Hotels seek to build customer loyalty through memorable brands

At a time when retaining loyalty among guests is becoming a harder task than before, hotel chains and companies are clamouring to roll out more unique hospitality brands in order to grow and solidify their customer bases, of which millennials are now a significant portion.

“Consumers are now far more confident individuals. The most important brand is who they are as a person, and they go out in search for products that fit this personal brand. Hotels now need to create this whole range of lifestyle (products) to fit this fragmentation of individual brands,” explained Jeannette Ho, vice-president Raffles brand and strategic relationships, AccorHotels.

Industry leaders discuss how hoteliers can build brand loyalty at the recent SHATEC Hospitality Conference 2019

Ho, who was speaking at the Singapore Hotel Association’s International Hotel & Tourism School Singapore (SHATEC) Hospitality Conference 2019 on Wednesday, added that “brand love brings tremendous value” and it is no longer enough for customers to just know the brand. Instead, it must “connect to consumers emotionally, so they would be willing to pay a premium”.

To capture the hearts of today’s travellers, Raffles has invested in smart technology that runs text analytics on online reviews to identify what guests love about the brand. For instance, keywords like “garden”, “greenery” and “natural material” rank highest, hence such elements are now built into the design of Raffles properties, shared Ho.

On the other hand, Frasers Hospitality is placing a new focus on integrating its loyalty programme into the travel planning and booking journey. Its vice president and head of global branding and communication Jastina Balen revealed that the group is currently working on enhancing the functionalities of the Frasers app to encompass both long- and short-stay guests.

“Finding a happy medium between our long- and short-stay branding has been very, very difficult, but we have arrived at a sweet spot and are testing something now. I believe there is a place for loyalty programmes, especially with General Data Protection Regulation in place, as we can reach out to and engage our guests through a proper channel,” said Balen.

In the years ahead, countries in Asia-Pacific can expect to see more hospitality brands coming ashore. STR reported an average of 41 per cent branded hotels in the region, presenting a large opportunity for groups who may make their moves here through more mergers and acquisitions, opined Frank Trampert, managing director & chief commercial officer, EMEA & APAC, Sabre Hospitality Solutions.

Hotel groups will also continue to proliferate the market through brand partnerships and extensions beyond accommodation into home furnishings, dining, entertainment and high-end residences, stated Ho and Balen.

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