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Getting ahead of the competition as a small or independent hotel

Getting ahead of the competition as a small or independent hotel

The UK’s hotel industry is highly competitive. It is estimated that travellers have around 60,000 hotels nationwide to choose from, and PWC predicts that the industry will continue to grow, despite a challenging economic environment .

For hotel chains, the answer to attracting customers in this competitive climate is often to spend, spend and spend on high profile marketing and advertising campaigns. But for small and independent hotels, without a limitless marketing budget, this isn’t an option. So, how can you stand out from the crowd?

Claim your independence

When it comes to booking small and independent hotels, a major pull for many customers is the idea that they will enjoy a unique experience.

This makes it vital that you focus on the authenticity and uniqueness of your offer across your marketing activity – from PR to the photography you use on your website. You could even look to offer guests quirky or original experiences as part of their stay, such as exclusive tours or access to on-site events as part of the booking package.

Pieter Hamman, Owner and Managing Director at Glazebrook House Hotel located on the edge of the picturesque Dartmoor National Park comments:

“As a small hotel located off the beaten track, we rely on the uniqueness of the property to attract many of our guests. We have spent a lot of time and money renovating the hotel to bring an authentic feel to our high-end rooms and we are proud to show that off. As a destination that’s driven by our food and beverage offer, we put that at the forefront of our marketing efforts, tempting guests to a slice of London in the countryside.”

Reward customers

For business travellers in particular, attractive rewards are a way to secure their repeat custom. Some experts recommend that hoteliers plan for up to 15% of their revenue to come from repeat custom – so it’s important that smaller hotels find a way to get their slice of the pie.

A great way of attracting repeat customers is to create a loyalty programme. This could work by offering something for free – a night’s stay or a meal in your restaurant – after a certain number of visits or points collected, or upgrading repeat customers’ visits, by offering a pick-up service or first refusal on a favourite room.

Focus on customer experience

Small hotels are often well placed give customers a personalised experience – and this should be used to your advantage.

Delivering a great customer experience doesn’t need to be expensive. It could be as simple as training staff to greet guests by name or dressing rooms in line with personal preferences. Good experiences also mean offering as much choice as possible – from check in options to how guests pay for their stay.

Thomas Robinson, Managing Director at Headlam Hall and the Rose and Crown in the North Pennines comments:

“As a small hotel it’s best to concentrate on the authenticity and relevance of your own offer rather than chasing your tail with the latest trends. At Headlam Hall and the Rose and Crown, we pride ourselves in offering a relaxed yet professional service, with local staff who are passionate and knowledgeable about the area. Guests’ expectations vary depending on the individual hotel, but ultimately service is what they all remember.”

Join forces to raise your profile

Being independent doesn’t mean that you have to go it alone when it comes to your marketing and profile-raising activity.

Joining an independent or small hotels consortium, can be a great way of maximising exposure without having to spend a lot. Partnering with other well-known brands to offer new services to customers, such as American Express®, could also see you benefit from your partners’ marketing campaigns. One example is their Amex Offers programme which enables participating hotels to directly reach American Express Cardmembers through relevant offers and incentives.

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