Question for Our Hotel Marketing Expert Panel

As a hotelier, or an advisor to hoteliers, how and what do you currently benchmark? How do you benchmark your hotel competition? What changes are you planning to make in your 2022 benchmarking strategy? (Question proposed by Andrew Kavanagh)

Industry Expert Panel

Our Industry Expert Panel exists out of professionals within the hospitality & travel Industry. They have comprehensive and detailed knowledge, experience in practice or management and are forward-thinking. They are answering questions about the state of the industry. They share their insights on topics like revenue management, marketing, operations, technology and discuss the latest trends.

Susanne Williams
Susanne WilliamsPerformance and Revenue Director, Journey Hospitality

“This is a hot topic and one that drives us to understand more about what metrics really matter. Driving the direct channel is a top priority for our hotels so how a guest interacts with the website, the social channels and our paid media is something we look closely at.

Rates and rate disparity for a hotel and the immediate competitor set gives us a good base to plan what metrics we should be benchmarking. To drive the direct channel and achieve the expected results, pricing is a key consideration. Finding out how a guest finds you, what influences their behaviour, whether they are price or experience-led will help us set metrics that are suitable for each individual hotel and then we benchmark how the KPI’s perform month-on-month.

Website traffic is an obvious metric. When website traffic fluctuates, is sales conversion affected and by how much? So we look at website traffic, booking engine traffic, the volume of bookings and the pick-up needed to hit the commercial KPI’s set, which hotels share with us. We compare quarter by quarter and look at the trend lines for the class and region of hotel. We use anonymised data to look at trend lines. We also look at search dates and where the searches are conducted. This will flag up whether there is an emerging market for a hotel and whether that should be explored.

STR and Hotstats are our go-to for understanding our hotels’ competitor sets. These industry-led benchmarking reports give us context. We do benchmark our hotel’s competitors, but we always consider the hotel brand position and the audience profile. A hotel next door is not a competitor if you operate in entirely different markets. One hotel may be getting a high volume of traffic versus another – so yes, it’s something to consider, but do you benchmark the quality of traffic? The proof is in the commercial pudding. Performance is what matters.

The guest experience is the top priority, i.e., the guests’ online journey. We regularly benchmark our sites, speed, images, rendering, changes to the user experience, etc. But most importantly, we try to identify what strategy is driving guests into the booking engine and what is driving conversion (whether it’s the price, a keyword, etc.), tracking the impact of a PR campaign or simply benchmarking the splits between direct business and all other channels.”

Alessandro Inversini
Alessandro InversiniAssociate Professor of Marketing and Director of the Institute of Customer Experience Management, Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne

“Benchmarking is important especially within your destination. However, I am under the impression that nowadays hoteliers should not benchmark themselves against other players in the same industry, but rather with different industries that share the same values/customers in order to explore adjacencies and learn from nearby industries. In the end, the customers you are targeting have different experiences with different brands: we should be able to ‘tune-in’ with the top brands or at least with the ones we share values with.”

Stephanie Smith-Sparks
Stephanie Smith-SparksFounder, Cogwheel Marketing

“Channel Mix has been a long-standing metric for digital marketers. But, looking at your own website (or OTA) metrics against yourself needs to evolve. By using Demand360 or Kalibri we can better understand our channel mix against the comp set. Additionally, ROI (or ROAS) by itself is a worthless metric. Again, we must measure against the competitors, which you can do with Expedia Travel Ads. We also need to understand where in the customer flywheel that paid spend affected the customer journey and how it affected the hotel’s total performance and segments.” 

Daphne Beers
Daphne BeersOwner, Your-Q Hospitality Academy

“In my opinion, benchmarking and the focus it has in hospitality is overrated, especially in these challenging times. There are so many (additional) differentiators in a pandemic like this, it is impossible to compare yourself objectively. So maybe this is the time to stop focusing on benchmarking/comparisons?

Another part in this is that by comparing ourselves with others, we look at logic, try to find explanations or validation for our results. It is focused on the past, a place where we have zero influence on the results. It also paves the way for having preset conditions of realistic goals to achieve. This kills any form of creativity or aiming for exceptional results, beyond expectations.

The power of creating results lies within your circle of influence. Focus only on this and you will definitely outperform the competition.”

Tamie Matthews
Tamie MatthewsRevenue, Sales & Marketing Consultant, RevenYou

“Benchmarking ourselves within our market and against our competitors will be the key to determining our success. We will no longer be able to look for monthly or annual growth as 2020 and 2021 are distorting our statistics. Hence, we will need to use external sources for Benchmarking. OTA analytics, STR, conversion rates, Google, social media etc. will all form part of our toolbox for analysing success.”

Nicole Sideris
Nicole SiderisFounder & Prinicipal Consultant, X Hospitality

“The past two years have changed the game for hotel operators. The only thing predictable for 2022 budgeting is uncertain, volatile demand. As a hospitality consultant, my main objective is to help hoteliers produce reliable business plans and my area of expertise is creating an automated digital environment. I have seen a movement in hotels not benchmarking themselves against their competitors, as in the past 18 months, competitor properties have been temporarily closed (converted to quarantine hotels and so on). There is a trend of not being reliant on staff due to shortages and instead to be more touchless and operate digitally.”

Linda Bekoe
Linda BekoeCEO, APLBC

“We currently have a number of tools that we’ve used to benchmark in the past. However, these tools are no longer valid. Booking patterns and customer behaviour have all changed, and I think that as we get used to the new way of doing business, new tools will emerge. It is evident that when talking to hoteliers and senior management, things are very different and everyone is trying to find the best and most cost-effective way to work. For example, most companies used to measure RevPar but now they are measuring TRevPar.”

Adele Gutman
Adele GutmanCulture and Guest Experience Expert, Hospitality Reputation Marketing Podcast

“When I was VP Sales, Marketing and Revenue for the Library Hotel Collection, I spent very little time worrying about what KPIs other hotels were hitting or missing. We were focused on our own growth; let the competition worry about what we are doing. We were on our own journey of continuous improvement. Sure, we were open to observing new trends and exploring new technology, but only if the tech helped to support our targeted growth goals or solved an obstacle that we identified.

We competed each day with how we performed yesterday, always striving to outdo past performance. That independent journey helped to consistently put us top of the list on Tripadvisor, which helped us attract new guests and create loyalty that gave us a powerful advantage in market share and profitability.

Our primary KPIs other than ADR, Occupancy, revenue and profitability were our ratings on Tripadvisor and other review sites. I highly encourage all hoteliers to focus on NPS as a leading KPI. Additionally, the actions needed for great reviews, guest loyalty and retention are EXACTLY the same actions that inspire employee loyalty and retention, and don’t we all need that these days.”