Hospitality Brand Management, Marketing, Advertising, PR, and other fortuitous thoughts.

The WiFi Wall is Coming Down

Mar 2, 2015 0 comments

More and more hotel companies have realized that if I could get free WiFi in a $10 a night guesthouse in Cambodia in 2009, I must be able to get it for free in a hotel 10 or 20 times that price.  All of the major hotel companies have been saying that it has been in the works for quite some time; but “coincidentally” many have begun offering some sort of free WiFi in the past months.   We can’t get too excited yet, in some cases free wifi comes with some restrictions. 

According to HotelChatter’s 2014 WiFi report, Marriott, Starwood, Hilton, Hyatt, Intercontinental, and Wyndham did not offer free in-room internet as of the report’s April 2014 publication. 


IHG:  You didn’t see this one coming from Intercon, but they were the first to announce in March 2013 that they would begin offering free WiFi for all of their loyalty members in 2014.  This was based on an IHG commissioned study founding that, “43% of adults surveyed said that they would choose not to stay in a hotel that charged for internet”.

Marriott:  Stepping up with an October 2014 announcement, Marriott rolled out free-wifi, also only for its members, in January 15, 2015.  There is one condition, not only do you have to be a Marriott Rewards member, but you must book through or another direct channel.  Oh, and there’s another caveat, everyone gets standard WiFi, but only Gold and Platinum members get “enhanced” WiFi. 

Starwood:  Following on Marriott’s footsteps, Starwood announced on December 17, 2014 that starting February 2, 2015 you could get free standard WiFi.  Same story as Marriott, you must be an SPG member and book through an SPG direct channel.  Also, only Platinum and Gold members get what Starwood calls “premium” internet. 

Hyatt:  Coming to the party on December 22, Hyatt brought the gift of free internet with no strings attached: everyone gets free internet, regardless of booking method.  There is a mention in their press release that in some places Gold and Platinum members would have access to “premium WiFi service”. 

Hilton:  Finally.  Just today, Hilton announced through FlyerTalk (no official press release available yet), that it would begin offering free internet for everyone starting in August, must book direct.  Diamond members will have access to premium Wifi as long as they book thorough a Hilton channel. 

Aside from the obvious good news to travelers, there are some key takeaways:
  • Most importantly, hotel companies are now being able to shorten the roll out of a worldwide program like this to as short as 2-3 months.  It might not seem like a complex process to roll out a product upgrade change, but with hundreds of properties in different geographic operating areas and hundreds owners to deal with, this is a refreshing change from the usual 1+ year timeline for a corporate rollout of this kind. 
  • Free WiFi has become a point of parity (and a standard amenity in this day and age)
  • Peer pressure continues to work and hotel companies continue to follow. 

L2′s Second annual Hotels Digital IQ Index® Reveals Little Differentiation

Apr 14, 2012 0 comments

Four Seasons, Hilton and Marriott Top L2′s Second annual Digital IQ Index®: Hotels. 

In its second edition, this report is now the benchmark on hotel online brand management+ execution; and serves as a compendium of what different hotel brands have done over the year.  The study reveals that differentiated content on site and mobile bookings drive traffic and high margin revenue. The research demonstrates a clear relationship between hotel brands’ Digital IQ® and shareholder value.
“In this year’s report, an overwhelming 38 percent of brands registered an Average ranking, versus just 10 percent in 2011. The standard deviation across the Index tightened from 38 in 2011 to 21 in 2012, suggesting differentiation in digital has become increasingly difficult.”   —Scott Galloway, L2 Digital IQ Index: Hotels Author, NYU Stern
A must read for all hotel executives.

Download the Full Report from >> News of the Week

Dec 11, 2011 0 comments

The Hotel "Social Lobby" Trend Goes Mainstream and Ceases to be a Competitive Advantage

Dec 8, 2011 1 comments

A decade ago, hotels began differentiating themselves from their competition by reinventing their lobbies as social spaces, introducing unique f&b concepts, promoting lively lounge bars, and even reducing the size of the front desk to increase guest interaction.   These properties began to define their brands by their hotels' social lobby design; however, today's USA TODAY article Hotel lobbies become multi-use spaces details how every major brand now features "social lobbies".  Any hotel defining their brand by their "social lobbies" is no longer differentiated.  The "social lobby", just like the specialty beds of last decade, has gone from being a point of differentiation to being a point of parity.

The predecessor of the modern hotel were the Inns & Public Houses of years back--a place of social gathering for locals and travelers alike.  When Atlanta's Hyatt Regency Hotel opened in 1967, it was the first atrium hotel to be built, influencing hotel design for the following decade.  The opening of this hotel signaled the climax of hotels being a place of "social gathering".  This quickly changed in the 1980's as architectural and real estate efficiency became the name of the game, turning the hotel lobby into a check-in/check-out, transactional building feature.

