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3 Things Independent Hotels Should Copy From Big Chains … And 3 They Shouldn’t

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How do you feel about that 40-story colossus casting a shadow over your little 40-room hotel that may be small, but is also oozing with character and charm?

“Intimidating” is one word you could use to describe it. “Overrated” is another.

 Independent Hotels

Or perhaps “I’ll just walk over there and pull the fire alarm at 3 a.m.” sums up your feelings.

And then there’s the name: Hyatt. Or Hilton, or Marriott—or just some massive chain that seems to have no problem getting bookings based on name recognition alone, while you work your tail off for each and every guest.

You have nothing in common with a big, faceless brand—other than the fact that you’re both hotels, right?

As it turns out, there are a few things you’re probably already doing better than the big hotel chains—and then there are a few lessons you can learn from the big guys that you can apply to your own hotel fairly easily to help boost your bottom line.

We’ll start with those.

Copy these 3 things that big hotel chains do

1. Developing a brand reputation

For the big chains, brand is just about the only thing that matters. Branding is vital to the top chains so that customers remember them when it comes time to book a reservation in the future. It helps boost customer loyalty, and sets a hotel chain apart from the others. And the big guys do a good job of protecting their corporate images.

You, on the other hand, are probably more worried about how many rooms you’ve booked for tonight and how quickly you can get maintenance on that leak in room 106.

But there’s still plenty you can do to work on building your hotel brand. Here are just a couple of ideas:

Provide incentives. One way to get guests to remember your name is to give them a reason to come back. Start building your brand name by doing what big chains do: offer incentives and loyalty reward programs.

Proactively solicit reviews. Another way you can copy the big chains is by prioritizing online reviews and feedback from customers. You need online reviews to be successful in this industry, so solicit feedback from your guests by asking them to rate you on TripAdvisor or other review sites.

2. Offering the latest technology

Your guests are more tech-savvy than ever before, and if there’s one thing big chains do well, it’s provide the latest and greatest in tech. That means everything from your website to offering mobile access to having smart TVs in your rooms.

Here are a couple ways you can get started right away:

Update your site. Your website is a good place to start when it comes to offering the latest tech, because that’s where many guests get their first impression of you. Big chains tend to have nice, clean websites where you can easily book a room. There’s no reason you can’t offer the same thing. Create a website that has online booking capability, high-resolution photos of your rooms and amenities, and social media integration. Software options such as Digital Hospitality, Vizergy, and Pebble Design can help you do that.

Create a mobile app. If you don’t have a mobile app, you’re missing out on potential bookings. Three-quarters of travelers say their mobile device is their No. 1 travel accessory, which means that if you don’t have a mobile app, many of your potential customers who rely on their phones to book won’t even have the chance to choose your hotel. There are several companies that make it possible for you to create your own mobile hotel app, including Adiante Apps or Shoutem.

3. Creating a consistent experience

Big hotel brands—really, all major brands—benefit from one thing in particular: People know what they’re going to get when they stay there. If you’ve stayed at a Marriott in Seattle, you’ll get about the same experience when you check into a Marriott in D.C.

If guests expect one thing and get something different, that can hurt you. Inconsistency causes your customers to question whether or not you can deliver on your promises. If some days there’s someone at the front door to greet guests as they walk in, and other days they’re ringing a bell to get your attention, that can impact your bookings.

What can you do to improve consistency? Create a set of standards for your hotel and follow up with your employees to make sure they’re adhering to them. Start by creating a mission statement for your hotel, and get your employees involved in crafting it. Have everyone define their roles and talk about what key results they need to work toward. Then, post it in a prominent place where employees can see it, and follow through in making sure everyone executes it.

Don’t copy these 3 things that big hotel chains do

1. Treating guests like a number

Has anyone ever felt special checking into a Hyatt or a Ritz-Carlton? You walk up to the front desk, get your key, go to your room, get a good night’s sleep, and leave. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

As an independent hotel, though, you have a real opportunity to get a competitive edge over the big chains by customizing the experience for your guests.

You are capable of being so much better at making your guests feel special than the big chains. All it takes is a little initiative and the right hotel management software to make it happen.

Pascale Charia Weeratam, owner of Seaflower Bungalows in Thailand, says in an interview with iTravel Channel that unlike a big chain, her hotel offers a “cozy family environment here and also personal service.”

She says that the staff is always available as well, another key advantage.

“With our unique atmosphere and our interaction with our guests daily, I think that’s why we do attract many returning customers year after year during our high season,” she said. “With us being a small independent resort, we are present, if guests have any questions.”

Here are just a couple of ideas to provide that type of experience to your own guests:

  • During the booking process, ask guests for their preferences—maybe their favorite brand of coffee, for example—so you can wow them when they walk in the room.
  • Keep track of any special requests they make during their stay, so when they check in again, you can shock them by anticipating their needs before they even ask.

Choosing hotel management software with guest experience management can help you track all this important data.

2. Not bothering to provide a local experience

As an independent hotelier, no one knows the surrounding community better than you. A cookie-cutter Hilton property isn’t necessarily going to be as concerned with showcasing what the area has to offer, so you can provide an awesome local experience and one-up the big chains.

Corporate hotel chains are obsessed with promoting their own brand, no matter where in the world they are, so they’re going to be much more focused on that than they are on creating a unique, local experience.

Independent hotels, on the other hand, can create a much more authentic experience. Wade VanderGraaf, a frequent traveler from Australia, tells iTravel that boutique hotels provide a feeling that he just can’t get from a big chain.

“[An independent hotel] pushes me out on the street a bit into finding my way through the streets to go do my laundry, and I can be amongst the locals a bit more,” he says.

And with travelers increasingly desiring a more authentic experience when they visit places, you have a clear advantage over the big chains—an advantage that is only going to grow in the coming years.

Focus on the local aspects of your hotel. Find ways to distinguish yourself from a typical hotel, such as telling your guests about great local eateries they may not know about, or offering them a shuttle to unique local attractions.

3. Appealing to an older crowd

Boutique hotels own a small part of the market—just 3%—but it’s growing, and one big reason for that is Millennials. Independent hotels simply do a better job of appealing to younger travelers.

Frequent traveler, VanderGraaf adds that independent hotels just seem a lot cooler than the chains:

“[They’ve got] that kind of cool factor of being kind of thrown into the mix of the location, and this smaller, little hotel that’s in a little alleyway has a bit more of an atmosphere to me than the hotel that’s standing up in the middle of a city.”

Play up your street cred. To up your cool factor, hire a local dance troupe to perform for your guests, or invite vendors from the community into your lobby during certain times—be sure to choose favorites of local young people.

What lessons have you learned in the hotel industry?

It’s challenging to navigate the hotel industry as an independent hotelier, especially when you’ve got to go up against the big chains. What have you learned trying to find your advantage over the local Hilton or Hyatt? Is there anything you saw a chain do that made you think about your own hotel? Please, let us know in the comments below.

Looking for Hospitality Property Management software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Hospitality Property Management software solutions.

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About the Author

Dan Taylor

Dan is a content writer at Capterra, specializing in hotel management, construction and real estate. Outside the office, he enjoys spending time with his family and friends, catching up with the latest offering from HBO or paying a visit to a new place.


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