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Insights from the National Hotel Marketing Conference 2015

national hotel marketing conference 2015 logo1Yesterday I had the privilege of attending the National Hotel Marketing Conference. This year’s event was packed with insights and thought-provoking discussions around the changing hospitality landscape, the rise (and place) of technology in hotel marketing and the tension between hotels and OTAs. Here are a few of the highlights I picked out from the sessions I attended…

A recurring theme throughout the day was the importance of value – the experience and the service provided – over price.


Keynote speaker Philip Hesketh encouraged hoteliers to focus on “the moment that matters” for guests – for example, the first interaction when a guest arrives at your property.

In his interesting (and very entertaining) keynote, he discussed the psychological drivers that make guests want to stay again, highlighting three in particular:

  • guests want to feel loved,
  • they want to feel important and
  • they want to feel that they belong.

Every interaction with a guest – from the moment they walk in to the moment they check-out – is an opportunity for hoteliers to address these desires and provide the experience that keeps guests coming back.


Peter Hancock was up next, to make a case for the continued importance of offline channels in the marketing mix. In Europe, bookings made by telephone are still on top when it comes to value. This is good news for hotel marketers, as a personal interaction over the phone offers a great opportunity to cross-sell other services.

He also acknowledged that although print may be declining, it’s not dead yet – offline marketing still matters. Hancock urged hotel marketers not to neglect offline channels in the midst of the rush to go digital.

Online channels are still key, of course, as Ian Miller of Crafted reminded us with his talk on the future of Google. He highlighted the search engine’s new Hotel Finder, which is currently being tested with a select group of partner hotels but is likely to roll out to the wider market in the near future. These changes could significantly affect the way consumers shop for and book hotels online.


In the afternoon, there was an excellent choice of seminar sessions to attend, including one featuring our very own Justin Bowser and our good friend Marijke Morris, from Stoke by Nayland Hotel, Golf and Spa. Marijke shared how Stoke by Nayland has been using targeted marketing to fill more rooms, as well as lessons learned from their recent journey to a mobile-responsive website.

Natalie Haynes, a lecturer in hospitality marketing, and Gemma Edmonds, of Buckland-Tout-Saints Hotel, also presented an excellent seminar on making the most of the hotel-OTA relationship.

The nature of OTAs often encourages guests to be driven by price more than anything else in their choice of hotel. Natalie encouraged the use of loyalty programmes to combat price competition, by providing added value to guests who book direct.

Gemma encouraged hoteliers to treat OTA bookers as leads and work to convert them into loyal customers, by creating an excellent experience during their stay and following up with targeted offers and comms.


Des O’Mahony wrapped up the day with a talk about the future of digital marketing, with a particular focus on the problems presented by OTAs.

Working with OTAs is largely unavoidable – the key for hotels is to maintain balance and control within the relationship so they don’t become dependent.

Des argued that the hotel-OTA relationship isn’t (currently) a partnership; hotels are treated as suppliers, with OTAs trying to drive down the price for the benefit of the customer. Online brand confusion is evidence of this, as OTAs frequently rank better in search results for a hotel’s brand name than the hotel itself.

I had a great day discussing some of the challenges and opportunities in the world of hotel marketing, and hearing insights from top industry experts. If you’re a hotel marketer and didn’t attend this year, it’s definitely worth the trip.

We were delighted to sponsor the conference for the second year running; many thanks to Martin Evans of The Tourism Business for organising such an excellent event!

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