Why major brands are jealous of independent hotels

As consumer preferences and trends have evolved over recent years, hotel guests have shown, with their decisions and dollars, they desire more authentic, hyper-local experiences when traveling.  Rather than the “sea of sameness” that comes with staying at some of the major branded hotels, travelers are selecting independent properties for their lodging needs.  By trading globally recognized brands for independent hotels, guests are hoping to enhance their stay with truly unique and memorable experiences that large chains cannot provide.

With this shift in consumer behavior, large hotel chains are trying their hands at providing travelers with highly sought-after localized experiences by launching or purchasing boutique brands and cultivating collections of independent properties.  Brands such as IHG, Hyatt, Hilton and Marriott have all made significant investments toward “going local” and capturing some of the revenue that has begun to flow toward smaller properties.  This movement has caught the attention of independent hotel operators and now they are strategizing ways to survive this new wave of competition.

Working with independent hotel operators across the U.S. and Canada provides innRoad with great insight and perspective on what steps hoteliers are taking to combat this intrusion into their market.  From our conversations with operators, we have developed tips for solidifying your independent hotel brand and maintaining your position in your local community:

Remain true to your brand.

To combat threats to their business, many hotels mistakenly deviate from the plan that originally brought them success in favor of a new strategy that alters the core values of their company.  In the case of hotel chains attempting to duplicate the independent hotel experience, instead of repositioning to hold off the competition, this is the ideal time to remain true to your brand and reinforce the principles that have helped make your hotel attractive to guests.

For example, an excellent starting point for all properties is to examine the condition of their guestrooms.  Improvements such as new linen, updated fixtures and furniture and improved bathrooms will have the greatest impact on guests and their on-property experience.  For family-friendly hotels, offering or expanding a free breakfast program is a great benefit for cost-conscious travelers.  And for those catering to business travelers, investing in a strong Wi-Fi signal will be greatly appreciated by the business road warriors who need to stay in-touch around the clock.  By making enhancements like these, independent hotels can greatly improve the guest experience while still remaining true to themselves.

Emphasize what makes your community special.

In an episode of the TV show Hotel Impossible, the host implores the owners of an independent hotel on the banks of the beautiful Grand Lake in Colorado to develop a marketing strategy to co-promote the great natural attraction alongside their hotel to help drive business for their property.  As the show captured perfectly, travelers crave experiences they cannot receive at home, so it’s the responsibility of hotel owners to market their property and community together, so they can work in tandem to attract visitors to the area.

For travelers, their experience in the local community is just as important as their on-property stay.  Hotel guests are spending less time in their rooms and more time exploring unfamiliar neighborhoods in search of unique sights and attractions.  With strong community ties and familiarity with their surroundings, independent hoteliers have a local knowledge advantage that must be leveraged to attract guests to their area.  By co-promoting their hotel alongside popular community activities and attractions, independent operators can sell potential guests on experiences they cannot find with a chain hotel or anywhere else.

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