The boss of new luxury-budget hotel group Yotel has slammed international hotel corporations for confusing customers with a plethora of brands.
Yotel's chief executive, Gerard Greene, told leading industry figures at the World Travel Market in London that big-brand hotel groups have been confusing customers for years.
"The different brands don't say anything to customers or define their products," he said.
He also criticised the franchise system used by hotel groups: "There are different standards at different hotels within groups. How can they really control their quality and product under franchises? It's a real problem."
But Jürgen Fischer, president of commercial operations at Hilton, defended the use of hotel brands. "There need to be things that customers can take for granted from certain brands," he said.
He stressed the importance of communicating the differences between domestic and international properties so that products match customers' expectations.
"The domestic traveller is different from customers using international hotels, but there are certain basic values within our brands wherever you are in the world which remain constant."
David Kong, president and chief executive of Best Western, which has 4,000 independently owned and managed member hotels, agreed. "We have to be relevant to the market, and bigger hotel groups need sub-brands to do that," he said.
Chris Rouse, senior director at consultancy CB Richard Ellis Hotels, said both arguments had some validity. "A hard brand tells you exactly what the product will be, while a soft brand can give you a guarantee of quality."
He explained: "If I go into a branded fast-food chain, I have a guarantee of a particular product. If I go into a Marco Pierre White restaurant, I don't expect an identical menu but I do have a guarantee of a standard of quality.
"Customers are only confused if there is a failure to deliver the brand promise."
Some big-brand hotel groups
- Hilton International
- Hilton Hotels Corporation
- International Grand Vacations Club
InterContinental Hotels Group
- InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
- Crowne Plaza
- Holiday Inn
- Express by Holiday Inn
- Staybridge Suites
- Candlewood Suites
Starwood Hotels & Resorts
- The Luxury Collection
- Four Points by Sheraton
- St Regis
- Le Meridien
By Emily Manson
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