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Australia`s city hotels need a new focus to build a stronger customer base

The clear trend towards people holidaying close to home would help pull Australia`s hotel sector through a turbulent period…

The clear trend towards people holidaying close to home would help pull Australia`s hotel sector through a turbulent period, Stamford Hotels & Resorts Group marketing and sales director David Perry said today.

But he said hotels needed to create more innovative accommodation deals and facilities that would entice leisure travellers and families to try city holidays.

With industry research showing one-third of working Australians declining to take holidays in the past year and 70 per cent of travellers choosing to holiday in their own State*, there is clearly a challenge and an opportunity for the numerous hotels based in our State capitals, he said.

The challenge is how do we draw these people into our properties to enjoy a convenient but affordable and relaxing inner-city get-away, and make this as appealing and interesting as the other domestic holiday options that are available, he said. A concerted marketing effort is need to deliver clear choice and value to the consumer, just as other travel industry players such as airlines and regional tourism centres continue to innovate to win customers in difficult times.

With international visitor numbers down, and lingering concerns over SARS and the threat of terrorism, Mr Perry said many city hotels were doing it tough.

The last 12 months has in some ways been a wake-up call, he said. We need to win over a new customer base for the long-term if we`re to weather further storms in the future and take advantage of changing travel, he said. A clear focus on customer needs is required, with hotels realising that we are in the business of selling and providing tailored experiences.

There is an automatic association in Australia of holidays with regional areas or beaches, but in other parts of the world an inner city break can be an exciting, fun, romantic or luxurious get-away.

According to Mr Perry, this creates two distinct long-term marketing opportunities for the local industry.

One is in attracting families and retirees to take a holiday in a hotel in their State capital city. Key incentives would be affordability, appropriate room facilities and configurations, babysitting support, transport arrangements and value-add extras such as free in-house movies – bundled into transparent, fixed-price packages that meet the consumer needs and budgets.

A second opportunity is in encouraging professional couples to take a short-term break and enjoy a level of indulgence and romance that can be difficult to achieve in a busy home environment. Short-term packages that anticipated the requirements to create such a holiday and an above-average level of service and attention to detail would be attractive to this target, according to Mr Perry.

This is something resort hotels do very well, and there is no reason why, with some thought and imagination, five and four star city hotels can`t create interesting and competitive alternatives.

Further thought should also be given to building packages around themes such as the arts, sporting events or historical tours. While this done on an occasional basis for very major events, there are clearly opportunities to improve.

Overall, Mr Perry said, the challenge for city hotels is making sure people see that staying at a hotel in their capital city can be fun and relaxing, can be affordable, and can be a holiday in its own right. The alternative is to simply hope we can turn the clock back to when international business and leisure travellers were queuing at hotel doors.

* See`Australia research

Co-Founder & Chief Editor - TravelDailyNews Media Network | + Articles

Vicky is the co-founder of TravelDailyNews Media Network where she is the Editor-in Chief. She is also responsible for the daily operation and the financial policy. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Tourism Business Administration from the Technical University of Athens and a Master in Business Administration (MBA) from the University of Wales. She has many years of both academic and industrial experience within the travel industry. She has written/edited numerous articles in various tourism magazines.