As the types of lodging products proliferate, the distribution channels that sell them seem to be changing, too. And it might not always be clear to the consumer what they are purchasing.
As someone who thinks about brands and franchise agreements quite frequently in my professional life, it’s not hard for the professional perspectives to interrupt my personal travels and hotel stays.
I recently attended a pair of conferences in New York recently, and that week, the oversupplied New York hotel market was clashing with the booming economy, so there were no bargains to be found. I booked a condo in Hoboken, on Hotels.com. The operator, or property-management company, was a local business that owns or rents units in conveniently located buildings near the PATH train stations and has established itself as a local lodgings provider.
It seemed odd to be in a condo tower sandwiched between two hotels, one belonging to a Hilton brand and the other to a Marriott International brand. The main difference at check-in was that the front-desk attendant had no idea who I was and told me there was no gray pouch with my name on it, which didn’t mean much to me, but didn’t sound good. He made a phone call and told me to have a seat anywhere as the company rep would be here in five to ten minutes. Waiting behind me was an international guest who was accompanied by a rental car and his family. He was also a “surprise” guest, but had much more trouble understanding what the problem was.
After recovering from the awkward introduction, a visiting graduate student who served as the bellman asked if I was in financial management and if I could offer him a job to stay in the United States.
The stay itself, however, was fine. Cable and Wi-Fi worked well, the guestroom’s view overlooked the Statue of Liberty in one direction and lower Manhattan in the other. I went to the nearby supermarket and for $35 bought the first night’s dinner as well as breakfast, including coffee and creamer, for my four-day stay. I don’t consider myself to be a coupon-cutter, but when I stayed at a hotel in Chelsea in April for $150-per-night less than they are asking for the same room a few months later, I was prompted to look at alternatives.
It seems that as the types of lodging products proliferate, the distribution channels that sell them are changing as well. Hotels.com may have started as a hotel reservations site and Airbnb as a room-sharing and alternative accommodations site, but now it seems all products are appearing on all channels, so that it sometimes is not clear to purchasers if they are renting a hotel room, a timeshare unit or an individual’s home or investment property. If we layer on top of these products and channels a dozen or so new hotel brands each year, meaning that more and more of them are unrecognized and certainly not iconic, it is quite a feat that hotel operators are able to get through all of this noise and communicate each brand’s pillars and personality to the target segments of the travelling public.
For a new hotel in development, or one that is in the process of converting brands, these issues make the task of brand selection all the more daunting. For hotel owners and developers, the best first step is to understand clearly the composition of the existing or planned base of visitors, and slice and dice this set of target markets as finely as possible. In this manner the brand selection process becomes a bit of a matching and maximization exercise to find the brand that is strongest overall among a hotel’s unique set of target market segments.
Andrew Cohan, MAI, is managing director of the Horwath HTL office in Miami primarily serving Florida and the Caribbean Basin. A seasoned hospitality professional with extensive real estate, marketing and account management skills in North and Latin America, Andrew has consulted for leading branded management companies such as Canyon Ranch, Six Senses, Montage, Solage and Bulgari. He has extensive experience with health and wellness resort properties and has performed numerous feasibility studies for planned resorts in the Caribbean and Central America. He especially enjoys working on greenfield projects, teaming with land planners to determine the optimal resort configuration in order to fit market demand with destination and site attributes. As health and wellness have moved from the margins of the industry to become important components of mainstream hospitality projects, Andrew’s expertise has been in demand to conduct an increasing number of assignments for proposed resort properties, particularly as the industry recovery continues to strengthen in Central America, the Caribbean, Mexico and the “sunbelt states” in the United States. Acohan@horwathhtl.com; 305-606-2898
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