By Georges Panayotis
Tell me what you love, I’ll tell you who you are. This old adage is even truer today since many customers are developing statutory consumption including for travel.
In order to attract and develop the loyalty of these clients, today it is all the more necessary to tell a story, make them dream, make them want to stay at your hotel… what could be more logical for a major group than to rely on its brands and reputation. Seems obvious, doesn’t it? And yet, we question ourselves; we even sometimes worry when we see the direction some are headed in as they leave behind their brands’ values to die after decades of renown.
In today’s consumer society one can get anything they want or need virtually immediately, anywhere and for (almost) anyone, so there is nothing worse than banality. It is precisely this banality that will kill the hotel product as surely as it caused the loss of other things that are now obsolete. The hotel industry has major brands built up in the consumer imagination for many years, but some have lost their aura as they are no longer fed. They are available in infinite varieties and lose all their substance. It is urgent to give creators and marketers back the opportunity to create and strengthen the brand universe; to do so it is necessary to strengthen their image.
A not so distant horizon is looming where artificial intelligence will play an increasingly important role in our societies. It will take on many tasks carried out by humans until now and will also guide the consumer towards those products that correspond to him best thanks to big data diagnostics. It is therefore essential to work on one’s brands to build their awareness and a strong image. Only a product, a concept, a hotel with a strong identity can stay afloat in the middle of a pool of accommodations that algorithms will sort through for the consumer. Vey soon that same algorithm will very soon send consumers offers selected from their information trails left on the web. It will no longer be about asking the consumers "what do you want?" but rather for hotel groups to look at their strengths and assets and create the right experience and product to fit these details.
It is thus important to surround oneself with creative people, marketers, professionals who will be able to build attractive brands and products. Who thanks to the creativity of the human brain will discover how to address the customer with more assurance than an algorithm or a machine. Henry Ford rightly remarked, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have told me faster horses." Indeed, looking to the customer alone for suggestions is not how we innovate. Market research exists to finalize the product and complete its positioning, but without the initial impulse of creative people whose human genius has already advanced businesses, mediocrity rises, substance is lost and brands are weakened. Some groups (Accor, IHG, Marriott…) have repositioned their brands by creating megabrands especially on the economy segment. This same work on image and notoriety needs to be done for superior categories. There is still a long way to go and there are many things to create to remain competitive against hybrid products that speak the 2.0 (or even 4.0) language much better than the dinosaurs in the hotel industry that are less agile. Some of their products (Formula 1, Balladins…) located on the outskirts of cities are closing because they are no longer up to date due to product repositioning. These hotels, which no longer satisfy customers, are taken over by social organizations, as the insecurity in these destinations accentuated the collapse.
However, hotel groups nonetheless retain the strength of their reputation, the skills of their employees and years of experience in the hotel business. Now it is necessary to develop and maintain the small spark that will allow them to shine on the national and international scene by offering attractive products that meet the ever more diverse needs of an increasingly demanding and better-informed clientele. This is an exciting challenge for those who are up to it!