By UTalkMarketing Editor, Clark Turner.
Travel industry products have been under scrutiny as never before in the face of the recession.
Consumers are demanding a great experience and impeccable customer service while hoteliers are faced with the dilemma of lowering rates to remain competitive.
Corporate chains have substantial marketing budgets at their disposal allowing for hard hitting and high profile above the line activity.
Meanwhile boutique hotels are left tying to maintain and build market share with, by comparison, limited budget and resources.
So how do they do it? One leader in the field is Hard Days Night, the leading boutique hotel in Liverpool.
Opened just 18 months ago, the Beatles-inspired hotel has built an international reputation on the back of its association with the Fab Four.
Set in a Grade II listed building in the heart of Liverpool’s ‘Cavern Quarter’, the establishment has played host to celebrities such as Robert Downey Jr, who was resident during the filming of his new movie ‘Sherlock Holmes’ and the public alike – all keen to celebrate the life and work of John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Despite hard times for the industry as a whole, the hotel seems to be bucking the trend.
“When we opened Liverpool was celebrating being the City of Culture so we’ve not been hit by the recession in the same way that establishments in other cities have been,” hotel manager, Mike Dewey, told UTalkMarketing.
“There’s been pressure put on room rates but our occupancy rates have not been hit.”
He added, “All hotel brands are under pressure in the current climate. But at the end of the day no one comes to a city because the rooms are cheap. It’s because they want to be there.”
December is traditionally a bad month for hoteliers in Liverpool, but when trade failed to pick up in January they realised the recession had hit.
For Hard Day’s Night, what that means is that while occupancy has risen from 63 to 72 percent over the past year, the hotel has been forced to drop rates top remain competitive – from £109 to £97 per night.
Let’s get one things clear. Hard Day’s Night is a Beatles ‘”inspired” hotel and not “themed”. Opening with the “themed” positioning has cost the hotel dearly.
“We don’t use the word “themed” any more. It conjures up thoughts of a B&B in Blackpool,” said Dewey. “We did at opening, but it’s taken us 20 months to shake off any perceptions that an ‘inspired’ hotel is not tacky, but a quality product.”
Instead, Dewey and his team strive for Hard Day’s Night be both the best hotel and restaurant offering in Liverpool. It is the highest rated in the city by VisitBritain.
But despite this Dewey admits it still took time to crack the corporate market.
Another set back, in his eyes, was employing a London-based PR company, from launch.
“It distanced us from the local population and community,“ said Dewey. He’s now hoping the recent appointment of local operative, Think Publicity, will drive marketing and PR at a grassroots level.
Despite any official endorsement from George Harrison or Paul McCartney, the Beatles association has been critical to the hotel’s success.
“If we were called something like the North Street Boutique Hotel, it just wouldn’t have the same impact,” Dewey said.
“The Beatles is the biggest brand in Liverpool and has resonance right around the world.”
He added, “I had my reservations initially about having a Beatles inspired hotel initially, but I’ve been proved wrong.”
While Hard Day’s Night outperforms its corporate chain competitors on rate, the chains outperform the boutique on occupancy.
But while the hotel aims to operate on a professional level equally with the corporates, its edge is being able to offer something independent and stylish.
The hotel’s website (harddaysnighthotel.com) operates as its biggest marketing tool. Put ‘Beatles’ and ‘Hotel’ into Google and it ranks number one on the back of investment in SEO and PPC.
Some 80 per cent of bookings are made through the site direct, but it is also listed on Laterooms, Expedia and Bookings.com.
The addition of special Beatles packages has also proved a winner – out selling any other themed deals.
Their success prompted the trial of football packages, but they paled by comparision.
The hotel is also proactive on social media – Facebook and Twitter – “Because you have to,” said Dewey.
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