Last year, I covered 9 Hotel Marketing Strategies to Use in 2018 and now it’s time to update my list.
First, let’s find out how the hotel industry is doing in Asia Pacific and Malaysia specifically.
Economy-based hotels account for approximately 15-20% of branded supply in APAC and with the rise of travellers (such as Millennials and Gen Zs), who are willing to spend more on experiences than accommodation, the sector is set to continue to boom. Location is key, as a few dollars nowadays can make a tremendous difference in the expected payback period. For some of the key cities in the region where land is scarce and street frontage is valuable, budget hotels might not only be the savviest choice but sometimes the only appropriate choice for small sites.
Markets that have been Chinese-outbound travel dependent are starting to feel the crunch, with the Chinese government increasingly promoting domestic travel. Nonetheless, the outlook for several countries remains positive, albeit investors are watching certain markets (like in Vietnam where supply is unabated) with growing concern. Additionally, the industry has to embrace a new generation of digital native travellers who will evolve the sector further.
According to The Edge, despite Malaysia not having met tourist arrival targets for five consecutive years, the hotel market continues to grow. According to the National Property Information Centre (Napic), the number of hotel rooms (all-star rating) increased 28.2%, or 54,229, to 246,564 from 2013 to 2017.
Knight Frank Malaysia managing director Sarkunan Subramaniam observes that Malaysia is still one of Asia’s most visited countries, despite the falling number of visitors. Most of the tourists are from Southeast Asia, he adds.
In 1H2018, he notes, arrivals and tourism receipts reportedly achieved 48.1% and 45.8% respectively, of the revised targets, with 12.71 million visitors spending RM38.92 billion.
“[In Southeast Asia] Singapore, ranked at the top, accounting for 40.9% of total tourist arrivals in January to June 2018, followed by Indonesia with a 12.7% share. Most tourists who visit Malaysia are from Southeast Asia, including Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Brunei,” Sarkunan says.
Landserve Sdn Bhd managing director Chen King Hoaw notes that the recent trend is for hotels to offer 1 to 3-bedroom serviced apartments, in addition to hotel rooms.
“This is to cater for a wider range of tourists, from business travellers to families. Their room rates are also competitive,” he adds.
“Airbnb and similar platforms are impacting certain segments of the hotel industry. Perhaps, when there are enough people looking for quality lodging or accommodation, the impact is less felt. However, should the number of tourist arrivals drop, coupled with a rise in the number of hotel rooms and serviced apartments in popular locations, the impact can be more obvious.”
Industry players expect the growing demand for home-share schemes and declining tourist arrivals to exert pressure on occupancy and room rates, especially for budget and three-star hotels. Sarkunan says this is because both share a similar target market. Hence, he does not see a significant impact on the growing Airbnb operations on upmarket and luxury hotels.
Zerin Properties founder and CEO Previndran Singhe expects more lifestyle and themed hotels to be developed moving forward, to adapt to and cater to millennials’ travel needs. Hoteliers need to be more tech savvy to develop user-friendly mobile apps for travellers’ convenience and offer unique and distinctive experiences.
So there you have it. What can you do to bring more guests to your hotel and ensure that they stay at least a night?
Use a hotel scavenger hunt to engage with guests. Set up an interactive scavenger hunt, encouraging guests and city residents to complete challenges around your city that helps show off what living like a local means. This can include the nightlife, going to iconic landmarks, visiting local restaurants and bars, and highlighting the local culture.
Compete with Airbnb by having a personal touch. There has been a lot of discussion around the impact Airbnb has had on the hotel industry. In order to stay competitive, hotels need to find ways to stand out. The thing about Airbnb is that you’re left to your own devices once you get the key. Hotels can train staff to be attentive to each guest. Make them feel at ease and cared for. Answer questions and be ready with suggestions for where to go and what to eat, along with information about what is going on around your area. Having a person offer guidance is a way to differentiate from the online-only interaction of an Airbnb.
Develop a relationship with local Tourism Boards and Chambers of Commerce. Just like any hospitality and tourism business, it’s important to stay in touch with the local tourism boards as well as other associations that could further business. Tourism boards assist with placing events and reaching out to press around the country, and they are valuable resources for staying in touch with other local businesses. Tourism boards, convention and visitors bureaus (CVBs), and destination marketing organizations have the job of bringing visitors to an area and promoting the businesses in that area. Therefore, it’s important to have a good relationship with them.
Market the local area, not just the hotel. Sleep is important for holidaymakers, but so is creating an experience. Make sure to market the town, city, or area where your hotel is located. If you do have a countryside hotel, pick out some of the best walks and trails, recommend local bike hire companies, and offer everything your guests can use to improve their stay.
Partner with local establishments. Develop partnerships with local restaurants, tourist attractions such as museums, and cultural centres. Provide some space for them to display rack cards and coupons in the hotel, which will act as added value for your customers. In exchange, require them to place a link on their website for out-of-town guests to take advantage of your hotel deals.
Host events at your hotel or sponsor events. Don’t wait for businesses or to be married couples to have events at your hotel. Host your own. Invite groups in to visit and host a luncheon or rush hour mixers for them. Use your hotel as a venue for art exhibitions or create activities that tourists would like to take part in. Work with the local municipal council or state government to host annual city events. You can speak to Best Events about transforming spaces into immersive experience.
Here are 3 tips you can use to avoid failures when it comes to marketing your hospitality business.
Do your homework. If you can’t afford to hire a marketing professional, then at least invest in an hour or two of expert time to find out what mistakes you should avoid. Online resources, like MarketingProfs, provide free tips and advice for free, as well as access to additional resources for a small fee.
Seek professional help. When you’ve got a marketing budget, hire a small creative agency to develop a strategic and cost-effective campaign to help you meet your business goals. You’re great at running a hotel — enlist the help of an expert for your marketing.
Sweat the small stuff. Consider all the possible mishaps that could beset your marketing plans so you have a chance to avoid them. Inadvertently offensive photos, unreadable fancy fonts or colours, and unfortunate spelling and usage errors leave a bad impression you can’t afford. Engage someone outside your business to bring a critical eye to your materials and to read everything before approving a print run or hitting send.