Tuesday 30 August 2016

The Independent Hotelier Mindset

Most independent hoteliers will only engage in marketing and consultancy expenditure if it can be directly and instantly attributed to a room sale

The majority of hoteliers want - rightly or wrongly - cold, hard results, right here, right now. No time for things to bed in, generally speaking they deal in short, rather than long terms.

Some might say this is the way of the world, but I firmly believe instant gratification in business is far more pronounced in the independent accommodation sector.

Scheme scepticism
"How do I know if it's going to work out ?"
A question put to me by the proprietor of a leading Adults-only Guest House.

About to depart, I sprung it on him that I am actually a hospitality consultant, with my own travel site LittleTouches.com and optional marketing tiers: TRIPLE C and GOLD. More than happy to come on my site for a free listing and pay OTA archetype 15% per reservation, he was naturally curious about the then lower commission rates that could be accessed by participation in one of my two schemes. 

Budget scheme TRIPLE C was out for starters given the property's carefully crafted attention to detail pleasers at every turn. His establishment was the very embodiment of my four word synopsis of what a Little Touches GOLD member is, i.e. Master of Their Niche

Yet he saw my one year business improvement and GOLD membership fee as a big business risk. Despite my immaculate track record and having been kindly regaled with top-notch testimonials, shelling out a couple of hundred quid without the guarantee of immediate room sales put the buffers on gaining a new addition to my top-drawer collection. 

He was wanting me and my efforts to be an overnight sensation. An incredible host in his own right, he viewed my consultancy process as a dark art, involving the implementation of ideas which he couldn't quite financially quantify and allow him to siphon off what was responsible for which individual room sale. All in all, perhaps he viewed the consultancy process as conceptually arty farty and economically wishy washy. 

Manipulating percentages

To him, the couple of hundred quid upfront was equivalent to a bet on the gee-gees. In spite of this, the hotelier had a compromise, which involved me taking 15% per reservation until the GOLD membership fees had been met and then dropping my rate to 5%. I felt like borrowing the immortal "'Because I'm Worth It" from L'Oreal. He wanted every aspect of my business to conform to the colossal OTAs' philosophy - a continuous conveyor belt, a machine, that only takes monthly cuts according to concrete heads on pillows. In other words, hospitality without the heart. 

With my consultancy process, those Guests acquired both directly and indirectly will leave GOLD member properties with glee, likely to re-book direct and eliminate some potential commissions. That is my cold, hard contribution to my members bottom line, but it requires them taking a chance on me in advance before I allow them access to the secret sauce of brand loyalty and the how-tos of reducing the stranglehold you know who have on them. 

Since that time in April 2015, commission per reservation has been harmonised across the board to 5%, regardless of participation in my optional marketing schemes. However, plumping for GOLD accreditation still requires belief that what I do is not a case of black and white, but a different shade of grey.

The Hybrid of Hospitality  
Little Touches ® as explained by a Venn diagram 

My unwillingness for LT's optional marketing tiers to conform to an OTA model stems from the fact that although I am competing directly with two travel giants for the basic A to B of seaside reservations, they are not permanently on the scene in the FY postcode. The behemoths do not provide consultancy and neither do they have a physical presence like I do with my Travel Agency & Ticket Office in South Shore, Blackpool. 

From BBC One to BBC None ?

At Disney you can't pay per ride. Similarly you can't just - at least for the moment - opt-in to any of the BBC channels that take your fancy - it's all or nothing. The standout stars of hospitality and media have their own unique business models. In brief, the presence of financial unproportionates and refusal to offer a pay as you go model allows highly creative organisations to be world-beaters. I am not saying that Little Touches is up there with the big hitters yet, but I still have a degree of local monopoly on certain services we provide and as such the  "getting it off and running" infrastructure cost of each arm of the business has to be accounted for. 

Uncovering a prevalent request

When I started this business over two and a bit years ago, there was nothing in the trade press about a common conformity plea from independent hoteliers surrounding nearly everything relating to marketing and consultancy. I've had to find things out the hard way ! 

I have been disheartened to find myself battling against the independent hotelier mindset to prove my worth in the hospitality industry. Nonetheless, I fully accept the reasoning behind it and the financial utopia of paying strictly only for performance because for many hosts practically proportionate is perfect in every way. 

Written by Tom Metcalf

Founder and Lead Consultant 

 Little Touches ®
Improving B&Bs, Guest Houses and Hotels

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