Brand Versus Independent

What are some fundamental key points to consider when deciding on either a Brand or Independent to represent, market and sell your property in the hugely competitive areas of on line visibility and SEO,  local, national and global distribution and representation – and now – visibility, distribution, engagement and conversion in the social media and mobile space?

Quality of service, the importance of customer relationships and the development of industry leading technology are crucial elements to making Navarino Services the Independent Service company that we are. An Independent organisation offers the hotelier the chance to be free and stand unique in its market whilst at the same time, receive excellence in service levels ensuring client satisfaction is achieved as a top priority. Unless you can prove a specific requirement for a brand, little value can be added, especially when the cost of both joining a brand, and ongoing brand compliance can be expensive.

In today’s volatile market, for independent hoteliers, maintaining individuality and finding attributes that support your hotels exclusivity is imperative. An Independent Representation company fully supports these goals and concentrates its efforts on service and not branding.

Remember this: when you sign up with a brand – you could be signing away not just operational independence and freedom of action, (in exchange for the ‘protection’ of a brand) – but
• Ability to manage your web presence, especially using the destination to leverage business for the hotel – many brands either don’t allow unit hotel websites, or if they do, they restrict their operation considerably using ‘electronic branding standards’.
• Setting rates, rate parity, revenue management and other revenue generation considerations – you are totally in the hands of the brand booking engine and distribution policy, usually including OTA’s- brands have a preferred list of, and TPI agreements for third party representation approval and criteria to which you are bound.
• Mobile is showing quite phenomenal growth of usage in the travel space, and we are seeing business gains right across the board in mobile. You may or may not be allowed to develop your own mobile website and booking engine integration or link – also the local marketing and information service power of mobile and smartphone devices is something the brands really don’t consider or even care about.

Service is key to any business. Service is about personality, passion, feeling and spirit. There are brands that have been long leaders in market dominance which cannot afford to be displaced by competition from its number one position in their market. These brands make lots of noise within the industry, however perhaps questions can be asked;  “What are the strengths and weaknesses of a Brand organisation”, “What is their primary focus and is their primary focus right for you”?  When you ask a brand what is their main focus, it is interesting to note how many discuss the attributes and benefits of their product over the importance of their own service levels. As an example, a car will only continue to be road worthy with maintenance and service, providing the aftercare it needs is on-going after the sale.

Interesting Observations:

• If you look at Trip Advisor, independents score far better than brands in just about every UK city, from London to Edinburgh, as of today; 24th January 2012, in Edinburgh there is only 1 branded hotel currently in the top 20 Edinburgh hotels on Trip advisor. This is a critical unique selling opportunity independent hoteliers must exploit. For all the boasting and bragging, brands are actually found lacking and inadequate when compared against independents. Something that is not often reviewed and discussed within the industry.
• Brands are dehumanising the hospitality experience for the guest. Many branded hotels are becoming soulless, impersonal hotel experiences. The hotel GM hides in the back office, the welcome is poor, and the service functional, but impersonal and dull – look again at Trip Advisor – how many critics are raving about the automatic check in.
• Its very important to measure the appropriateness of a brand for your particular business model. If you are a boutique hotel, you are almost certainly better to be independent, the few soft-brands that work in this category are second best to establish global brands and can add less value than perceived. if you’re a 3 star budget hotel in a city centre, then a brand may be more relevant at managing operational procedures. Generally the higher the quality positioning of the hotel, the less value branding will add. YOUR hotel is the brand.

Some will argue that investing in service will not guarantee a high return on investment, however, an Independent service organisation is able to offer the time and care in building client relationships whether corporate or leisure. This increases the hotels knowledge, understanding and awareness of your product strengths.  The strengths of delivering an excellence in service will drive revenue in one direction only – upwards.

Service provides a ‘Quality product’, without the service element, guests can only expect to receive ‘a product’ of lower quality. A quality product ensures you have every opportunity to stand out and be successful in becoming an industry leader in your market share.

We do hope this increases your interest in future blogs on this interesting topic: Brand versus Independent.