HSMAI’s Travel Internet Marketing Strategy Conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Chicago on Monday, April 8th.
The session dubbed “The Convergence of Disciples…Symbiosis or Power Struggle” was widely regarded as one of the most interesting and liveliest offerings of the day. Much of its success can be attributed to its panel of experts; Moderator Dr. Bill Carroll of Cornell University expertly directed the discussion to really delve into the topics and encourage the attendees to take advantage of their access to such an experienced and knowledgeable panel.
As you can see, the experts represented a diverse range of organizations and duties:
- Marie-Claire O-Brien, Director, Marketing, Preferred Hotel Group, Corporate
- Jon Pyle, Principal, Roommarketer
- Jim Zito, Corporate Director E-Commerce, Morgans Hotel Group, Corporate
- Director, Revenue Management, Hyatt Select Hotels Group
One of the first topics addressed the need for consistent and effective integration of online and offline marketing techniques by members of the onsite staff, including Revenue Managers, Sales & Marketing, Catering, General Management, etc. Blending marketing efforts keeps your message true and constant; if your overall marketing plan includes print, video, TV, radio, email, or other mixes, consistency is key to strong consumer response. Whether you outsource facets of your online marketing to experts or manage it all in-house, accomplishing a seamless message between them all requires excellent communication and coordination. As a result, Revenue Managers with SEO knowledge are currently in high demand.
The panel agreed tracking and analysis are also vital to success in marketing your website. You need expert analysts who know how to read the data correctly and recommend strategies for the design, optimization, and marketing campaign itself. The question then becomes who will implement those recommendations; again, communication and coordination will always be among the most important elements for success.
Based on the travel trends presented earlier in the day, the panel encouraged the attendees to avoid the rush toward discounting. Instead, they encourage hoteliers to approach their corporate offices for help in brainstorming various ideas and the tools for their implementation. Consider the benefits of your loyalty and rewards programs, for example. How can you expound upon your uniqueness, your packages, and the little “extras” you offer that provide added value to the consumer? The panel recommended looking at your business mix to find any restrictions you may have set and whether they would be more effective if altered or removed altogether. Be creative and try something new!
Marketing to international travelers was a recurring theme that brought up several potential solutions. Social Media was the most prominent idea but was also recognized as one of the most labor intensive. Who can keep up? Who would have the time and inclination to make regular posts? Again, it’s time to get creative. Consider your in-house concierge, a night club host, or a member of your casino staff. The point is to assign writers who are familiar with your area and what your region has to offer. Remember the posts need to be genuine and of value to the reader.
Closing comments from each of the panelists included these pieces of advice:
- Talk to each other within your property and work as a TEAM to combine all the knowledge
- Obtain good market intelligence so you can forecast rates to get your future pace
- Encourage good collaborative decision making
- Refrain from discounting
- Utilize your analytics to look for opportunities
- Search (or FIND) is more than just “.com” so think internationally
- Know your business mix and what you can change, good or bad, to go for new ideas – Mix it up!