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How independent hotels are competing with chains

16th March 2020 Print

In today’s busy travel and tourism market, it can be difficult for businesses to thrive. Independent hotels must work hard to compete with world-wide chains and may find it more difficult to attract customers than their more-established rivals. Despite the challenges faced, the independent hotel industry is still thriving. In fact, data from Expedia group shows that unbranded properties had greater average daily rates (ADRs) and overall revenue growth than branded hotels

These businesses are clearly doing something right. From personalizing customer experiences to getting savvy with new technology, there are many ways in which small hotels can try and stand out. Here are just some of the things that independent hotels are using to their advantage… 

They make their own rules 

Unlike the chain hotel giants, independent establishments only have themselves to answer to. Although the lack of a larger structure may pose a challenge, it also means that small brands can make their own rules.  This means they can create their hotel with no creative compromises. 

A big element of this is cost. As there is already a structure in place for chain hotels to follow, they simply cannot open until they have reached a specific budget. In contrast, independent hotels can make their own budget work and can adapt as they go on. This gives them more room for trial and error, as well as the ability to earn money while they’re still perfecting their brand. 

The lack of overarching structure is also a chance for smaller businesses to follow their own vision. They can create a hotel that provides a completely original experience rather than a generic one.  

They focus on unique experiences 

With the increase of D.I.Y travel in recent years it is evident that holidaymakers are hungry for new, off-the-grid experiences. One of the main benefits of independent brands over chains is that they are able to offer a unique experience that guests will be reminiscing about for years to come.  

As they have no particular rules or a scheme to adhere to, small brands can be as creative as they like in order to create a memorable stay. One way that many hotels do this is by partnership schemes with local businesses. As travellers are always keen to get tips on the local area, these partnerships can be a great success. Small brands helping each other in this way can drive business for both parties, while also giving guests an insight into the local culture. 

The creative freedom of small hotel businesses allows for a stay full of unique quirks and personality. This is the exact kind of thing that will have customers returning time and time again. Hotels can follow unconventional themes, or go above and beyond with fun and unexpected amenities like book exchanges, bar crawls, slushie machines, and much more. Whichever avenue a hotel decides to go down, its uniqueness is one of its biggest sellers. This is where the independent brands definitely have the edge.

They embrace technology 

Another reason for the resilient success of independent hotels is their reaction to the technological age. Previously, advertising and distribution was the key to success in the hotel industry. But these things required a lot of money and contacts. Now that everyone has access to the internet, small brands can make themselves known to the global market without any daunting costs. 

Many companies have taken it upon themselves to optimise their websites and put a lot of emphasis on online marketing, as well as taking to social media. Influencer marketing is one way that small independent hotels can grow their brand. With many travellers relying on social media sites such as Instagram for travel inspiration, travel influencers can become a huge asset to a hotel brand. Hotels often choose to ‘gift’ stays or experiences to influencers so that their brand can be advertised to a wider digital audience.  

Customer reviews are yet another way that the internet has been hugely beneficial to small hotel brands. A shining review from a satisfied customer who has had a unique experience will go a long way with potential guests. Customers are more likely to praise small businesses who have paid attention to their every need than they are to comment on huge impersonal chains. 

Data collected from Expedia Group showed that during 2017 and 2018 independent hotels were growing twice as fast as chains, taking into account both domestic and international bookings. A combination of savvy marketing, influencer culture, and small-brand-creativity has seen small hotels triumph in the face of giants. However, independent hotels will need to constantly stay up to date with new cultural and technological advances to remain successful in such a crowded market.