Travel and hospitality has seen unprecedented change over the past two decades, mostly driven by technology. Online marketing has led to increased competition, putting pressure on room rates and driving stringent consumer expectations. After all, with so many options to choose from, it is far easier to demand exactly what you want.
The one aspect that remains constant throughout change is this: people do business with people. Today, globalisation and an increasingly competitive marketplace mean that strong, dual-sided industry partnerships are more important than ever before. Highlighting the resilience of strong relationships.
Tom Corcoran, founder of property investment trust FelCor, says “Hospitality has been around for a thousand years, and it will continue to be around for another thousand years”.
Building lasting relationships
Building the right partnerships; those that are based on honesty, integrity and trust, will help you weather storms of change, and ensure that you and your business are memorable for all the right reasons.
As a 2015 article published in Hotelier Magazine states: “hotel operators and suppliers alike agree that forging strong, long-term relationships is critical to success. But like any relationship, it takes work. Just like any other relationship, it must be open, honest, and both sides must remain willing to share and learn from each other.”
A good way to begin building industry contacts is to ensure you are always prepared to actively listen. Through this practice you will be able to fit smoothly into somebody else’s world and effortlessly be able to find ways to make their life easier. Your ultimate aim is to make it irresistibly easy for your contacts to do business with you. As such, when considering options because of the ease you have created their decision of whom to work with will be that much simpler. They will want to work with you!
This is the value in truly knowing your clients and customers, over merely being somebody who chats pleasantly to them at the occasional networking event. Over time, you will understand their expectations and know exactly how you can help them – and at the same time, they you. You may also develop the knack of knowing what your customer or clients truly wants before even they do!
The challenges to relationship-building in the modern world.
Technology has opened up so many opportunities, but it has also made people busier. It can be much harder to start developing strong relationships when everybody’s diaries appear to be permanently full, particularly for independent hoteliers competing against large industry players for client and customer appointment times.
Research is key here. After all, there are many unique benefits to independent hotels, which usually come with a more personal approach to service and a host of flexible facilities.
Thinking carefully about what aspects differentiate your offering, owning them, and then matching these USPs to the needs and interests of your contact, will help you stand out when you make your initial approach.
While larger companies will always command the greatest amount of power, it is often the smallest most thoughtful efforts and acts that anybody can make which will stand out in people’s minds, such as a handwritten ‘thank you’ note after a meeting, remembering a personal moment shared from a previous conversation. Indeed often it is something as simple as a call or email asking how a guest enjoyed a stay or meal that is personal and not a mass communication that will stand out. This is what usually sets an independent hotel apart from the chains.
The most successful businesses are those that go above and beyond. As a recent Hotel Industry Magazine article describes, it’s all about “finding ways in which you can leave a lasting impression, connecting at a deeper level to create powerful memories.” After all, we are no longer just selling a room for the night, we are selling memories for life!
How would you like to be remembered?
One of the best elements of strong and committed industry partnerships is their ability to turn colleagues into close friends, working together to help solve problems and build valuable business.
Not only will a portfolio of trusted contacts bring a whole host of business and career opportunities, negotiating a deal with somebody you know well will be a smoother and more open experience, as you strive to find a favourable outcome for both sides. After all, if they’re successful, you’re successful.
The power of developing these strong partnerships over time is not only immensely valuable, it is also something that is not easily replicated. However, you should never assume that any relationship will be permanently on a solid footing. Good relationships take time and effort to build, yet can be easily broken if they are not properly maintained.
So always take the time to listen, and with every interaction, think about how you want you and your business to be remembered afterwards. This is the foundation of any strong partnership, and the lasting benefits these will bring are more than worth the effort.
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