Friday 22 January 2010


The Medium and the Message

One has to marvel a bit at how on target Marshall McLuhan with his statement that "the medium is the meassge", meaning that the form of a medium embeds itself in the message. This is so true when we look at how the message and the brand is effected in the Online Travel Agents (OTA) channel. A medium of significant importance in the tourism industry.

Here we look at how aspects of brand integrity are influenced by this medium.

The Medium – Choice of channel often reflects on the Brand.
It is not always good to be seen as Expedia or as Kayak etc. In many cases a different drum attracts travelers to the small hotels. Many travelers are looking for a personal touch.

The Message – The message is much more than content.
It is also about form, function and process. You choose to buy at store X for many reasons but if there are no price tags and you have to go to the counter to get a price, would you bother? Creating a message that is not fully integrated with the product is similarly dissonant. The shopping experience should be fully fluid.

Promise & Expectation – A Brand is a promise.
It can say we are a small family hotel, we are local, we are friendly, we are different, we care. What is the Brand of an OTA? Expedia mission statement says: “We are on a mission to be the largest and most profitable reseller of travel in the world”.

Differentiation & Personality - Differentiation and personality are conveyed by the suppliers’ website, by its individual tastes, its use of colour, its layout and its processes. The OTA does not create a brand personality for its suppliers. Properties are compared on features and price and location, but the brand is the OTA, the hotels is its product, and they all look the same.

Relationship – Travelers build a relationship with their suppliers.
If you have bought from an OTA and you got what you wanted, you will most likely go there again to check out other options (properties, products, destinations). Creating the OTA relationship diminishes the hotel brand and can result in loss of repeat business

Loyalty – OTAs are building its own loyalty program.
Much like the airlines. Small hotels can and should reward repeat clients and clients that refer others to them. Loyalty programmes work. The visitor’s loyalty should be to the hotel . AXSES has loyalty solutions for the hotel brand. Appropriate use of branding and loyalty programmes can significantly increase repeat business.

Ownership – With AXSES arcRes booking engine, and arcres powered marketing systems, the database belongs to the supplier.
This database is unique in that it captures leads as well as committed shoppers. arcRes database marketing allows hotels to market directly to their leads and their guests. OTAs have their own marketing tools, aimed at promoting its own Brand.

Sustainability – if you don’t own the brand and don’t have the relationship and loyalty, your business will not be sustainable.

related blog - building your tourism brands

For more information on how you can build and sustain your brand
contact iclayton 'at'

More about AXSES see | arcRes marketing

Branding Crossroads

Branding at a Crossroads

Today, a brand must appeal to the psyche of customers to make a connection. For example: many senior travelers want hospitality and service above all. The core seniors market does not typically care for technology. They don’t like answering machines, PCs and automation. Younger travelers, in contrast, like casual and tech-friendly hotels with convenience, where food and drinks is a priority. They prefer to stay in hotels that have the look, feel, and comfort of their own homes.

Targeting a market niche start at the design stage.

Starwoods created the ‘Aloft’ brand for the young entrepreneur market and designed its hotels to include a bar, a food and beverage center offering fresh bagels, fruits and drinks, an outdoor area serving light meals, a fitness center with swimming pool, wireless Internet access property-wide, and flexible meeting and function space. Guest rooms have 9-foot ceilings and oversized windows, a signature bed, a work space with an MP3 docking station, and a flat-panel TV. Bathrooms are furnished with Bliss amenities and walk-in oversized showers. Starwood plans call for 500 Aloft to be open by 2012 (average daily rate: $100 to $125).

Brands for Small Island Hotels

Small hotels often don't have the opportunity to rebuild for a market. Nevertheless, the market for differentiation is strong and the small hotel is often sought out, particularly in Europe, where chain brand penetration is low (i). Small hotels can tap into the booming market for Boutique hotels, where uniqueness and character are preferred over big brand names. Differentiation and personality are the key.

Building a strong brand requires use of all appropriate channels, but too much reliance on the OTA channels can be have very negative side effects. Choice hotels discovered it had created a monster by building up its business with Expedia. In re-negotiating its contract with Choice, Expedia suggested that its brand was more important and that Choice just had no option but to abide by its rules and demands. The widely known secret is that OTAs don’t want all the hotels in the world, so many are going to get left out. Its wise to be direct!

Brand Integrity in the OTA Channel

We have seen chain hotels make great progress in building their own brand marketing and direct business, reducing their dependence on the OTAs, like Expedia. (81% of bookings to major chains are now direct). The Chains understand that reliance on OTAs is not good for Brand integrity.

Brand Integrity is a measure of the cohesiveness of the brand message and your ownership of it. This integrity is influenced by your message and how you present it, the medium/channels you use, what you promise and what is expected.

Your brand is your differentiation & your personality. How you market will influence your relationship with guests, their loyalty and your ownership of both the brand and the business.

See more on The Medium and the Message.

First be clear and then be seen

Branding requires being clear about your market and your USP and putting this across in words and pictures, with the right emotion and the right process in the right place. Next, get the message out with an appropriate call to action on all advertising, Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) and with appropriate exposure on the right marketing channels.

Shoppers need a reason to remember you and to return to complete their shopping experience. Create stickiness and be in true shopping channels, like, and, where shoppers can add you to their shopping lists and compare options. Shoppers must be able to visit your website and take action on interest; get a quote, save it or buy at any point.

The AXSES Travel Shopping Network is unique in its ability to provide easy access to your website at many strategic decision points. AXSES also provide many POS opportunities with bookable-maps, bookable-ads, bookable-banners, bookable-lists, etc. (click here for details). In fact, the entire AXSES network is bookable, every advertisement, listing and link is or will be driven by arcRes Tourism Bookings & Reservations System.

Branding with fair pricing and revenue management

A recent Cornell University study shows that travelers are confused by hotel pricing and often see it as unfair. This is not good for your brand! Many hotels now offer travelers a choice of rate plans and full disclosure. Many chains offer best rate guarantees.

We recommend that you manage rates and expectation with loyalty programs and special group pricing. Travel shoppers want to act (get a quote, save it, add it to a list, buy it) when they are ready, and they want to know they are getting a fair price.

AXSES is now introducing a new collaborative marketing solution, where we help tourism suppliers use technology to brand and market their products, get exposed and close more direct sales!!

For more information on how you can build and sustain your brand - please contact iclayton 'at'

More about AXSES: see | arcRes Marketing

i. The brand penetration index that measures the percentage of hotel rooms that belongs to a flag out of the total capacity, is over 70% in the US, while France is the market with the highest brand penetration index in Europe, with less than 30%.