I previously told the story of how my wife, Melissa, and I transformed a struggling Western mining town—my hometown of Wallace, Idaho—into one of the world's leading destinations for snowmobilers.
Despite obstacles, and through spotting a gap in the market as well as utilizing Wallace's unique location, we set up Wallace and the surrounding area for decades of potential—a process that we like to refer to as the 'Go Big' model.
As the economy enters a new year, full of promise but also uncertainty, hoteliers will be faced with a host of new challenges, including the inevitable shift in primary demand. Those customers you once relied upon may have moved on, or they may have been replaced. Perhaps business has just slowed down. The question is: How should you utilize this change in demand, and make it work for you?
A shift in primary demand may come naturally, and at times unexpectedly, or you may want to instigate and identify a change yourself. If you're keen to explore the latter option, consider the following:
- Create a stand-tall differentiation. What can you do to define yourself as the world's biggest, best or only at what you do? Are you the closest hotel to the hospital? Are you in Coconut Creek, Fla., the butterfly capital of the world?
- Focus on identity vs image.
- Be authentic, and do not create a false marketing image. Identify your most true organic market by connecting who you are to whom it matters.
- Create local partnerships by defining a shared vision for success and profitability.
- Leverage existing facilities to support your specialized tourism niche.
Although it may seem as if dramatic shifts in primary demand aren't common, they are there if you look closely. And with the global economy constantly evolving and adapting, there are ways to cater to a new type of consumer, or least identify them:
- Can you customize your services to Chinese tastes? China has a rapidly growing economy, and once out-of-reach destinations are now suddenly affordable to the growing masses of Chinese travelers. This presents a huge opportunity for hoteliers around the globe to cash in, and adapt.
- Increasing wealth amongst growing middle classes around the world, mixed with currency depreciation elsewhere, is making travel a much more frequent luxury. With more travelers, what can you do to ensure you stand out from the crowd?
- Likewise, currency values are constantly fluctuating. Has your location suddenly become a bargain?
- Always be aware of what's going on in and around your vicinity, including construction work. It might not be glamorous when the scaffolding's up, but new facilities including stadiums, concert halls, education centers and other infrastructures will bring in an influx of new clientele, that you will need to cater for.
- It's predicted that the 70-80 age group in Germany will rise by more than 50 percent by 2018. As age expectancy rises, so do the numbers of senior travelers. Does your hotel cater to this age group? Could it do, exclusively so?
A shift in primary demand can be unnerving, but it can also be full of possibility. You know your property better than anyone; you just need to be aware of its potential. Make your hotel the very best it can be this year, and if you're experiencing a lull in business, explore the possibility of targeting a new breed of customer. It might just be the change you and your business needs.
Tom Magnuson is the co-founder, along with his wife Melissa, of Magnuson Hotels.