Don’t lose the connection with your target guests
 
Don’t lose the connection with your target guests
20 NOVEMBER 2020 8:31 AM

Hoteliers have been understandably on the lookout for any guest that will come their way, but don’t let that distract you from your long-term target of the ideal guests for your property or brand.

I heard one of the most interesting comments I’ve heard throughout the course of this pandemic while covering the 42nd Annual NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference webinar series last week.

During a session focused on how various operators are coping with the pandemic, Loews Hotels & Co. SVP of Operations and Learning Jenny Lucas said that as her company prepared to reopen some of its properties following the depths of the pandemic, they surveyed their core Loews guests to make sure the company was reopening and doing things in a way that those guests would want.

But when they reopened, those core Loews guests aren’t the ones who showed up, and they had to find ways to adjust to this different kind of traveler and demand.

This idea presents an interesting challenge (at least in my opinion) for hoteliers. The counterargument you hear for the hotel industry having too many brands is that the brands that exist and continue to thrive have a core guest or customer for whom they are meeting a specific need in a way other brands can’t. Hilton in particular has sought to trumpet this idea during all of its more recent brand launches, noting that executives have done intensive market research and found a niche of traveler that a new brand can serve better than any existing alternative.

If you buy into this idea as true and not just a smokescreen to sell more franchises as some of our more pessimistic readers will interpret it, then the imperative hotels and brands now face is how they keep that core guest (and maybe more importantly how to remain front-of-mind for that core guest) even as they aren’t actively traveling.

At the same time, we’re in an environment where it would be insane for any hotel to turn away any available business unless it’s actively harmful to their property or other guests, and hoteliers simply aren’t doing their jobs or doing right by their employees if they’re not seeking demand from various places they wouldn’t normally look.

But even in the midst of welcoming new and different types of guests, it’s important to operate as much as possible in the way that would best serve that core guest to keep the ethos alive for why your brand or hotel exists in the first place. It’s important to remain in contact with those guests, because eventually this will pass and all that fabled “pent-up demand” we keep hearing about from the more optimistic industry prognosticators can finally come to pass. And the last place you’ll want to be at this potential travel renaissance is having alienated your core guests in search of a short-term solution.

What do you think? Let me know via email or on Twitter.

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