Watch Out For New Market, New Customers, Hoteliers Urged.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon ~ thetransitcafe.com
Monday, 2nd March 2009
What is the new market and who will be the new customer? That was the key question raised at the recent board meeting of the HSMAI (Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International) held in Singapore.

Said Bernadette Dennis, Director of BD Concepts (pictured right), who's just been named the Asia Pacific President of HSMAI, "The overriding theme will be the ‘new market'. I feel that when the economy gets back on track, there will be new requirements, new issues, new needs that will require attention. As companies lay off staff, and significant levels of management, how will that change the way a hotel manages the needs of the customers."

"We have to ask ourselves, who will be the "new" customer? And what does that customer want?"

Like Dennis, Patrick Andres, Managing Director of Synxis, said that it will be a new age of more economically-aware customers and hotel operators.

He believes that now is a good time for hoteliers to be creative and reach out to customers with positive messages.

"The customer hasn't fundamentally changed. They are still prepared to pay for something of value so it isn't necessary to underestimate the consumer and simply cut prices," he said.

"What really upsets the consumer are the old hotel tactics to target getting another $12 out of their pocket by charging for $3 for local phone calls as happened to me recently, or $25 for internet usage. It is a loyalty killer."

Andres said that innovation is more than about changing marketing tactics. "We have to look at the way we operate our businesses and truly understand what the customer needs. For example, some people do not want maid service every day; they accept one twice a week. Hotels will have to offer free WIFI because that is what the Gen Y consumer will expect."

Jeanette Ho, Regional Director of Marketing for Raffles International, observed that the focus had shifted to intra-regional markets.

Gerry Oh, Regional Vice President, South East Asia for Jet Airways (India) Limited, said that airlines were having to chase new revenue streams, for example by enticing transit passengers to stay.

"There are 45,000 transit passengers passing through Changi Airport every day. We have to be able to create new revenue streams by picking from low hanging fruit. We need to find ways to entice them to stay overnight."

Hotels also have to be aware of new customer behaviour in these current times and adapt.

People are using the web in an ever more savvy way. CNN recently reported on a company that uses web conferencing tools to vet their prospect customers before getting on a plane to see the customer in person. The company has cut their sales cycle by 30% and made a big dent in their travel budget by doing so.

Said Andres, "A year ago hoteliers were looking into applying innovative web marketing tools but they've just dropped them in their desperate attempts to cut prices to attract revenue. Instead, they should be looking at how they can use low cost technology and implement it in a way to build relationships with their prospect clientele in order to generate more revenue."

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators, writes a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her other writings can be found at

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