Krishan Kadodwala, director of market management UK and Ireland at Expedia Group, gives his tips and tricks to make your hotel stand out
Independent hotels are clearly proving attractive to all types of modern-day guests, and not just younger travellers who crave more personalised experiences.
According to Expedia Group data, there was a 20% year-on-year increase in demand for UK independent hotels in 2018. UK independent hotels contributed roughly half of the total hotel supply in 2017 and with gross bookings of the UK hotel industry predicted to rise to £54.3b in 2021, the independents are set for strong growth.
This segment of the market continues to appeal through offering something authentic and local for guests. The days when guests simply saw a hotel room as somewhere to sleep for the night have long gone.
Make your business stand out from the crowd
1 Focus on individuality
The advent of the ‘boutique’ hotel has created a whole new concept by turning a guest’s stay into an experience. In London, we are seeing anything from Georgian-themed quirkiness at the Rookery in Clerkenwell (pictured) to the funky, futuristic cool of Stylotel in Paddington.
The individuality of these types of venues provides guests with a travel experience unlike any other. It helps enhance a guest’s stay, offering them a genuine feel for the city in which they are staying. It helps make the brand memorable and encourages guests to become loyal customers.
This ongoing success is evidenced by the data, with Expedia Group figures showing, for the second year in a row, unbranded properties with greater average daily rates (ADRs) and overall revenue growth than their branded hotel competitors. When comparing Q1 2018 to Q1 2017 Expedia Group data, independent popularity once again soared, with demand for these hotels continuing to grow twice as fast as chains, consistent across both domestic and international bookings.
2 Embrace technology
Technology has certainly played a major part in levelling the playing field for smaller, boutique hotels by allowing them to punch above their weight. But often technology adoption in this segment of the market lags behind other parts, online marketing channels are still underutilised, and direct distribution opportunities are still being missed. But that need not be the case – today’s owners and operators have access to more data and insights than ever before.
Technology provides independents with the greatest opportunity to compete on the world stage, no matter the size or budget. By leveraging the technological assets and scale of a global platform, independent hotels can now compete with their larger counterparts more effectively.
3 Analyse the data
The armoury of evolving insight, data and free operational tools, for example, in revenue management, offer hoteliers, particularly independents who might lack the resources and budget to invest themselves, greater value than ever before. For example, a hotelier may learn that their competitors are getting huge demand from, say, Chinese or east Asian travellers that they aren’t seeing.
These tech tools mean they can dive into their rates and even specifically target these travellers to secure more valuable demand from those areas. They can also learn how they sit versus branded properties in their market. There was higher growth from visitors from the UAE booking an independent hotel versus a branded hotel in 2018, for example (160% vs 130% year-on-year growth), showing the growing appeal of boutique hotels to high-spending international travellers.
We are seeing many examples of these types of venues really getting the most out of their data and becoming more sophisticated with revenue management strategies, allowing them to compete with big chains in a way they’ve never been able to before.
By employing these strategies, independents have the opportunity to genuinely distinguish their hospitality and property as unique. They can respond to guest needs quickly, delivering a personal experience that secures greater loyalty. In short, independents have greater flexibility and freedom to experiment and innovate.