stay­ing on BRAND

Why so many ho­tel brands within a group? Cather­ine Chetwynd takes a look at the big groups' re­lent­less roll-out of new ho­tel names

The Business Travel Magazine - - Hotels -

Mar­riott has 30, Wyn­d­ham 20, Ac­cor 28, Hil­ton 14 and IHG has 12 – the pro­lif­er­a­tion of brands seems to be un­stop­pable, with ho­tel com­pa­nies con­tin­u­ing to ac­quire and launch them at ev­ery turn.

They cover ev­ery con­ceiv­able con­sumer re­quire­ment from bud­get to life­style and lux­ury but what­ever any ho­tel op­er­a­tor tells you, these are not cre­ated in an­swer to trav­eller de­mand.

“Own­ers are caus­ing the pro­lif­er­a­tion of brands. In some cases con­tracts be­tween ho­tel op­er­a­tors and own­ers pre­vent the op­er­a­tion of an­other prop­erty of the same brand within five miles but that does not stop them putting one of sim­i­lar mar­ket po­si­tion­ing within five miles,” says con­sul­tant to the ho­tel in­dus­try Melvin Gold.

It is all about ex­pan­sion: “They have to find ways of get­ting more prod­uct out there. I am sure the con­sumer – busi­ness or leisure trav­eller – does not think ‘what we re­ally need is an­other ho­tel brand’.”

But orig­i­nal­ity is thin on the ground, he be­lieves. “I don’t think the big ho­tel com­pa­nies are com­ing up with any­thing hugely in­no­va­tive. Smaller en­tre­pre­neur ho­tel brands are do­ing that but they tend to be ac­quired by the larger com­pa­nies, who sell the real es­tate and hang on to the man­age­ment con­tract or fran­chise deal.”

How­ever, ex­pe­ri­ence is all and that has to be in­no­va­tive. “Ibis Canning Town has em­braced the open lobby con­cept and done away with ho­tel re­cep­tion desks and re­cep­tion­ists. In 40 ho­tels in the UK, they check you in on your phone and is­sue a key, which you touch to card read­ers by the lift. The sys­tem knows who you are and charges your key card to your room,” says Gold.

Lo­gis­tics of loy­alty

Raj Sach­dave of con­sul­tancy Black Box Part­ner­ships adds: “Quirky brands like Moxy... how you check in, the prop­erty man­age­ment sys­tem, the in­ter­ac­tion with the ho­tel – that is all a key part of in­no­va­tion, rather than the brand it­self.”

Ac­cor’s in­vest­ment in cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence is a good ex­am­ple: “And that un­der­pins loy­alty, they are not just re­ly­ing on the num­ber of points cus­tomers can get.”

Loy­alty points are a dou­ble-edged sword: “The net value of points that have not been re­deemed is an eye-wa­ter­ing amount and ho­tel com­pa­nies can plug that ex­po­sure by open­ing more prop­er­ties in key lo­ca­tions, where trav­ellers can re­deem their loy­alty points. It does not hurt the net re­turn of the port­fo­lio,” he says. This way, can­ni­bal­i­sa­tion is not an over­rid­ing con­cern.

Ed­war­dian Ho­tels’ bot called Ed­ward is a case in cre­ative point. As guests ap­proach the ho­tel, he knows they are in the vicin­ity through their mo­bile de­vice and of­fers to check them in. As they ar­rive in the lobby, they are given a room num­ber and use their smart­phone to ac­cess their room.

“Tech­nol­ogy en­ables us to re­main in­no­va­tive,” says Di­rec­tor of In­for­ma­tion Tech­nol­ogy, Michael Mrini. “Our vir­tual host, Ed­ward, in­ter­acts with our room guests and meet­ing del­e­gates to en­sure they have what they need dur­ing their stay, whether that is ex­tra tow­els or ad­di­tional ca­bles. We are con­stantly look­ing for new ways to pro­vide ex­cep­tional ser­vice and tech­nol­ogy plays a key part in that.”

Brand bom­bard­ment

If two buy­ers’ views are typ­i­cal, how­ever, brands are not a cor­po­rate pri­or­ity. “Mar­riott, Hil­ton and IHG have so many brands un­der their ban­ner, it is dif­fi­cult to de­ter­mine what you are get­ting,” says PA to the di­rec­tors at engi­neer­ing com­pany Cul­lum, Cherry Salvesen.

