That is one of the conclusions hospitality marketing professionals took away from a recent presentation by Peter Yesawich at a hospitality marketing conference last weekend at The Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia.
But don't despair. There is still hope for some hoteliers.
Peter was presenting the 2008 Y Partnership/Yankelovich Monitor research when he showed a chart indicating "Airline Brands" no longer matters to 51% of leisure travelers - an all-time low. That's down from 57% in 2006 and expected to crash below 50% for the first time when 2009 study results are published.
Why? Lack of differentiation, increasing price sensitivity on the part of travelers and the introduction of comparison shopping web sites like Kayak and SideStep. The industry that pioneered loyalty programs is becoming a commodity - much to the chagrin of the airlines, their marketing departments and ad agencies. Brand differentiation and loyalty are declining rapidly.
The same forces are at work against chain hotels as they too are becoming commodities. With increasing "sameness" the chains will be left to compete primarily on price. Anybody see Hilton's announcement on Monday saying they were reducing the price on all rooms by 20%?Now For The Good News!
There is a silver lining in this story and it pertains to smaller independent luxury hotels - those hotels that offer guests a truly unique experience - an experience discerning travelers are willing to pay a premium for. These are the hotels that can effectively resist becoming a commodity.
But it is only an advantage if you capitalize on it. You can by developing a strong, benefit oriented positioning and do everything in your power to continually strengthen your brand. Make sure your hospitality marketing team understands your brand and communicates it effectively across all messaging. Create an integrated customer relationship marketing (CRM) program and nurture your guests and prospects through communications the same way you do on property.
Create Brand Advocates. Nurture every guest before, during and after their stay.
Small independent luxury hotels have never been in a better position to compete against the chains. Take advantage of it while you can.
What do you think? Safe Travels.Madigan Pratt is managing director of Madigan Pratt & Associates, Inc., an award-winning customer relationship marketing communications firm specializing in helping independent luxury hotels acquire and retain profitable customers, maximize revenue and ROI. A well published author and popular conference speaker, Mr. Pratt has been a senior member of the Board of Directors of the Caribbean Tourism Organization (CTO-Executive Committee), Association of Travel Marketing Executives (ATME-Chairman) and the Travel & Tourism Research Association/New York (TTRA/NY-Chairman). MP&A offers a full range of integrated marketing services including advertising, direct marketing, public relations, database management and a full complement of Internet marketing services. Its principals have held senior management positions at several of the world's largest advertising and direct marketing organizations. Founded in 1989, the firm has an established track record of helping hotels prosper.Mr. Pratt can be reached at: Madigan (@) MadiganPratt.com. More information can be found at www.MadiganPratt.com