By Kaitlin Dunn, Writer, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, HSMAI has served as a resource to connect peer groups to discuss the changing landscape. Having hosted a virtual Executive Roundtable for brand chief digital officers on June 23, HSMAI hosted a similar program for hotel management company CDOs on June 24, giving participants a chance to catch up and share new insights since the last roundtable for this group was held in April.
Participants chose what topics the program focused on; participating companies included Apple REIT, Concord Hospitality, Marcus, Noble Investment, Prism Hotels &Resorts, Remington, and Stonebridge Companies.
Several participants said that, contrary to their usual practices, they have been focusing on OTA spend, while brand spend and paid search spend are down. “We will take whatever we can get, whether it’s direct or OTA — I can’t believe I’m saying that,” one participant said. “It’s cutthroat.”
“We have to rely on what the brands do,” another participant said. “If they turn off spend, we aren’t doing it, and so the OTAs become our best friends because they allow us to do stuff to drive business to the hotel.”
“We have to be where the guests are, and if they are searching on OTAs, then we need to be there,” another participant said. “We’re not going to get that business if we’re not there.”
Other participants said that they have been focusing on conserving their dollars as much as possible, leading them to choices such as social media, which can drive business without risking a lot of money. “We’re all just laying low right now,” one participant said after most of the group revealed that they are focusing on low-cost options. “It’s fascinating that we’ve all done the same thing.”
FIGHTING FOR BUDGETS
Roundtable participants said they have to go to bat for their marketing budgets and show why they need the funds to operate. “We are fighting for every dollar we get,” one participant said. “We have to constantly reeducate people on why we market and why putting a dollar here is better than putting it somewhere else.”
“We have dozens of hotels set to reopen in the next few weeks, and we need to bring back labor resources before the hotels reopen so that we can properly support the reopening,” another participant said. “We have to lobby for the resource allocation before they’re even open in order to support them.”
“It’s been a challenge to prove how much we have going on,” another participant said. “Everyone thinks they’re only asking us for one thing, but those ‘one things’ add up to about 600 things.”
“Most of our days are spent doing non-paid activities, like photography or merchandising,” another participant said. “We need to do a better job of focusing on those day-to-day tasks when we explain why we need human resources.”
While many hotels are continuing to lay off and furlough staff, one participant’s organization is looking at expanding its team instead of letting people go. “We may actually be adding staff to our teams,” the participant said. “When the dust settles, we imagine there will be a lot of assets available and there will be a flurry of transactions as people struggle with liquidity. We may be adding more management teams and adding them to our portfolio.”
Another participant said that, instead of offering personalized support, their properties are handling digital marketing support requests with an alias email address that any property can reach out to, which has been successful. “I think we’re anticipating keeping our higher level of support alias for the next few months until we’re in a good place to customize the support level,” the participant said. “It allows us to handle more than 100-plus groups with a small group fairly efficiently.”
Several participants said that they were forced to stop outsourcing and contracting with agencies (creative, digital, etc.,) and may elect not to return to those types of partnerships in the future. “We’re looking at keeping on doing whatever we can in-house,” one participant said. “And continuing with that may create positions that didn’t exist previously.”
“I think there is a time and place for using agencies,” another participant said, “but we found that there was a significant cost savings by doing things in-house.”
For additional information, insights, and tools, visit HSMAI’s Global Coronavirus Recovery Resources page.