Sim­i­larly, “Brands don’t mean any­thing any­more, it has be­come ridicu­lous,” says Cor­po­rate Pur­chas­ing, Global Cat­e­gory Man­ager Travel & Mo­bil­ity for Con­ti­nen­tal Teves, Rüdi­ger Bruss.

I am sure that the con­sumer – be it busi­ness or leisure trav­eller – does not think ‘what we re­ally need is an­other ho­tel brand’”

In­stead, lo­ca­tion comes first. “We are not  in a po­si­tion to get a deal with many ho­tels be­cause we don’t stop long enough in any one place,” says Salvesen. “We look at what is best for trav­ellers in lo­ca­tion and fa­cil­i­ties – that may mean car park­ing if they have ve­hi­cles full of tools.”

And Con­ti­nen­tal’s pri­or­ity is: “Where is the ho­tel and can I get from the ho­tel to our plant or the cus­tomer eas­ily and quickly? It does not mat­ter if it was a Court­yard and has been re­branded as a Moxy,” says Bruss.

“We ne­go­ti­ate with in­di­vid­ual prop­er­ties we use reg­u­larly, where we can give them some vol­ume, and have chain-wide dis­counts with cer­tain groups be­cause they have prop­er­ties in a lo­ca­tion con­ve­nient for our need and those are pre­ferred prop­er­ties in our sys­tem.”

Mean­while, soft brands are mak­ing their mark. Typ­i­cal are Au­to­graph by Mar­riott, Ta­pes­try by Hil­ton, The Un­bound Col­lec­tion by Hy­att and Trade­mark Col­lec­tion by Wyn­d­ham. 'Col­lec­tion' in the name is usu­ally the give­away.

“Most soft brands are aimed at the lux­ury ho­tel owner but we saw an op­por­tu­nity to work with in­de­pen­dent hote­liers who op­er­ate up­per mid­scale prop­er­ties and who want to main­tain that in­de­pen­dence while tak­ing ad­van­tage of Wyn­d­ham’s scale, ser­vices and loy­alty pro­gramme,” says the group’s Chief De­vel­op­ment Of­fi­cer EMEA, Philippe Bi­jaoul.

And ac­qui­si­tion master Ac­corho­tels has bought a busi­ness or brand ev­ery month for the past two years in a bid to pro­vide aug­mented hos­pi­tal­ity, ac­cord­ing to an ar­ti­cle on skift.com.

“A large hos­pi­tal­ity group can’t com­pete with large tech­nol­ogy plat­forms with­out com­pre­hen­sive brand port­fo­lios that cater to ev­ery sin­gle hu­man need,” said Ac­cor's Global Chief Brand Of­fi­cer, Steven Tay­lor, at the Skift Tech Fo­rum, a ref­er­ence to plat­forms such as Google and Ama­zon, which have in­creas­ing in­flu­ence on travel.

The com­pany ac­quired Möven­pick Ho­tels & Re­sorts in April, took a 50% stake in South Africa-based Man­tis Group and is buy­ing Mantra Group in Aus­tralia.

Mean­while, Hy­att has launched Hy­att Cen­tric aimed at ‘lux­ury and busi­ness trav­ellers who are cu­ri­ous, in­de­pen­dent and hun­gry for au­then­tic ex­pe­ri­ences’ and it also bought well­ness ho­tel brands Mi­raval and Ex­hale last year.

Wyn­d­ham has added ‘by Wyn­d­ham’ to all its brands so that, “cus­tomers know they are re­ceiv­ing a trust­wor­thy ser­vice and in­ter­na­tional stan­dard of ac­com­mo­da­tion, no mat­ter which brand they choose”, says Philippe Bi­jaoui. At the bud­get end, Yo­tel has Yo­tel in city cen­tres, YOTELAIR at air­ports and, in Jan­uary, launched ser­viced apart­ments un­der the YOTELPAD flag.

Busi­ness trav­ellers have ac­cess to a va­ri­ety of styles and ser­vice lev­els through pre­ferred ho­tel part­ners in a travel pro­gramme, but brands do not, it seems, get the mes­sage across to travel buy­ers, whose main con­cern is con­ve­nience for the trav­eller.

A large hos­pi­tal­ity group can’t com­pete with large tech­nol­ogy plat­forms with­out com­pre­hen­sive brand port­fo­lios that cater to ev­ery hu­man need”

Wyn­d­ham Grand

Mar­riott

Radis­son Red

Hy­att Place

Hil­ton

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