In Insights

Highlights from the HSMAI ME Marketing Executive Roundtable

The Marketing Executive Roundtable was recently held in Dubai with marketing and communications professionals from leading hotel brands, commencing with introductions, followed by an overview of the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI), a not-for-profit organization dedicated to promoting networking and education for sales, marketing, and revenue executives in the hospitality industry. HSMAI’s certifications were highlighted, and ongoing research projects were discussed, added with an emphasis on the remarkable growth of HSMAI Middle East since its revitalization in 2018.

Key Highlights:

  • Marketing’s Role along with Revenue Management: The importance of how marketing complements the revenue management strategy was a recurring theme. Discussions centered on direct bookings and strategies to increase them.
  • Discussed at length was the influencer strategy, where educating internal teams and seniors on digital/social strategy was emphasized. The difference between content creators, influencers who sway buying habits, brand ambassadors who stand up for a cause, and bloggers were conversed about. The paid influencer vs. the earned, and how the objectives and goals must be planned and communicated in advance. Per channel, a strategy needs to be devised with KPIs. The group agreed that the perspective of bringing an influencer with a high number of followers needs to change and the hotel team needs to review what the influencer brings in The General Managers on-property play a critical role in this decision-making and need to be leading such discussions with the wider commercial teams.
  • Content Control: It was advised not to hire an influencer if full control over their content is desired. Instead, collaborating with content creators who have a specific style that aligns with the brand’s positioning was recommended.
  • Marketing teams at hotels that focus on F&B were more involved in the everyday experience of the guests. Video content that includes immersive experiences has a higher viewership. Teams are now moving away from boring image/video content but focusing more on what influencers could bring to the table. Content creators are now producing high-value content that engrosses users to generate even more engagement. Some brands are now investing in dedicated marketing teams for F&B content.
  • Influencing Chinese and Indian travelers, some brands spoke of the dependencies on OTAs that have increased to capture fair share of these geo-source markets. UAE saw 1.2 million Indian arrivals in first half of 2023 while China has started to come back this year (Chinese visitors in 2019 were close to 501K). Apps, languages, and local marketing strategies were discussed to attract guests from these key feeder markets.
  • Sojern shared insights and highlighted travel trends and behaviors related to direct booking strategies and loyalty. They presented various travel trends, including a 16% increase in global flight bookings year-to-date, with notable growth in EMEA, India, UK, Germany, and the US. Leisure travelers typically stay for three to seven days.
  • Conversion Opportunities: Hotels have opportunities to convert flight searches into hotel bookings through multichannel strategies. The role of Dynamic Travel Ads and the importance of Digital strategy were discussed.
  • Mobile vs. Desktop: While most hotel searches happen on mobile devices, actual bookings often occur on desktops due to factors like price comparison and security concerns. Payment methods like Apple Pay can impact purchasing decisions.
  • A wide range of trends and data related to travel bookings were discussed, including specific markets, booking windows, religious travel, seasonalities, remote work, loyalty programs, real-time data, AI optimization, customer journey touchpoints, direct bookings vs. OTAs, challenges faced by independent hotels, ROI challenges with traditional marketing methods, digital marketing strategies, and the importance of personalized data throughout the guest experience.
  • Cendyn conversed about loyalty and personalization and how the importance of ‘Delivering the right message to the right guest at the right time’ prevails. CRM technology seamlessly interfacing with a hotel’s requirements was imperative.
  • On-site or remote talent took center stage when it came to finding top-notch marketing talent. The combination of centralized marketing services, the use of short-term consultants, and the hunt for talented marketers in UAE or Saudi Arabia were hot topics discussed as a group. There is an increasing trend of marketing candidates asking for work-from-home or remote options during the recruitment stage
  • The end of the cookie era meant third-party cookies were out and hotels starting to implement the use of first-party data, working with different eco-systems (airlines, banks) that use large amounts of data, trialing out data partnerships, AI is doing what the cookie used to do. Within the GDPR laws, executives suggest investing in API integrations and owning your DSP (demand-side platform – an automated ad-buying platform, where advertisers and agencies go to purchase digital ad inventory).

The meeting concluded with a renewed focus on the importance of direct bookings, personalized data, targeting loyal customers, and creating effective marketing strategies to enhance loyalty in the hospitality industry.

A new certification was introduced to the Middle East region in the summer, the Certified Hotel Business Acumen (CHBA), and now a second virtual web conference is planned for October. This five-week program, led by virtual instructors, involves simulations and projects related to hotel operations and general management. For the first time, an in-person session will be held in Dubai, just before the ROC ME Commercial Strategy Conference at the Conrad Dubai, 26-27 November 2023.

Special ROC ME passes clubbed with the CHBA certification are available HERE.

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