Independent Hoteliers Round On 'Brand Pollution' Menace
Survey by Summit Hotels and Resorts
Wednesday, 7th June 2006
Gaudy, neon signage and insensitive architecture are among the 'big brand' nuisances criticised by hoteliers in research conducted by independent hotel group Summit Hotels and Resorts.

Their poll of more than 100 independent hoteliers revealed that 82 per cent felt major hotel chains and other multinational companies needed to take more care to minimise levels of what Summit have dubbed 'brand pollution', where global brands disrupt local cultures by homogenising the experience open to tourists.

Conspicuous marketing techniques - notably the use of garish branding on hotel frontages - were viewed as the biggest cause of brand pollution. More than a third said 'brand pollution' was a problem in their own locality, and nearly half claimed they made a conscious effort to minimise the impact of their own property's branding on its surroundings.

Hoteliers also reported that internal culture forged within hotels through things like recruitment and supply chain policies also needed to be considered as a way of minimising the brand pollution effect.

Eighty-seven per cent said they used local suppliers, while the majority said they attempted to employ native staff for guest-facing roles whenever possible. Nearly three-quarters added that they believed these measures helped them win business from leisure travellers.

Richard Lewis, managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, for the Summit brand, said: "The impact of global brands on local culture has been a cause of concern for several years. Our research shows that independent hoteliers are particularly worried about the 'vocal' nature of big hotel chain's branding, with bright neon signage and modern westernised architecture seen as having a big negative impact on the native environment.

"Equally, authenticity in the services offered by hotels is important too - something that is reflected in the proportion of our member hotels that are making active efforts to ensure they recruit native staff and use local products.

"Brand pollution is an issue that should worry the travel industry as a whole. If we accept that the essence of tourism is all about experiencing novelty and difference, then it is troubling that global brands are so readily spoiling destinations that rely on their native culture and surroundings to pull in tourists.

"We need to ward against the homogenizing impact of noisy brands in order to safeguard the local environment - and hotels should look to their own practices first.

"The twenty-first century tourist hankers for something that is singular and authentic, rather than a formulaic, corporate-driven experience - and this is where the unique charm and integrity of independent hotels is at a distinct advantage."
Mr Lewis added that its member properties were committed to upholding the native architectural beauty of their surroundings.

He pointed to two examples within Summit's portfolio: the Hotel Brunelleschi in Florence which successfully restored and meshed original sixth and twelfth century architecture to harmonise with its historical surroundings near the Duomo, and Edinburgh's The Glasshouse, which incorporated an historic church faade into its cutting edge glass frontage to create a stunningly modern yet sensitive architectural feast at the foot of the city's Calton Hill.

"These properties show that hotels can successfully project their personality without the need for overbearing brand communication," he added.

Summit Hotels & Resorts is a collection of over 130 privately owned and managed, luxury hotels located in more than 100 city centres and resorts worldwide. Each individual Summit hotel member has an established reputation as among the world's finest hotels, reflecting the best of local culture and offering exceptional service and facilities. Summit Hotels & Resorts' website www.summithotels.com or via GDS code: XL. Summit's sister brands are Preferred Hotels & Resorts and Sterling Hotels & Resorts.

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