Hospitality & leisure is a fascinating but complex sector. Today there’s a huge mixture of different hotel brands operating in the industry, and the trends which drive travellers to choose a particular hotel or destination over another are changing all the time.
Our work for Hilton requires us to navigate all of that complexity with a laser focus so that we can provide individual hotels with the best possible positioning for their markets. To date we have helped to launch or relaunch over 60 Hilton properties across the EMEA region, and our process in each case has involved an in-depth immersion to really get under the skin of each destination.
Hilton itself is a vast and complex machine, spanning 18 brands, 118 countries and nearly 6,300 properties worldwide. From the iconic luxury and heritage of Waldorf Astoria to the warmth and accessibility of DoubleTree by Hilton, the group covers the needs of every kind of traveller in every corner of the globe.
Within those brands, each individual hotel will have attributes that make them special – and often the location alone is not the USP. All of the world’s visitor hotspots are packed full of hotels for travellers to choose from, so an individual hotel needs to understand what sets it apart from the competition down the road. That’s where we come in.
An in-depth immersion
Whether our positioning work is for the launch of a brand new hotel, or a relaunch following an extensive refurbishment, we begin our immersion by visiting the property in question. This involves a full tour of the hotel to understand its product and service propositions – from the hotel design and décor, to the quality of its guest rooms and facilities, and from how staff greet guests upon arrival to how they care for them throughout their stay. We’ll look to identify what is particularly unique or special about this offer, just as we analyse whether the location provides a particular competitive advantage.
Of course we also spend time with the hotel’s management team to understand their commercial challenges and opportunities, and their wider goals for the hotel. And we conduct in-depth research into the hotel’s competitor set, touring other nearby hotels that target the same customer segments to understand their approach and where there might be opportunities to stand out. We combine all of these insights with extensive data collation, from analysing online reviews on sites like Tripadvisor and Hotels.com, to using YouGov profiling tools to understand the demographics of travellers in different geographic markets.
We also draw upon wider consumer trends to understand how the travel market is shifting, and how the hotel should position itself to ensure it has a relevant and future-proof proposition for attracting travellers going forward.
Telling the right stories
The positioning for each hotel that we work on is inevitably very different to the next. During our work with Hilton Vienna, for example, we identified the passion of the hotel team for caring for both its guests and the environment by introducing more sustainable and eco-friendly practices into the hotel.
We saw that this needed to be central to how the hotel speaks about itself, particularly given Vienna’s status as the ‘most liveable city in the world’ and the rising concern among travellers to reduce their carbon footprint. Our positioning for the hotel of ‘Duty to care’ brought together the different ways that Hilton Vienna cares for its guests, its surrounding and the wider world – thereby helping us to tell the customer-facing story with real emotional power.
When launching Hart Shoreditch for Curio Collection by Hilton, meanwhile, we saw that the hotel’s close integration with its trendy east London neighbourhood would be central to how we positioned the hotel. Here we could tap into the demands of the Airbnb generation to ‘live like a local’ by dialling up the hotel’s luxurious-yet-homely attributes, such as its on-site co-working space and its access to the undiscovered corners of vibrant Shoreditch. Not only did we develop the hotel’s positioning, we created its name too.
Of course, developing a positioning is irrelevant if the hotel team fails to put the proposition into action. Once we have created the customer-facing story, we hold workshops with the hotel team to help them understand how to embed it into the very fabric of the hotel – from optimising existing amenities and services to introducing new ones and new ways of working. An action plan is created and we also work with the hotel teams to develop marketing plans for telling the new story across their chosen channels.
Results to date show that occupancy rates and guest satisfaction scores are on the rise across the hotels we’ve worked with. It’s proof that our immersive approach at the outset is vital to delivering an effective launch or relaunch and the future growth that comes with it.