Hotel Online Special Report

Hotel Common Sense –
Hotels of Every Size Need to Create
and Use a Marketing Plan


by John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS, April 2004
“Don't waste time learning the ‘tricks of the trade.’  Instead, learn the trade.”
Attributed to both James Charlton and H. Jackson Brown, Jr.

Even smaller properties have a distinct need for their own
personalized Sales and Marketing plan 

There is no question about the fact that more hotels continue to be built each year, even though the annual percentage of occupancy has not surpassed 62% in the last several years. While the statistics of construction vary by market and location, competition is literally growing almost everywhere.  The International Society of Hospitality Consultants noted as one of their TOP 10 ISSUES of 2004 that not many hotels are being converted into other uses these days, nor are many closing their doors.  This “extension” of life as a lodging establishment adds to the pressure to find and keep customers continues to grow.

When one adds license and royalty fees associated with many franchised brands, the financial cost of success (and in some markets survival) can appear staggering to smaller hotels and inns.  The managers of larger properties that feed off city wide conventions, resort destination attractiveness or transportation center activity (such as airports, cruise ship launch ports, rail terminals) have long understood the need to identify their market segments in a formalized marketing plan.

Managers and owners of smaller properties must also look at their time, investments and efforts as a realistic cost of reaching success in their hotels.  Because many smaller hotels (under 100 rooms) do not have a full-time or even part time sales person, the owner or GM must undertake that responsibility.  Leaving it to the “brand” alone is not sufficient, as too many brands are controlled by a very small number of holding companies and many of their brands are often seen to be competing with each other in the same market.

Managers and owners must identify meaningful market research, determine avenues for effective public relations and promotions and still find the time for direct sales.

To do the job well, an old saying rears its head:  “You must work the plan.”  To accomplish that however, means there must be a plan to work.

A basic plan can identify the kinds of business segments the hotel currently has, such as business, youth groups, tours, vacationers, truckers, etc. The plan also considers which kind would be the most logical and profitable in the future.

Once the markets that are accessible are identified, the strategy can be developed to promote those market segments that are meaningful from a volume (occupancy) and profit perspective.

Some hotels hire college students or mothers seeking part time employment while their children are in school.  These options can be very cost effective and there are success stories in virtually every brand and region of North America.

The best ways for managers/owners to get more business is to become active in local community activities AND to make a certain number of sales calls by phone and in person daily.  Involvement in local activities gives one the reputation on being the local hotelier or go-to person.  It may require some volunteer work on committees or public service projects, but your interest is in that community. 

A manager/owner that will commit enough time to make 5 to 10 calls per day would net up to between 250 and 500 personal contacts per year.  This personal networking, in addition to being cost effective, should likely yield substantial business.

Unfortunately, the management/ownership at many smaller hotels become so involved in operations that they end up working the desk or in the restaurant so frequently that they seldom have time for community involvement or sales.  Too many people decide to save $65 by working a shift three or more days per week and don’t recognize the long-term effects of not competing in the marketing and selling arena.

Effective operators of smaller properties will dedicate at least 25% of their time (week-day, prime contact hours) to networking and selling.  Hoteliers who do not either handle this critical responsibility themselves or insure that it is handled by someone competent run the risk of their investment failing.  It is an unnecessary failure.

In a follow-up column next month, the essential parts of a marketing plan that can be used at properties of all sizes will be identified. 

Think Tank 
Questions of the day
These questions are offered to stimulate discussion about the way we do business.  There is not necessarily only one “correct” answer – the reason for this section of the column is to promote an awareness of how we might all improve our operations.

1. Do you have a written marketing plan that is regularly reviewed by the GM, owner and/or Management Company and the persons(s) responsible for the sales efforts? 
2. Do you personally know who your best three market segments are?
3. Do you know how many sales calls are made at your hotel each week?  Does anyone care to pay attention?

Contact me at 602-957-5810 or anytime and remember – we all need a regular dose of common sense.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of this publication or of Best Western International. A variation of this article can be found in LESSONS FROM THE FIELD.
John Hogan, MBA CHA MHS is the Director of Education & Cultural Diversity for Best Western International, the world’s largest hotel chain.  Best Western International has more than 4,200 hotels in more than 80 countries and is one of the world’s oldest organized hotel brands, founded in 1946 in California.

He serves on several industry boards that deal with education and/or cultural diversity including the Hospitality Industry Diversity Institute, the AH&LA Multicultural Advisory Council, the AAHOA Education and eCommerce Committee and is the Best Western liaison to the NAACP and the Asian American Hotel Owners’ Association with his ongoing involvement in the Certified Hotel Owner program.

He holds an undergraduate degree from the University of Massachusetts and an MBA from the University of Northern Washington.  His professional experience includes over 30 years in hotel operations, food & beverage, sales & marketing, training, management development and asset management on both a single and multi-property basis.  He is a Certified Hotel Administrator (CHA), a Master Hotel Supplier (MHS) and is a past recipient of the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s Pearson Award for Excellence in Lodging Journalism.  He has served as President of both city and state hotel associations.

John’s background includes teaching college level courses as an adjunct professor for 20 years, while managing with Sheraton, Hilton, Omni and independents hotels.  Prior to joining Best Western International in spring of 2000, he was the principal in an independent training & consulting group for more than 12 years serving associations, management groups, convention & visitors’ bureaus, academic institutions and as an expert witness.  He has conducted an estimated 3,000 workshops and seminars in his career to date.

He has published more than 175 articles & columns on the hotel industry and is co-author (with Howard Feiertag, CHA CMP) of LESSONS FROM THE FIELD – A COMMON SENSE APPROACH TO EFFECTIVE HOTEL SALES, which is available on from HSMAI and other industry sources. 

He resides in Phoenix, Arizona and is finalizing work on his Ph. D. which includes a 2nd book – the Top 100 People who Dramatically Affected the Hotel Industry.


John J. Hogan, MBA CHA MHS 
Director, Education & Cultural Diversity
Best Western International -
6201 N. 24th Parkway
Phoenix, AZ 85016-2023 
Phone 602-957-5810
fax 602-957-5815

"...we all need a regular dose of common sense "

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