How building brands pays dividends in hospitality

posted on 19th Feb 2018

 

Irish tourism is booming! Ireland enjoyed yet another record year with almost 10 million overseas visitors (Tourism Ireland, 2018) in 2017. And with ambitious targets set by Tourism Ireland, this next ten months are set to be just as promising.

The impact this has is huge. It’s felt throughout our economy but in particular within the hospitality industry. National room occupancy hit a 73% average by H1 of 2017 (BOI, 2017), and 82% in Dublin – the highest in any European capital. What’s more is that average daily rate in Dublin is expected to reach €147 in 2018 – considerably higher than the 2007 peak of €109 (PWC, 2017).  

The competitive landscape

But alongside this growth comes an influx of investment and competition. While there are almost 800 registered hotels across Ireland, Fáilte Ireland estimates 80 additional projects are in the pipeline, 65 of which are likely to open by 2020. In Dublin alone, there’s an additional 13,500 rooms to come onto the market, 4,000 of which are projected to do so over the next five years (Cushman and Wakefield, 2017).

The competitive landscape has also changed. Last year Airbnb estimated more than 400,000 visitors to Dublin stayed in properties offered through their online marketplace (Airbnb, 2017). Then there’s the branded “affordable luxury” hotel chains like Aloft and Motel One which are set to open in the coming years. Alongside a number of major refurbishments, it will become increasingly difficult for hotels to maintain average room rates and develop customer loyalty.

What’s branding got to do with it?

It’s a highly competitive market with so many hotels clamouring for attention. And while major chains have huge marketing and sales budgets, it’s not always as easy for independents to cut through and set themselves apart.

Branding provides a unique opportunity to do just that. A robust brand allows you to compete on something other than price – it’s a platform to differentiate and carve out a distinct, ownable niche. It also contributes to the bottom line by protecting against market fluctuations and justifying premium prices. When Marriott International acquired Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide for $13 billion last year they were purchasing so more than physical buildings or staff contracts. It was purely brands they were buying – The Ritz-Carlton, Bulgari, Sheraton, Westin, W and St. Regis.

Branding goes far beyond the tangible offering of rooms or F&B. It creates the first impression and the lasting memory. It’s all about how the experience makes people feel. Good brands build trust, loyalty and deep-rooted emotional connections that ensure consumers become customers for life.

While, on the surface, every hotel is selling heads on beds, what excites us as a branding agency is getting the chance to dig deeper to tease out the distinct personality and unique point of difference that each hotel owns. We’ve worked with a diverse range of hotels and restaurants over the years from Adare Manor and Mount Juliet, to Clontarf Castle and Fade Street Social. Helping our clients to find that unique spark, then building a brand story and identity around it, gives them distinct competitive edge in an increasingly cluttered market.

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