Think Differently!
By Roland Wildberg ~ Weekly Exclusive - Views On The Latest Trends
Monday, 14th January 2013
Exclusive Feature: Why bad times are a good inspiration for counter-cyclic hotel marketing.

Nothing is worse for a good mood than crises. Instead, they were supposed to do just the contrary: dispel bad mood. Why? Because nothing is as good for new ideas as crises. While many hoteliers complain about poor bookings and low occupany rates, others use the term that results from unfortunately lacking guests to think twice. And then to act.

This is counter-cyclical (like this column) and has therefore benefited all along: Then, if all go to the beach, think about the next ski vacation. Or vice versa. There are numerous examples of such anti-cyclical hotel marketing that can dispel bad mood instantly. Do not believe it? But yes!

First Example fitness trend: A gym nowadays seems to be a must-have, even in city hotels you find yourself threatened by these strange devices on which all people several hours a day - so it wants at least the strange devices industry - to sit and sweat and lose weight. In the menus of these hotel restaurants on every gram of fat is informed that imposes itself to your enjoyment of the regional typical specialty, and of course there is everything in sugar free.

And what does the Freedom Paradise Hotel in Mexico? They offer king size beds in each room and have optimized devices and layout of their rooms to "all size" guests. The showers are at ground level with big, easy-to-reach handles, the transitions between the deck chairs on the beach extra wide.

Also, the staff is trained to also treat voluminous guests exceptionally friendly. While everybody screams for diet, fitness and health, specializing this house to people who just remain like they are. Simple, but complicted in communications – for it seems advisable they cannot simply put a sign like "Slab's Inn" on the roof. But media did cover the story already, showing that the campaing has worked out well. Nothing more than anti-cyclical marketing.

Second Example child-free: In southern Europe it started, now is the issue of population growth topic of the day in Europe and on other continents. The undesired effect on political correctness: Children in general are sacrosanct. The more uncommon families become nowadays, the more children-friendly environment, facilities, accomodations we get.

The obvious next step for all industries: Present themselves through demonstrative child friendliness represent as closely as possible to the public. An Austrian mountainside hotelier did the opposite: he opened the first "child-free" hotel in Europe - Children up to 12 years are undesirable (an absolute embargo naturally is not implementable due to law restrictions). You can imagine that almost immediately a shitstorm of massive scale was brewing over the house. Everyone had something to say. The hotelier's cool response: "There is 'Kinderhotels' (child-friendly hotels) there a dime a dozen - I offer a niche for people who simply want to live in peace without permanent shouting, smeared furniture and standing around stroller" His guests appreciate the quiet, he adds.

Granted, in such an anti-cyclical theme a hotelier must have nerves of steel, if the public reaction overtakes one - but with that pritty piece of guerrilla PR, the media attention follows all by itself. The example also shows very clearly how simple yet difficult it is to make countercyclical marketing: You have to think in reverse and just set a trend on the head - but that's easier said than done.

Third Example Cost-free Culture: All inclusive was about 20 years ago around the world a mega trend, with sometimes spectacular results. Hotels began to offer from the wallet service over nightcaps to sports equipment, even cake buffet and excursions to nearly everything now. Many guests find this great and leave the facility throughout their vacation probably only for shopping (which is temporarily not all inclusive yet). But the trend and compulsion to participate also had negative consequences on the business: you (the customer) quickly got used to the added value. Presupposed it and eventually forgot that something like this actually is not a given.

It was a rude awakening in recent years when, for example, many airlines due to the cost reasons cancelled many niceties such as on-board buffet or free upgrades again. Notice how angry customers became about! It hurts not at all to point out the host if necessary that a service he or she appreciates you (ie the hotel) costs something, and yet for him/her (ie the host) is free. I once became acquainted to a Milan's private hotelier who reacted in a very simple but effective way with free Wi-Fi!

In many hotels the task is just to go to the front desk, the concierge there scribbles a stupid number combination on a scrap of paper or - even worse - the back of a receipt. That can not be! In Milan the concierge shook my hand and then handed me over a neat little business card with the accomodation's business card in corporate design with both adress, phone no and the WiFi code stamped on the back. Did not cost him a fortune. But I still do have it in my note book. Something like this will be remembered.

4th Offline Example: An internet connection in the rooms and lobby Wi-Fi is now a must-have. It is so important that a hotel owner risks already come out to be as hopeless yesterday's when the hotel brochure expressly points on it. But who thinks outside this box and can deny oneself just sometimes to constantly compare with the competition, also recognizes: The online thing is just one side of the coin. For many people, Internet access is not more than a deadly guarantee for 24 hours, 7 days, Wednesday to Sunday be accessible for e-mails, tweets and Skype calls. So even on vacation for boss, colleagues, partners and customers.

Escape useless - or is it? An Austrian hotel cooperation has now made a virtue of necessity and perceived backwardness simply turned to ingenious trendsetting: A campaign for offline holidays. Of course they have not reinvented the wheel - for decades as people seek retreat for example in monasteries to shut down - but so offensive we have never seen the issue advertised: "The Burnout has no chance," begins the prospectus of the offline campaign. Criteria include: No cell phone reception inside all over the hotel, no internet in any room, as no alarm clock, no radio and no TV. That sounds incredible and invites imitation. And therefore I do that now - at least until next week. See you online then, estimated readers!

This is strictly an exclusive feature, reprints of this article in any shape or form without prior written approval from 4Hoteliers.com is not permitted.

Roland Wildberg is Travel Writer and Correspondent based in Berlin, Germany. He started as an Editor for the National daily 'Die Welt' (tourism section), later on switched to a freelanced career and nowadays mainly publishes on the Web. Observing the hospitality industry always has fascinated him as it looks like the perfect combination of sleeping and writing – work-live-balance as its best.

Roland also heads the annual 4Hoteliers ITB Berlin news micro-site journalist and video/photo teams. For more info: www.4Hoteliers.com/itb
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