When it comes to keeping up with the market, there's safety in numbers
Independent hoteliers can access better marketing clout when they're part of a consortium, rather than going it alone, says Peter Hancock
Independent hotels have many advantages over those that operate as part of a large chain. They often have their own special personality and can adapt easily to the changing preferences of their guests.
However, one of the very few disadvantages of going it alone is the lack of marketing clout, and this perhaps explains why almost all of the best privately owned hotels in this country have chosen to align themselves with one or more consortia. These include Relais & Chateaux, Small Luxury
Hotels of the World and Pride of Britain Hotels, which I have worked for over the past 14 years. In fact, I am only the second chief executive in the Pride's 32-year history.
In our case the focus is on the domestic market, which accounts for at least 85% of the rooms sold by our member hotels outside London. We provide a wealth of promotional services, such as PR, sales visits to UK companies, online and telephone reservations, well-targeted distribution to a large
and rapidly growing database of customers and much besides.
For some of our members the value is judged purely on attributable bookings, but this misses the point really, because so much of what we do results in exposure that leads to direct bookings. We have recently made efforts to massively increase the volume and quality of internet referrals to members' own websites, for example.
Another powerful motive for belonging to a recognised consortium is the positioning it confers. While four or five red stars clearly denote high standards, being part of a brand that stands for something special gives potential customers a far better idea of what to expect. At Pride of Britain we
claim to represent outstanding hospitality, which can be found in hotels of any size.
What makes us unique is our self-imposed limit of 50 hotels, thereby guaranteeing a degree of exclusivity, and this is only possible because the consortium itself is not for profit.
Membership isn't cheap and it is the hoteliers who have the last word on who can join. So I seem to spend quite a lot of my time persuading hotels to sign up, only to inform them later that they've failed the inspection. This is a good thing, though, because it shows how much our existing members care about quality and the integrity of the brand they own.
Peter Hancock is chief executive of Pride of Britain Hotels