Build it. But will they come?
By Leora Lanz & Edyth Shapiro
Saturday, 12th January 2008
"Build it and they will come" is no longer the tried and true of the hotel industry. In these competitive days where the major brands dominate, the market may not think it needs a new independent hotel.

Whether you are building a full- or limited-service property, if you entice the marketplace, build an identity early in the game, and create a desire to use your new hotel, the road to success will not take longer than necessary.

To get its name out in a big way -- early and consistently -- it is critical for a new independent hotel to allocate sufficient funds to sales and marketing. Here are some points to consider that will maximize those dollars:

Know your competitive set.

That means learning what your target customers want before you build your hotel. The developer and hotel management team need to create a desire within the customer before he or she is going to give up the competitor.

The competition has had a hold on its customer for a long time and it will be a challenge to change the habits of future clients. You need to stay at the competition frequently, book meetings there, and go out and meet the customers your hotel will be serving before the important decisions are made.

Ask questions.

Do you need a business center? How much power do you require in the ballroom to satisfy today's technologically demanding meetings? What is the minimum ceiling height required to host rear view projection? Should you charge for high-speed Internet access? You need to get in front of these issues before your sales team starts talking to customers. Also, remember the carpenters' rule, "measure twice, cut once."

Hire the best.

With millions of dollars being spent on the hotel's physical structure and interior, why tighten the purse strings when it comes to payroll? If you hire the best and the brightest, success will surely come more quickly.

Focus on eliciting trial.

The first year needs to be about exposing clients to your hotel. Host several "grand opening" events, and include the local community, travel agents, meeting planners, corporate travel directors, press, social event planners, everybody! Also, consider hosting business events with local and regional organizations that are connected to the companies with which you want to do business.

Mount a strong advertising and PR campaign.

The pre-opening advertising campaign should include electronic marketing along with print media, public relations and direct mail.

There's no questions that when a flagged hotel opens, similar efforts need to be made for a vocal and visible launch. But when a hotel does not carry a branded name, and cannot piggy-back on the marketing opportunities provided by the brand, more push needs to be made, and effectively so.

Owners and developers about to launch an independent hotel should know that we here at HVS are available to assist you and assure you that you're doing everything to compete with the brands, and to make a name for yourself.

Edyth Shapiro, senior manager, is a 20-year veteran of the hospitality industry. Edyth held several in-house sales and marketing and management positions for hotels in New York City, New Jersey, Florida and the Caribbean.

About Leora Lanz
Leora Halpern Lanz serves as HVS' Director of Marketing as well as Director of HVS Marketing Communications which supports independent and branded hotels by: conducting sales & marketing as well as operational assessments, developing sales action steps and comprehensive marketing plans, guiding property revenue management, developing standard operating procedures, executing public relations activities and coordinating sales training.


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