Industry Update
Opinion Article19 June 2013

The Holistic Approach To Develop A Hotel Concept

A 5-step guide to developing a hotel concept that is unique, protectable and profitable.

By Youri Sawerschel, Strategy & Branding Consultant at Bridge.over

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For several years, 'hotel concept' has been the buzzword among hotel owners and operators looking to differentiate their property. Often misinterpreted as a purely aesthetic notion, a 'hotel concept' actually means much more: its strength lies in piecing together many disparate elements to create a coherent and compelling picture. Whether you are in charge of developing or refurbishing a hotel, here are five points that you should seriously take into account to create your own hotel concept.

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#1 Segment your customers according to their behaviour

Demographics and purpose of travel are no longer accurate means to segment customers as the line between work and leisure is getting thinner every day.

Instead, guests should be grouped according to their behaviour. You should ask such questions as: which customers stay in this hotel mainly because of its convenient location? Which customers require a business centre? Which customers want in-house evening dining options? By focusing on what drives your customers rather than on simple demographics, you will be able to develop a more coherent concept that avoids stereotyping. Forget about the traditional all-day dining restaurant for hotel guests.When it comes to targeting the local market, don't see it as a homogeneous group. Your local market is made up of myriad individuals with different habits, behaviours, and purchasing power.

#2 Identify your protectable assets

To stand out, a good concept should be based on tangible attributes that are specific to the hotel.

These attributes should be authentic and coherent with the pedigree of the project. The landscape, the history, the location, the building itself, the unique mix of customers and your own specific know-how are all attributes that can serve as the basis of a strong concept. Ideally, several attributes can combine to create a concept that is truly differentiated. It is important to assess whether these attributes are relevant to the entire hotel or to specific outlets only, e.g. a great view from the top-floor of the hotel only. If they aren't relevant to the hotel as a whole, the concept should act as the underlying thread which links the specific features together.

# 3 Take social interactions into account

To improve guest comfort, public outlets should be designed with social interactions in mind.

Social enjoyment is key to customer satisfaction and loyalty. The type of customer, the time of day, the culture and the price range are all aspects that will influence the level of social interactions that you are looking for in your hotel. Hallways, restaurants, lifts and lobbies are all environments that trigger social interactions. As you look to develop the appropriate social setting for your hotel, you should ask yourself such questions as: does the lighting encourage people to talk together? Does the layout of the lobby ensure that people have enough privacy? Can guests easily establish eye contact if they are seated at the bar?

# 4 Focus on the brand story, not the design

A brand story is unique to your property and serves as an underlying thread for your products and services.

A compelling brand story is infused into all aspects of the guest experience, giving more depth and substance to the hotel product. It should appeal to your segment and use the hotel attributes as artefacts of the story. Creating a brand story requires digging into the past while embracing the future. Ask yourself the following question: can you come up with any witty anecdotes about your hotel? What values or beliefs guided your decisions? Is your tone of voice appropriate when communicating? Also, remember that the great advantage of a good story is that you can build on it endlessly: you can always add a new chapter.

# 5 Maximise revenue per square meter

Similar to the retail business, a hotel concept should be designed to maximise revenue per square meter.

As you plan your layout, you should ask yourself such questions as: how much income would a gift shop generate? How many non-hotel guests might use the fitness room? Does it make sense to have rooms on the top floor of the building? Dormant areas such as oversized lobbies, empty gyms or space-consuming decorations should be converted into points of sale when possible. However, due to mandatory standards, upscale hotels are obliged to keep added value guest facilities that do not necessarily drive revenue. The key here is to strike a fine balance between satisfying guests' expectations and generating revenue.

At Bridge.over, we believe that it is essential to take a holistic approach to concept development at an early stage of the project. This will ensure the creation of a coherent value proposition that will hold a distinct position in the mind of the customers. From concept to reality.

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Youri Sawerschel

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