With the four-week extension of the last restrictions reportedly costing the sector another £3bn on top of the £87bn already lost in the pandemic, many hotels are understandably concerned about how best to future-proof their operations. When charting a course out of these sector-wide difficulties, hoteliers should take care not to neglect the value of strengthening their businesses’ branding.
Indeed, building a standout brand as arguably never been more important, with hospitality businesses racing to make up for lost time, and make the most of this period of reopening before it risks being curtailed. Key to success in this regard will be developing a brand story which keeps guests needs’ firmly in focus, and, similarly, using the human side of the hotel business to appeal directly to the people who matter.
Know your guests, know your story
Getting your brand in front of the right people will require, first and foremost, a clear idea of who the right people are. Hotels large and small, urban and rural, chain and boutique, all need to decide on their target audience, and the distinctions between these different types of hotels will be reflected in the different audiences they target.
A remote countryside retreat decked in the splendour of the art deco movement, for instance, will most likely target well-to-do holidaymakers looking to immerse themselves in the decadence of the Roaring Twenties. Such an experience may not, however, be similarly appealing for busy business-class travellers looking for a convenient overnight stay before a big meeting.
Tailoring a hotel’s branding to its audiences’ differing profiles and priorities is absolutely essential. With 71% of people now preferring companies which align with their values, guests’ own priorities should form the basis of a hotel’s brand.
Sustainability, for instance, is increasingly important to guests, so incorporating a hotel’s environmental conscience into its brand story will help to boost its appeal, particularly among UK audiences who may opt for staycations this summer for environmental as well as Covid-related reasons.
Your brand story, therefore, should start with your guests. Identify what it is they want, and make sure you can provide it.
People-focused approaches to branding
So, now you know that guests themselves provide the ingredients of a great brand story – but what about the recipe; how does a hotel about promoting the values which will resonate with its target audience?
Well, take as a fitting example the work of Tim Hall, Executive Chef at Burgh Island Hotel. Sharing guests’ growing appetite for sustainability, Tim is eager to promote the environmental value of his locally sourced cuisine, in the hotel’s four restaurants as well as to a much broader audience in the media and on social media.
Social media can be an especially useful tool, but it is crucial to use a strategic approach. People-focused content generally performs best, with photos featuring faces attracting up to 40% more interactions on Instagram than those without them. So, while the fixtures and fittings of a luxury hotel may be enticing, it is important too to emphasise the human which lies at the heart of hospitality businesses.
And “people” means more than just guests, particularly in light of the sector’s ongoing staff shortage. Nearly one in 10 hospitality roles in the UK are currently vacant, amounting to a shortfall of more than 180,000 workers. When promoting their business, therefore, hoteliers need to appeal to prospective employees as well as guests.
Staff, like guests, want to spend time in a visually impressive, spatially comfortable, and operationally efficient establishment. But they also need to know about the systems in place which support workers’ wellbeing. And here too, people will be your best promotional material: current staff members taking pride in what they do and delivering excellent service with mutual support from colleagues.
A hotel is a business, after all, and bosses are increasingly recognising that this necessitates appealing to both sets of the people involved in the guest journey.
Humanity in hospitality
Highlighting this human side of the business may initially seem like an additional challenge on top of all the others that the last 16 months have thrown the sector’s way. However, by ensuring that the brand runs through everything a hotel does, hoteliers can craft a strong identity and branding for their business which will equip it well for the times ahead.
Keeping that human connection is vital, particularly with the lingering uncertainty around the first months of “freedom”. Whatever the future holds, people will remain centrally important to hotels – and this should be reflected in their branding.
Contributor: Anj Germain, Brand Director at Inntelligence