It’s all about authenticity
Who are you?
In the third and final part of this three-part series, Meliá Hotels International’s vice-president of global brand strategy, Tony Cortizas talks with CTP about the company’s brand, what makes it stand out and how it is working to help travel agents.
Meliá Hotels International’s vice-president of global brand strategy, Tony Cortizas laughs when you ask him whether it’s all about the brand, before responding: “Well that’s my job – brand strategy is my job. Listen, it’s not all about the brand – well it is and isn’t – I think what’s happening in our industry – well, there’s a few things
happening – but one thing for sure is there is an understanding among the big hotel players about the importance of brand.”
He observed: “When you talk about Airbnb and that disruption that’s taking place, this is where your equity does sit, but what is also very
true, and which is an ongoing shift, is that your brand can’t be bullshit.”
Cortizas told CTP that: “A logo is not good enough anymore. Consistency in your marketing and a nice website is not good enough any more. Your consumers are experiencing your brand from front to back, beginning to end in real-time; so, you know, social media, review sites, all of those things have drastically changed how a brand is perceived, as well as
how it actually interacts with its guests and customers.”
“So, in short,” he said, “we all need to be much better at that. And this idea of authenticity and a brand really standing for something and really meaning something – the ante has been raised a lot.”
And he added: “It’s really more and more not about the room. It’s more and more about what you’re doing within your spaces as a hotel. What do you host? What do you stand for? What’s your point of view? What do you represent? Because this is what makes us very different – will always makes us different – from Airbnb and that type of disruption. We have rooftop bars. We have lobbies. We have restaurants. We have meeting room spaces.
SO WHAT’S THE STORY?
As Cortizas sees it: “more and more the real storytelling out there is beyond the room. It’s more into what are you doing that makes you different; because I think that’s the question that the customer is asking. It’s certainly the question the owner that you’re presenting yourself to for a management contract is asking. So why should I choose you? What’s different about your brand? What makes you stand out?”
He continues: “You’ve got the sort of hygiene factors of running a hotel well. So having nice rooms. These are sort of expectations and I don’t minimize those because they’re super important, but then you get into the sort of more distinguishing elements of what makes you sort of stand out.”
And that, says Cortizas is “why on the Paradisus story, we feel that pursuing this idea of “nature included” for the brand is a game changer, if we do it properly – which we will.”
As for why Cortizas believes that “nature included” is the way of the future, he told CTP: “Because it’s in line with what the customer is looking for. It’s in line with the trends of what’s going on out there in that landscape, and it will set us apart.
It’s no longer about the all-inclusive, it’s much more about the overall experience.”
A STUDIED APPROACH
Talking with Cortizas, it’s pretty clear that MHI doesn’t simply follow the latest trends, kind of willy-nilly.
In fact, MHI’s VP of global brand strategy explained: “We have a process of brand vision that we work with and it is a longer look, but it’s also a studied look.”
“I’ve been over there for six years to work on all of this with the group,” he said. “What are the choice drivers of the customers? What are the key elements that are driving choice in the category that you are playing in? How do you stack up against your competitive sets?”
He continued: “You can’t look only at what you’re doing yourself, you need to look at what the competition is doing and how you measure against the competition. But that’s not enough either, because you
really need to look at the customer and what is motivating them and driving them in terms of choice. And that includes looking at the full customer journey. So, you’ve got everything from ‘oooh, I’m looking at going on a trip’ to actually checking out and potentially becoming a repeat customer. So, there’s a whole analysis in there that you’ve got to be doing.”
Cortizas said: “There are those trends. The trends and the emerging customers because if you’re not looking at the next generation of customers, by the time they’re not coming to your hotels, it’s going to be a little too late to react.”
IT’S ABOUT CURATING
He explains his view this way.
“If you’ve got 126 hotels in a brand, you can’t pivot based on the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. If you’re an independent boutique property, you can change yourself once a year and you can keep doing those things. And I think some of what those guys do [the independent boutique hotels] paves the way for a longer term strategy for some of the bigger groups to follow because you’ve got some great innovation that’s happening on that boutique independent level.”
On the other hand, he notes that: “You go into a hotel now and you see an iPod docking station — that was the thing, but you can’t follow those trends so intently that that becomes the definition of what and who you are because you’re never going to get that right. You’re never going to keep up. It’s got to be about curating and picking pieces of the puzzle.”
HELP FOR AGENTS
One thing becomes clear in a conversation with Cortizas and that’s the simple fact that there is a lot going at MHI and that means there’s a lot of information that the Group needs to communicate to agents. The question is, how’s the Group doing that?
Well to begin with, Cortizas says there’s the Meliá Pro program for agents, and “there’s a new platform that’s coming online which is going to make booking and interacting with Meliá better [for agents].”
As well, the Group has merged Meliá Pro with its loyalty program, Meliá Rewards, “so the agents get all of the Meliá Rewards loyalty program benefits as part of their relationship with us.”
He also told CTP that the company has made a commitment on the training and education side, observing: “We have a lot of work still to do in that area because we have a lot to talk about. We have an overwhelming amount to talk about.”
THE ONE THING
So, out of all this, what’s the one thing that Cortizas would tell travel agents about MHI?
“One thing to tell travel agents, well … book Paradisus because it’s better – that would be one thing to tell them. I guess to put it a different way, I would love for them to get to know us better … take the time to get to know us better. We’ve got some really special products and really good concepts with our brands. We can be a good partner to them.”