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Hotel marketers shouldn’t panic amid economic uncertainty

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Skift grip

The new CEO of MMGY Global, a travel marketing agency, advises hotel guests not to let their marketing be skewed by every fluctuating headline.

Sean O’Neill

Smart marketing is an underrated component of hotel development.

  • When investors are asked to buy hotel brands, they often consider a brand’s marketing savvy as a key factor.
  • After a hotel is developed, operators hire marketing agencies to help with the launch.

One of the largest and apparently fastest growing travel marketing agencies is MMGY Global. To exploit his insight, I spoke with Katie Briscoe, its incoming President and CEO.

  • MMGY Global, based in Kansas City, Missouri, has more than 400 employees in offices around the world across nine brands.
  • “We are working on three acquisitions that would bring us well over 550 [employees]“, said Briscoe.
  • To be clear, MMGY offers marketing and research assistance to all travel agencies, not just hotels. But hotels are a key clientele.
  • MMGY Global’s client list includes Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels and Resorts, Karisma Hotels & Resorts, Lamington Group Room2 Hometels and Pyramid Hotel Group.
  • Earlier this year, Marriott International named MMGY’s Hills Balfour brand to reach luxury, lifestyle and travel media to attract new audiences to its properties for launches of Marriott’s 30 brands on four continents. .
  • MMGY in North America is working with Hilton Hotels to create a framework to efficiently launch new hotels at scale, given the rapid pace of Hilton’s development pipeline. The goal is to achieve ideal pre-opening marketing budgets across multiple channels prioritized based on likely ROI.

The news cycle has ups and downs that can cause hotel executives to question their marketing strategies. But MMGY Global’s message is – more often than not – to stay the course.

  • MMGY has told its customers that, yes, there are these continuous shock waves.
  • “But our general advice is that overcorrection can cause more problems than keeping your strategy on course,” Briscoe said.
  • “It’s especially difficult in the hospitality industry, where success at the property level is often measured week by week, versus a destination, which may have a longer timeframe to seek results,” Briscoe said.
  • “If there is a recession, it will impact different sectors of the travel industry and different brands within sectors differently,” Briscoe said.
  • MMGY Global expects there to be a drop in demand, but the impact will be manageable.
  • “Yes, there is a pandemic, an energy crisis and inflation,” Briscoe said. “But marketing opportunities often arise in times of challenge.”
  • In context, the types of people who travel tend to self-select as having higher disposable income and stable jobs than the average citizen of a country. Thus, travel spending may be more resilient during a garden variety recession than generic bad news headlines suggest.

Hotels need to evolve their marketing approaches to be more sophisticated with data and performance analytics and their use of “creation” in new mediums, Briscoe said.

  • Targeted marketing with relevant messages for the right audience is more important than ever.
  • “Baby boomer travelers are twice as likely as younger generations to express interest in staying at a traditional chain-affiliated hotel while on vacation,” Briscoe said, citing research by MMGY via its portrait of american travelers. “It’s an interesting data point to consider as we prioritize marketing efforts across age cohorts.”
  • But identifying audiences has become trickier.
  • “Hotels are getting their house in order around data privacy,” Briscoe said. “We spend a lot of time talking about first-party data and how to use it meaningfully to target audiences.”
  • New media add to the challenge.
  • “Reducing clutter with unique messages that connect continues to be vitally important,” Briscoe said. “That can mean tapping into emerging platforms like TikTok or getting smarter with proven search engines like Google. Video consumption continues to rise, and our customers need to be able to shoot best-in-class content and to distribute it fairly quickly.
  • Messages need to be in touch with what’s on the minds of today’s consumers.
  • “Cleanliness is a new measure of luxury,” Briscoe said. “Our latest research showed that many survey participants consider hotel cleanliness standards to be just as important as room rates and things like free breakfast. This is an opportunity for brands hosting providers who want to differentiate themselves.

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