must have.
Similarly, the hotel’s website could show images of a security presence, Cohen said. It wouldn’t have to be someone standing on guard with a rifle, he said, just something to give a sense that there’s someone at the front door of the hotel.
Having guests leave comments on the hotel website about the security and how they felt safe would be helpful as well, he said.
“People will trust other people who have been there over hotel management,” Cohen said.
Showing some strength
There are higher risk areas of the world that face different kinds of threats, according to Anthony Roman, president of Roman & Associates, a global investigation and risk management firm.
“The risks you face can vary from extreme crime to narcoterrorism to extremist ideological terror,” he said. “Each risk has its own unique fingerprint, its own unique method of operation. This requires that hotels respond accordingly.”
In recent years, hotels have started to address security more openly in terms of a secondary form of advertising to their client base, Roman said. Safety and security can be good for the brand and for marketing, he said.
“There used to be a philosophy in hotels (that) blending security in so it’s not visible was the best course,” he said. “I do see that changing as well. Security is becoming more visible, somewhat more robust.”
A good marketing department and advertising agency can find the balance by talking about corporate security plans for their site in broad spectrum terms while conveying the message that security is integrated with risk management, with the hotel staff in ongoing training, partnerships with local police and law enforcement agencies and the latest technology, Roman said. It shows the hotel is doing all it can to make the property as safe and comfortable as possible for families and business travelers.
“I don’t think what has happened in the world, with the increasing evolution of third-party crime and terror, can be ignored anymore for the customer base,” he said.