The pendulum swung back a little over 10 years ago, when boutique hotels changed the traditional design of their lobbies, turning them into restaurants, bars, lounges, and general places of merriment.  W Hotels then branded this concept and rolled out hotels around the world, as the revenue potential was realized its parent company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts, and their competitors began redesigning their lobbies across multiple brands.  Based on past research and today's article--aside from a multitude of independent hotels--the following brands have already launched "social lobby" concepts:

Marriot Hotels
W Hotels
Le Meridien
Holiday Inn
Hilton Hotels
Hilton Garden Inn
Hyatt House

Hotel designers around the world have taken note and added "social lobby" as a required building specs.

READ MORE "social lobby" coverage on >> News of the Week

Dec 3, 2011 0 comments

The Power of the Loyalty Program

Nov 29, 2011 0 comments
Image  courtesy of American Airlines
Today's chapter 11 announcement by American Airlines is a strong reminder of the power of customer loyalty and most importantly, of the contemporary significance of the frequent flyer program.

To provide a little bit of background, American's AAdvantage program is credited as being the first loyalty program in the world, having launched in 1981. Currently, it is one of the largest (if not the largest) of such programs with 67 million members.

Fast forward to today: American Airline's parent company AMR has filled for Chapter 11, and AA sent an email to all it's AAdvantage members. What is immediately clear from that email is that AA wants everyone to know that (a) their miles are safe and (b) the program will not be altered as part of these reorganization procedures.

See the  entire letter Here

Airlines enter into Bankruptcy through what seems to be a never-ending revolving door. The real news is that their frequent flyers programs are never touched, highlighting the amount of brand equity + trust deposited in them and the fiscal value inherit in them. Aside from the customer loyalty aspect of these programs, they maintain open important revenue generating opportunities with credit card companies, retailers, other airlines, hotels, etc. through point-exchange partnerships.

How much are these programs worth? In 2005, Air Canada sold 12.5% of its Aeroplan program for $250 million, which would value the whole program at $2000 million (Note that this was only for a small program with 4.5 million members). We could use these numbers to project an estimated value for the AAdvantage program of at least $29.8 billion dollars--that is a significantly low estimate, as it only takes into account subscription numbers, and not it's other revenue producing partnerships.

This leaves us at the main point. As it turns out, it can actually be less damaging to a brand to renegotiate with its lenders than to negotiate with its frequent flyers + loyalty program partners....

Brand Management is Revenue Management, move them to the same department.

Aug 26, 2011 1 comments
If every encounter a customer has with the brand either helps or hurts the brand value, then everything in a business comes back to brand management. And if the goal is to maximize revenues, then brand management is revenue management. This is why these two roles should be moved into the same department to enhance collaboration.

As the recent article, Reputation management is Revenue management, hotel industry is starting to see the power of this relationship between Branding and Revenue Mgt... just starting. But even five years ago the people in charge of brand management (at the corporate or property level rarely ever talked to the Revenue managers. They were secluded to opposite sides of the building, the brand and marketing people seen as 'those people who have their heads in the clouds while everyone else does the work' and the revenue folks on the other side were 'those people who crunch the numbers while everyone else does the work'. Unfortunately, this is still the case in many organizations today, a result of Revenue Management being moved into its own department, to keep the Sales Department accountable, and Marketing continued to be grouped with Sales (in many cases under sales).

The problem of having Brand Marketing under Sales is that the Sales Department typically services a laundry list of corporate, MICE, leisure and group accounts... Rarely do any of these accounts generate more than 5-10% of revenues. Having Sales focused on so many small clients can diverge a Branding Strategy from having a top level approach. The benefit of having Branding and Marketing grouped with Revenue Management is that you can take market feedback from Social Media, Sales' different accounts, Competitive Pricing, Historical performance, and Forecasted performance when creating an ongoing Marketing Strategy and targeted campaigns. The most important point is that these campaigns would be more closely watched and it's effectiveness measured.

We have recently seen various examples of the effectiveness of marketing campaigns being created quickly when the branding and revenue management teams work closely together. Recently shown by Starwood's W Hotels when they were the first to market with a "New York Same Sex Marriage Package" only days after the court ruling.

Let's be honest a lot of revenue managers out there are already doing a lot of Branding tasks, weather it be servicing OTA accounts, managing property descriptions online or on GDS, deciding weather or not to participate in OTA or Corporate campaigns, tracking competitive rates, market share, and vying for better placement online. The goal would be to increase the efficiency of information flow within the organization and outward to the consumer. As Josiah Mackenzie mentioned in the aforementioned article, Reputation management is Revenue management, the opportunity is to, "take these analytics and do something more creative," move the information flow closer together by grouping Branding and Revenue Mgt together, and you can use all of the different feedback sources to do something more creative, FASTER, before your competitors.

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Hospitality Brand Management, Marketing, Advertising, PR, and other fortuitous thoughts.


This blog does not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my employers or clients. It is solely my opinion.