Incentive Travel: Can an Independent Hotel Stand Above the Crowd?

While London, Paris, Barcelona, LA, Shanghai and Rome are all wildly different cities, they have something special in common.

That something is growth. 

The exponential rise of the ‘city break’ in recent years, fuelled by frequent, cheap and accessible flights, mean our natural thirst for travel can be more easily quenched than ever before. Cities are becoming busier, with growing numbers of people arriving in search of work, rest and play.  

According to a recent Guardian article on tourism, over 100 million people walk along La Rambla, Barcelona’s famous shopping street, every year.  Meanwhile, London is coping with increased visitor demand by adding ever more hotel rooms – 12,000 will be added by 2020, outpacing those across Europe despite the looming uncertainty of Brexit.

“Despite the outcome of Brexit…people will always travel”

(Paul Stoddart, Managing Director of CWT Meetings & Events)

It’s an obvious point to make, therefore, that standing out amongst so much competition will be tough.  To rise head and shoulders above the jostling crowd, hoteliers must devise ever more innovative strategies to successfully attract new customers and clients and thus increase revenues.

So, just how do they begin?

Group incentives facilitate easier decision-making

With so much choice available, guests are demanding a higher level of personal service.  Millennial travellers in particular look for unique, personally-tailored experiences, rather than settling for feeling part of a commoditised hotel product – however shiny and slick it may appear.

Imagine if your hotel could offer a unique creative group incentive package that allowed guests to experience something truly special?

According to a recent Google Consumer Survey commissioned by hospitality tech company Software Advice, room upgrades, room service and free food and drink are the most sought-after incentives – and indeed, these are typically offered by large chain hotels.

To stand out and be memorable, it’s all about thinking big and small.  Insights such as those gained from the Google Consumer Survey could work as a tried-and-tested base, to which further aspects can be added to create a truly unique incentive package.  Free from restrictive branding standards and Head Office interventions, independent hoteliers can gain a stand-out competitive edge by thinking outside of the box.

They are potentially able to design incentive packages around the individual needs of each group, or perhaps add quirky and memorable elements that bring the hotel’s location into play – such as a free gift that relates to a local landmark. Thoughtful details such as these are likely stick out in group organisers’ minds, as they make their booking decisions.

Going further, you could also use surveys to help personalise your incentive offerings even more in the future.  What did previous guests enjoy the most, and is there anything they would suggest improving upon?

Mind-blowing experiences are where it’s at

Elements of business and leisure travel are beginning to merge, according to the latest SOTI Agency Report issued by Conference and Incentive Travel.  It states that, “as consumers become more demanding in terms of experiences, corporate clients are following suit”.

The report points out that where previous event trends have leaned towards a city’s location as a simple yet unique selling point, guests are now attracted to immersive experiences, such as a personal cooking lesson with a Michelin star chef, or cocktail or fragrance masterclass with one of your city’scraft specialists.

It follows, therefore, that the more captivating and unforgettable your offering, the more likely it is that your hotel will rise above the crowd.

Technology is usually a big and reliable draw card, though the SOTI report advises that the virtual reality trend, while initially seductive, is an expensive gamble that limits people to the confines of a headset.

Rather than splashing too much cash, a healthy level of creativity and personalisation will elevate an independent hotel’s experience above the off-the-shelf mundane.

Considering guests’ lifestyle choices 

Bear in mind that tailoring to guests’ lifestyle needs is also becoming an essential consideration when it comes to planned events and activities – such as catering for specific dietary requirements.  Providing creative and original vegan, vegetarian and allergen menu options demonstrates care and consideration that guests are likely to remember.

Again, thinking outside of the box to incorporate additional lifestyle elements, such as rooftop yoga, pet-friendly bedrooms or child-centric facilities, can really make a stand-out difference.  You could also think about tailoring unique experiences that work in conjunction with local venues, for example a musical theatre or local museum or art gallery.

The future is bright

The good news for London is that it was the most used UK destination for events over 2017/18, according to research carried out by Conference and Incentive Travel.  Despite the ever-present spectre of Brexit, clients keep returning in droves, and with London’s rich history and unique culture to enjoy, there is no reason to believe that future planners will not continue to consider London for their events.

The potential is clear – and to make the most of it, all an independent hotel need do is: (1) apply some forethought, (2) be creative and original with their offering, and (iii) give detailed and thoughtful attention to the things that matter most to their guests.

Lastly, it is important to remember that price isn’t always king.  When it comes to the guest experience, a sense of overall value counts for so much more. As an independent hotelier, your only job is to ensure that you provide this, and that it can be something that is clearly recognised and appreciated by past, current and future guests.

@luxurylondonguy was founded from twenty years of global experience in the luxury hospitality industry.  To find out more about the consultancy and representation services we provide, please contact us – and in the meantime, don’t forget to keep on following us for regular industry insights and information.