Hotel Marketers Shouldn’t Panic About Economic Uncertainty

Skift Take

The incoming CEO of MMGY Global, a travel marketing agency, is advising hotel clients not to let their marketing get whipsawed by every fluctuating news headline.

Sean O’Neill

Smart marketing is an underlooked component of hotel development.

  • When investors are pitched on hotel brands to buy, they often look at a brand’s marketing savvy as a key factor.
  • After a hotel is developed, operators enlist marketing agencies to help with the launch.

One of the largest and apparently fastest-growing travel marketing agencies is MMGY Global. To tap its insight, I spoke with Katie Briscoe, its president and incoming CEO.

  • MMGY Global, based in Kansas City, Missouri, has “400 plus” employees in its offices worldwide across nine brands.
  • “We’re working on three acquisitions that would take us well beyond 550 [employees]”Briscoe said.
  • To be clear, MMGY offers marketing and research help to all travel companies, not just hotels. But hotels are a key customer base.
  • MMGY Global’s client roster has included Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Choice Hotels and Resorts, Karisma Hotels & Resorts, Lamington Group’s Room2 hometels, and Pyramid Hotel Group.
  • Earlier this year, Marriott International appointed MMGY’s Hills Balfour brand to reach luxury, lifestyle, and travel media to attract new audiences to its properties for launches for all 30 of Marriott’s brands across four continents.
  • MMGY in North America is working with Hilton Hotels to create a framework for being able to efficiently launch new hotels at scale, given the rapid pace of Hilton’s development pipeline. The goal is to get ideal pre-opening marketing budgets across multiple channels prioritized by likely return on investment.

The news cycle has ups and downs that can cause hotel executives to keep second-guessing their marketing strategies. But MMGY Global’s message is – more often than not – to stay the course.

  • MMGY has been telling clients that, yes, there are these continuous shockwaves.
  • “But our advice broadly is that overcorrecting can cause more problems than staying the course on your strategy,” Briscoe said.
  • “It’s especially difficult in hospitality, where success at the property level is often measured week-by-week, compared to a destination, which can have a longer time frame for looking for results,” Briscoe said.
  • “If there’s a recession, it will impact different sectors of the travel industry, and different brands within sectors, differently,” Briscoe said.
  • MMGY Global expects there’s going to be some shrinking in demand, but the impact will be manageable.
  • “Yes, there’s a pandemic and an energy crisis and inflation,” Briscoe said. “But marketing opportunities often present themselves in times of challenge.”
  • As context, the types of people who travel tend to self-select as having more disposable income and stable jobs than the average citizen in a country. So travel spending may be more resilient during a garden variety recession than generic bad news headlines might suggest.

Hotels need to evolve their marketing approaches to be more sophisticated with data and performance analytics and their use of “creative” in new mediums, Briscoe said.

  • Targeted marketing with relevant messages to the right audience is more important than ever.
  • “Baby Boomer travelers are twice as likely as younger generations to express interest in staying in a traditional chain affiliated hotel on vacation,” Briscoe said, citing MMGY research via its portrait of American travelers. “It’s an interesting data point to think about as we prioritize marketing efforts across age cohorts.”
  • But identifying audiences has become trickier.
  • “Hotels are getting their house in order around data privacy,” Briscoe said. “We spend a lot of time talking about first-party data and how to use that in meaningful ways to target audiences.”
  • New mediums add to the challenge.
  • “Cutting through the clutter with unique messages that connect continues to be vitally important,” Briscoe said. “That can mean tapping emerging platforms like TikTok or getting smarter about tried-and-true search engines like Google. Consumption of video continues to climb, and our clients need to be able to shoot best-in-class content and disperse it quite quickly. “
  • Messages have to be in touch with what’s on the minds of consumers today.
  • “Cleanliness is a new measure of luxury,” Briscoe said. “Our latest study showed that many survey participants consider hotel cleanliness standards to be just as important as room rate and things like free breakfast. That’s an opportunity for lodging brands that want to differentiate themselves. “

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