It may not happen often, but when a hotel changes brand names, the consumer is the one left surprised. A process known as re-branding (or reflagging), can help hotels gain new potential customers, via something as simple as changing their name or brand. I, very recently, discovered the impact of a hotel re-branding after my stay at the Richmond Magnuson Grand Plaza Hotel.
After an impromptu decision to visit some friends in Richmond, I researched the hotels in the surrounding area. Through all the information I discovered on the internet and OTAs such as Expedia, Orbitz, I came to the swift decision of booking the Crowne Plaza Richmond West. It was the right hotel for me because I have Priority Club Status with IHG hotels and the location worked with my travel destination needs.
The time for my arrival in Richmond was upon me. I had my friend drop me off at the address I had written down earlier for the Crowne Plaza and his GPS confirmed my hotel of choice (an entirely different blog could be posted on that subject). However, as we pulled up the location housed the Magnuson Grand Plaza, rather than the Crowne Plaza that I had booked. After double checking the address, I cautiously walked in and asked the front desk if I had arrived at the right hotel. The very friendly girl behind the counter had explained to me that the hotel had undergone a recent re-brand, same staff and overall appearance, but the name and brand had changed. Immediately, I was shocked and a little surprised. I was a regular to Crowne Plaza and IHG hotels. I worried about my status and the various rewards I was supposed to receive. However, it was too late to change hotels to just accommodate my Priority Club Status and I only had two days in Richmond, so I was willing to give it a shot.
As a person with access to the single best hotel database on the planet (blatant Hotel Compete plug), I went upstairs to settle in and conduct a little further research on this, so called, “re-branding” concept. The results were shocking. In North America, there are over 63,000 hotels, 40% of which are independently owned and not affiliated with any brand. However, every month as much as 3% of ALL HOTELS change names or brand flags. This means that if you, as a consumer, book any of the close to 2,100 hotels that fall in to the small percentage, you run the risk of having the same surprising experience that I endured. The hotel appeared the same as the pictures from the Crowne Plaza that I had initially found; the only real difference was the Magnuson brand name in various spots of the building.
Although, initially I was surprised at the change from the Crowne Plaza to the Magnuson Grand Plaza, I was not affected much. The staff was very accommodating and sympathetic to my concerns and assured me I would not notice a difference. They were right, I may not have noticed a difference from the re-brand but the hotel employees did. By simply changing their name and branding, the new Richmond Magnuson Grand Plaza Hotel was positioning itself to have a successful 2013 year and was cause for much excitement amongst the staff.
My stay was uneventful, but as I had first-hand knowledge about how the re-branding affected the consumer I wondered what it meant for the hotel. Re-branding allows hotels that may be struggling to create new marketing techniques which counter the struggles. Hotels can fall into new searches, gain new loyal customers that attach themselves to the new name rather than the old, or simply appear as a new hotel that customers are more willing to stay at. It does create some issues with search engines because the old name is more recognizable and not likely to have changed on the hundreds of sites listing the outdated information; however, if a hotel successfully informs past customers, and carefully implements the new name with online searches, a re-brand can drive business to the hotel and bring it back to life. However, it may take months before the new branding efforts are live on the OTAs, in search engines and in local directories. Expediting the data flow can make or break the re-brand effort.
In follow-up articles, we will take a look at how the online presence of individual hotels, the perception of guests, and, ultimately, the market position of individual hotels are impacted; most importantly, we will look at what you can do to minimize the impact of re-branding on the property, and how to maximize the profit from it.
For more information contact Kendall Rozell, Industry Analyst, Hotel Compete
It’s almost time for Thanksgiving. As we prepare to commemorate the Pilgrims who in 1621 survived their first, devastating winter in the new world, thoughts turn - perhaps surprisingly – to hotel ecommerce.
Following last week’s PhoCusWright conference the blogosphere and twitterverse have been awash with stories about hotel companies and their relationships with their ecommerce partners. But this year something’s different. Change is in the air, and it portends an interesting 2012. As we wind down to the annual feast of turkey, football and ghastly travel experiences, here are a few thoughts on the changing tide in travel distribution.
A few weeks ago we published a piece about Online Travel Agents (OTAs), and their search marketing habits. As you can see, it prompted some discussion in these pages. In that article we suggested that while search marketing strategies and their impact receive a lot of commentary, they remain under-researched by the hotel industry. We undertook to publish research based on new industry data, which we will do, starting with this post.
A few weeks ago we read an interesting blog post written by Xotels, about Online Travel Agents (OTAs) entitled: “Hotel Brand Hijacking by OTA, it should be banned …” The article - clearly intended to advocate the position of the hotel operator - attacked the OTAs’ habit of purchasing sponsored links on major search engines under the names of hotels.
In this post we ask whether or not the purchasing of hotel name links by intermediaries constitutes “Hijacking” and “Robbery” as the original article suggests, and whether or not it is desirable to “ban” this or any other OTA marketing practice.