Independent Hotels: The Masters Of Storytelling
Interview With Geoff Andrew, CEO Of Worldhotels
Frankfurt -- Worldhotels is home to more than 350 independent hotels. Hotels, which want to keep their individual character and identity. With 47 years in the industry, the group is not only a strong partner for independent hotels but also offers business and leisure travelers an easy gateway to authentic and local experiences. In this interview, Geoff Andrew, CEO of Worldhotels, speaks about developments, trends and the advantages of independent hotels.
It is so much easier than ever before to access independent hotels and because of the many reviews online, people are more confident to book them. Furthermore, the preferences of guests have changed. Today, guests prefer hotels with character; hotels with a story. While chain brands struggle to define an experience, independent hotels were built for providing unique stories. They are the masters of storytelling.
What are the main challenges faced by independent properties today?
Today, independent properties are experiencing a triple squeeze: Established hotel chains experiment with "independent" concepts for younger travelers. In the next years, even more "fake" independent brands will emerge. This will impact independent properties worldwide. Since the online world is becoming more and more complex, hoteliers need online strategies to drive business to their hotels. OTAs are putting a lot of pressure on them. A good website is key. However, just having a website is not enough anymore. Independent hotels need to be visible across social media channels. They also need to observe and respond to (negative) online reviews. Low online awareness means low visibility in the eyes of potential guests and therefore lower bookings. Furthermore, independent hotels need to confront the sharing economy. Home-sharing services such as Airbnbare taking market shareaway from them. However, the sharing economy should not solely be viewed as a threat. Hotels need to think about what they can learn from Airbnb. Authenticity and local experiences are the buzzwords.
Which expectations do today's guests have and how does the hospitality industry react?
Traveling like a local: this is the mindset of today's guests. They want to go to bars and restaurants where the locals hang out. Because of this, many hotels have restructured their lobbies to create places where tourists, locals and business travelers mix and mingle. Regionality becomes important as well: from regional design to cosmetics and food. Many hotels have jumped on the bandwagon by showcasing local artists and offering regional dishes. Today's guests value authenticity and individuality over standards and consistency. A five-star guest review that reads 'Beautiful but Boring' is a disaster; boring is a highly dangerous review. Therefore, it is not as easy as it used to be to fulfill the expectations of guests. The most successful hotels think about how they want their guests to
feel and integrate this feeling into every service they provide.
Worldhotels was set up 47 years ago, how has the industry changed since then?
The hotel industry is constantly changing. Today's trends are commodities tomorrow. What was a luxury option yesterday is a standard expectation today. Travelers will always enjoy high standards, but the emotional component is becoming a priority. Travelers are looking for lean luxury. It is no longer just about pampering yourself, about five-star hotels and big screen TVs; it's about connecting. Experience is the new luxury! Guests thirsts for experiences; they want a story to take home. Today's travelers express their identity through the stories attached to their journey. They have seen and experienced a lot. With design and premium products only, hotels cannot impress their guests anymore. This used to be different and easier.
Let's talk about trends. What will change in the hospitality industry within the next years?
There are several trends which are emerging: There will be an intense focus on loyalty within the next years. Loyalty is the backbone of a hotels' master strategy. The industry needs to redefine what hotel loyalty is to adapt to changing consumer behaviors and expectations. That is why Worldhotels will introduce a new loyalty program called "The List" next year. Hospitality is a people's industry. Human encounters are more important than ever before. However, these have been neglected in the past years. Tips from the concierge, cocktail recipes from the bartender: when you look at the online reviews you realize that hotel staff is looming large. That is why hotels will put the human factor back in focus. As human encounters are getting more and more important, hotels will put more emphasis on communal areas. The advantage that they have over Airbnb is that they can offer places where people – travelers and locals – can gather together. Digitalization is an important topic as well. It is still in the early stages of development. There is so much room for innovation; obviously, not every hotel will equip its rooms with Amazon Echo smart speaker devices, but we will see more and more on-demand technologies. In the future, technology will drive the guest experience. Big data will play an important role as well and will change the face of hotel management. Now that there are enormous datasets available, it's up to us to know what to do with that information. Hoteliers will start using this data to deliver personalization.
About WorldHotels Collection
Newly relaunched, the WorldHotels™ Collection delivers proven soft brand solutions for a curated global offering of over 300 of the finest independent hotels and resorts. Founded by hoteliers dedicated to the art of hospitality, only WorldHotels curates the best independent properties around the globe, each reflective of the locale by offering intuitive service, and a refined sense of character. WorldHotels' proprietary 'Start with WHY' philosophy helps each hotel identify their unique set of assets that distinguish and elevate their guest experience and revenue generation performance from the competition. Geared to both business and leisure travelers, the WorldHotels Collection is classified into three tiers allowing guests to select the offering that meets their needs: WorldHotels Luxury, WorldHotels Elite and WorldHotels Distinctive.
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