Over the past several months, I’ve noticed just how much creativity the hotel industry has used trying to prop up occupancy and keep their hotels full. It is indeed the rare company or brand that has not offered either significant price reductions or a free night with the purchase of one or more roomnights. I’ve even seen the offer of 50 percent off the price you paid at your last stay.
To some degree, I feel like I’m watching late night TV from the late 1960s or early 1970s where hucksters selling their wares often used the quote, “But wait—there’s more!” One of these days, I expect to see infomercial mainstay Billy Mays as the pitchman for some brand, which, when I think about it, might not be a bad idea for a lower-priced brand.
With so many value-add offers in the market, it’s beginning to feel like the hotel room, not the countless deals and incentives, is the throw-in for companion hospitality industries, especially for all-in-one travel packages. This may or may not be how the actual financial arrangement works, but to the consumer, it must feel like the guestrooms themselves are the most negotiable and least valuable of the travel components.
For hoteliers, this can’t be a desirable place to be over the long haul.
In the current economic environment, where I believe most hotel demand is inelastic, these incentive programs are mostly aimed at stealing market share from competitors. I’m not really sure that much incremental demand is actually created. I suspect most of the demand is just moved around from property to property and time period to time period.
So why not work together to try and induce incremental hotel demand? With marketing budgets slashed, maybe now is the time to pool resources and create a buzz about staying in hotels.
Admittedly, not many industries do this, but some have been very successful. The “Got Milk?” campaign, for example, was a boon for the dairy industry.
I’m not sure how such an ad campaign should look, but here’s one idea: In the 1980s movie “Sixteen Candles,” there is a great scene where way too many out-of-town relatives fight over a bathroom while staying at one house the night before a family wedding.
While the humor might be targeted at a 12-year-old male, the implication is clear: It would be much better to stay in a hotel than endure the sounds and smells generated by Aunt Edna!