I am Giancarlo De Leonardo, former Hotelier and Restaurateur, founder of Caro Collega, a club of enlightened entrepreneurs fighting for the digital independence of hospitality operators, and today I am also involved in hotel consulting.
The opportunity I have is to leave the Ho.Re.Ca. industry a better place than I found it, especially able to align with the new digital world. That is why I dedicate so many hours daily to spreading the principles of digital marketing applied to Hotels and Restaurants, because today it is no longer enough to have a well-positioned Hotel to be successful.
And I do not see Italy or any other country where hotel chains and restaurants are owned and managed by international entrepreneurs. That would be a form of standardization for Hotels and Restaurants that I would gladly do without.
In this article, with the perspective of a former hotelier who knows the dynamics present in a hotel, I will share with you what I call a hybrid digital approach.
Since digital marketing activity is critical to a hotel’s revenue development, we create collaboration between internal marketing and salespeople and an external Digital Dream Team.
But let’s now look at the potential of digital marketing, as well as a concrete case study.
In this article
The changing digital landscape
7 years ago, I lee my job as a restaurant manager and entrepreneur and entered the business of innovative startups and hotel consulting. It’s over there that I realized a digital approach is mandatory in a world moving in this direction.
In this context, the hotel industry was also faced with a challenge: how to implement an integrated digital marketing plan to remain competitive while containing operating costs?
Based on the experience I have gained over the past few years, in which I engage with industry players on a daily basis to try to identify modern, viable solutions, I have metabolized what I call a hybrid approach. It involves amalgamating internal hotel marketing and salespeople with the expertise of an external team vertically skilled in digital strategies and tools.
The rapidly evolving digital landscape makes it necessary for hotels to adopt increasingly sophisticated digital marketing strategies. However, staying current with the latest trends, technologies and strategies can require considerable resources.
For example, there has been a lot of talk about Artificial Intelligence in recent months, but no one has realized that hotel guests will soon demand increasingly sophisticated services that only drones can offer them. It sounds like a science fiction movie, but it is the reality two to three years from now.
Hotel entrepreneurs who continue to think only about saving costs, without thinking about doing R&D, will soon be at risk of extinction. So, between doing nothing and investing beyond one’s means, there is a solution to keep up with the rapid and complex changes in the digital world.
This is the hybrid approach, which combines in-house expertise with the input of specialized external consultants to achieve precise goals, within the agreed timeframe and with a satisfied-or- refund clause that guarantees everyone.
Hotels often have an in-house team of skilled professionals, including experts in marketing, hotel consulting, sales, and IT managers. Working with them can be a great help in implementing an integrated digital marketing plan. In-house employees know better than anyone else the hotel, the goals, and the target audience.
By integrating their skills with those of external consultants, a customized strategy can be created that is aligned with business objectives, ensuring greater effectiveness in achieving desired results.
Consequently, it is ideal to have in-house staff participate in the work of the Digital Dream Team because in this way, vertical skills in line with the times can be blended together with the experience of those who know the hotel and the entire environment around it well.
Caro Collega’s Digital Dream Team consists of experienced professionals in social media management, SEO, ads, technology development, etc., who must work exclusively with hotels and restaurants.
The relationship with external collaborators can renew the enthusiasm of internal employees needed to take on new projects, offering innovative ideas and strategies that would hardly have been considered.
This outside input can help differentiate the hotel from the competition and improve the impact of digital marketing activities.
June 2023, I agree on a hotel consulting appointment with a very important chain of luxury hotels in Rome. The meeting is attended by the Italy marketing director and the local marketing manager.
I arrive after studying the situation together with the Digital Dream Team of Caro Collega always looking for challenging projects.
Here is the starting situation:
- This group’s website, put online a few months ago, has user experience problems. For example, if you want to make a restaurant reservation you are directed to the day and time choice and then it crashes. This could be frustrating for a potential customer. But the development company is not in Italy and so their needs are not aligned with the ones of the hotel. No one cares about the penalties Google applies in these cases, no one is focused on business performance.
- Regarding the SEO (search engine optimization), they have problems with the positioning of the new hotel, with the consequence that it will not appear among the first results of Google when the user makes a search.
- The social media management strategy is outsourced to an outside company to do the chore, in a basic way. If you continue to do what they do, all the results will be the same as your competitors: the historic hotel continues to perform equally, the newer hotel with nicer rooms, on the other hand, struggles. That is independent from social media, but nobody is capable of measuring these data, they don’t understand and they are not interested. The salary will come on time each month.
- I ask why they are not listed on TikTok. They tell me that the ownership is not ready to explore this channel. Obviously, I think to myself, their interlocutor has failed to explain that this is the only entertainment platform that is still going strong in Italy, as presented by the Digital Report 2023 data. Will the 20 million Italians who have already opened an account on TikTok (1 in 3) include those interested in one of the world’s most fascinating luxury hotel chains? Besides all, TikTok is very popular in the American and Chinese market so it could convey an international audience accustomed to spending hours on this platform that has become a real search engine.
- The whole Google Ads business is run by a foreign company about which only the macro data is known: you invest a certain amount and get a certain amount. But how do you manage such a powerful tool without having an understanding of what is really going on in the Hotel? It is known that the Google Insights dashboard is accurate up to a point….
What are the chances that in a few years the positioned hotel will lose the competitive advantage it has accumulated so far without hotel consulting? A lot.
What are the chances that the newly opened hotel will position itself as without a coordinated digital effort managed here from Rome? Few, and certainly with a very stretched time frame (so much so, the company is thriving and can afford to fund slow indexing and positioning).
What are the chances of an international hotel group buying unique pieces of our Italy? Increasingly high
What can be a sustainable alternative approach to do digital marketing and be competitive?
In the next article I will talk about how this approach is economically and what are the key steps a hotel should follow to implement a hybrid digital approach.
Article written by Giancarlo De Leonardo, former Hotelier and Restaurateur, founder of Caro Collega