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Akaal Manchanda: Banking on outsourcing marketing functions for hotels post lockdown

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As the pandemic continues unabated, hotels have been forced to revisit and tailor their marketing strategy, along with safety norms, to suit these unprecedented times. Akaal Manchanda, founder, Zuper Hotel Solutions, writes about how switching to outsourced marketing and brand strategy requirements would benefit and outweigh the costs for the hotels as they try to navigate the pandemic

India’s hotel industry is now slowly returning to business after months of staying shut. Hotels are looking to welcome guests with due precautions and safety measures in place. For the majority, though, it is navigating uncharted waters when finding ways to balance the hospitality and safety of guests and staff. As the pandemic continues unabated, hotels have been forced to revisit and tailor their marketing strategy, along with safety norms, to suit these unprecedented times.

Staying lean has its benefits
It may not be business as usual for some time, but there are several things that hotels will have to do now to set themselves up for a speedy recovery while working with a scaled-back team. Brand management and marketing along with digital presence (brand website, social media, etc.) will be some of the tools that hotels will have to focus upon to convey their strategy clearly and concisely in the days to come.

Nevertheless, in a market where talent is dear, hiring permanent marketing teams may be tough for hoteliers who have already suffered revenue losses during the lockdown. This is especially true in the case of independent and standalone hotels that will have to explore more prudent and economical ways to optimise the opportunity.

During the pandemic, while the above factors remain true, another major reason to outsource is also to have a reduced number of people working in the hotel at a given period. With social distancing norms in place, it may not be a wise idea to hire more new staff to handle marketing functions that are ostensibly important during this time.

Outsourcing may be the new normal
Here is where the idea of outsourcing hospitality advisory and marketing fits into the picture. Outsourcing marketing is an effectual and financially plausible way to ensure that marketing strategies are carefully crafted by trained professionals even as the hotel itself does not have to hire staff to handle the function.
As a way forward through these extraordinary times, hotels need to consider partnering with brand strategy and solutions firms who can handhold them with sales, revenue, and innovative marketing support towards the path to recovery. While marketing has always been the key to an independent hotel’s success, hoteliers now need an even stronger strategy to ensure reservations and revenue. Partnering with hospitality advisory companies who have expert teams of professionals allows hotels to build flexible and affordable approaches without the added cost burden of hiring professionals in-house.

The hotel industry has historically outsourced multiple functions including food and beverage, security, parking, landscaping, concierge services, laundry, etc. This is done to keep up with the changing labour market demands, manage increasingly high benefit costs and better meet the needs of guests.
Outsourcing also assumes increased importance as hotels re-open because they now require dedicated staff to ensure that all mechanisms are in place for the safety of guests and staff. Therefore, by outsourcing other possible functions that also require equal attention — like new-market feasibility advisory, sales revenue and reservation support, brand management and marketing support, strengthening client relationships — hotels can utilise their own resources to focus upon their core functions that largely now revolve around safety and hygiene.

While outsourcing marketing functions is an effective way for hotels to save time, effort, operating costs, and training costs, it can also lend them a competitive advantage over other properties. Another benefit outsourcing ensures is that since partners are ready to share the risk, hotels can enjoy the full benefits of services without the overhead costs.

How to pick a good to outsource partner
Moreover, marketing and hospitality advisory partners have teams of expert professionals who can shoulder the responsibility of creating, planning, and designing a campaign and delivering it in decent turnaround time. A good outsource partner will work hard to ensure that everything it does meets the needs and requirements of the hotel. They will even offer new digital tools that allow people to visualise meeting spaces and layouts if needed.

Some outsourcing firms offer a comprehensive suite of services including Budgeting & Forecasting Revenue Assurance, Complete Sales Support, 24 Hour Reservations Support, Dynamic Campaign Innovations, Channel Management, Website Designing & Maintenance, Public Relations, Brand Management, etc., to help hotels deliver a superior competitive edge in their respective markets. For example, Zuper Hotel Solutions uses tools to connect with the prospects of its clients to understand their assessment criteria and give out prompt responses.

There are also many ways in which an outsourcing partner can help hotels improve their trade network with marketing efforts during this time. Experienced social media teams from the outsource partners know how to interact with online audiences. Allowing them to handle responses to comments/reviews or provide answers to social media messages/posts can work great wonders for the business.

As hotels navigate the pandemic, the benefits outweigh the costs if they decide to outsource their marketing and brand strategy requirements. This is especially true for stand-alone and mid-size hotels which may be grappling with resources as they emerge from the lockdown. Hence, for them choosing the best outsource partner that fits the hotel’s business philosophy is crucial for growth and success.

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