Analysis of Service Marketing Strategies in the Hospitality & Tourism Business in the Uk: the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel

Analysis of Service Marketing Strategies in the Hospitality & Tourism Business in the Uk: the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel

Analysis of Service Marketing Strategies in the Hospitality & Tourism business in the UK: The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel
Mashfiq Ahmed
The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the biggest industries in the United Kingdom and in the entire world. Two of the major components of this industry are the marketing and public relations as in the highly competitive and sophisticated business world of the twenty first century; they play the key role in attracting and retaining customers i.e. the sales of products and services. Especially for businesses that focus on the luxury consumers, branding is an integral part of their core value proposition and there is no better way to create a brand identity and promote it than the use of interactive marketing strategies and public relations tactics.
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1. Introduction
The hospitality and tourism industry is one of the biggest industries in the United Kingdom and in the entire world. Two of the major components of this industry are the marketing and public relations as in the highly competitive and sophisticated business world of the twenty first century; they play the key role in attracting and retaining customers i.e. the sales of products and services. Especially for businesses that focus on the luxury consumers, branding is an integral part of their core value proposition and there is no better way to create a brand identity and promote it than the use of interactive marketing strategies and public relations tactics. The use of the term ‘interactive’ is of immense significance in this context as it refers to the paradigm shift in the global marketing strategies from the rather traditional transactional marketing to a modern, more interpersonal form known as relationship marketing.
2. A shift from Transactional Strategies to Relationship strategies in Services Marketing
Back in the 1960s, the concept of marketing mix and the 4Ps of marketing were introduced. Within a very short time of its advent, the marketing mix concept made its place in all the business textbooks around the world and also, was established as the uncontested fundamental model of marketing. Keeping up with the trend, the marketing mix concept also became the one and only model in the domain of marketing research. Even today, this particular concept has remained as the only contast to academics in the field of marketing around the world. Kent (1986) referred to the marketing mix (the Four Ps) as “the holy quadruple…of the marketing faith…written in tablets of stone” (p. 146). But with the advancement of business and the rise of industrial and services marketing, the marketing mix and the Four Ps have been proven more and more rigid and restricted in functionality. The transactional approach to marketing, the Marketing Mix seemed somewhat obsolete being the core of the marketing strategies applied by the service industry. The Marketing Mix concept incorporates a scientific approach in which the seller is the only To get your BUSINESS Reports / Case Studies/ active entity in a scenario making the consumers totally passive. It does not allow any room for any sort of personalized relationship
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between the consumers and the marketers and producers. The closest form of relationship it allows is, in some cases, through the involvement of professional sales representatives, which is clearly not personalized in nature at all. As an obvious consequence, this approach was no longer appropriate for the marketing of services, especially the hospitality and tourism industry. In this situation, the early 1990s, the idea of a more interactive approach, the relationship approach to marketing emerged. The concept of relationship marketing incorporates interaction and network approach of industrial marketing and modern service marketing strategies. This particular concept perceives marketing as an interactive process in a particular social environment. At the core of the relationship marketing concept lies the very idea of creating relationships and managing them (Bagozzi, R., 1975, pp. 32-9. 95; Webster, Jr, F.E., 1992, pp. 1-17). A very good definition of relationship marketing is provided by Grönroos: “Marketing is to establish, maintain, and enhance relationships with customers and other partners, at a profit, so that the objectives of the parties involved are met. This is achieved by a mutual exchange and fulfilment of promises” ([16, p. 138]). The relationships are not necessarily long term, but in most of the cases, they are. Establishing a relationship, for example with a customer, can be divided into two parts: to attract the customer and to build the relationship with that customer so that the economic goals of that relationship are achieved. In an article in Business Week back in 1992, the mastermind of modern day marketing Philip Kotler mentioned that “companies must move from a short-term transaction oriented goal to a long-term relationship-building goal” (p.1). He also stated in an interview the earlier year in the Marketing Science Institute Review that “A paradigm shift, as used by Thomas Kuhn…, occurs when a field’s practitioners are not satisfied with the field’s explanatory variables or breadth…What I think we are witnessing today is a movement away from a focus on exchange – in the narrow sense of transaction – and toward a focus on building value-laden relationships and marketing networks...We start thinking mostly about how to hold on to our existing customers...Our thinking therefore is moving from a marketing mix focus to a relationship focus”. (pp. 1,4). This approach to marketing is a very good fit to the modern, innovative ways of business in today’s world; not to mention, the hospitality and tourism industry in particular.
3. Organization in focus: The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London
The Park Lane Hotel is one of the establishments of Sheraton, a globally recognized brand in hotels and resorts. The Park Lane Hotel is famous for its central location in the heart of Mayfair, and it connects the residents to the city of London. In addition to that, it has Buckingham Palace and the boutiques of Bond Street, Knightsbridge in a short walking distance. The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel is also conveniently located 5 minutes away from Green Park and Hyde Park Corner underground stations, allowing consumers to spend less time in transit and more time connecting with the city. The Park Lane Hotel offers 303 comfortable guest rooms with signature Sheraton Sweet Sleeper™ Bed and the essence of the Art Deco spirit. A few of its rooms and suites offer stunning views over Green Park. Consumers can also enjoy a conversation over Sheraton’s award-winning English Afternoon Tea in its Palm Court at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel. Residents can have a taste of Italy at the hotel’s Citrus Restaurant or stay in and enjoy delicious room service choices. In addition to these, The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel offers meeting spaces along with some of the most flexible options among the Central London venues. The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel offers its consumers rooms into three categories: Classic Rooms, Executive Rooms and Suites. The Classic Rooms are decorated in a traditional charming English style and features the renowned Sheraton Sweet Sleeper™ Bed along with air conditioning, Sheraton Shine by Bliss amenities, Bathrobes, slippers & hairdryers, 32'' HD plasma television with over 40 channels and in-room movies, large working desk, phone and voicemail service and wired/wireless High Speed Internet Access. The Executive Rooms come with all the features of the Classic room along with the additions of larger sizes, separated seating areas, luxurious bathrooms and often, with views over the famous Green Park of London. Suites are offered into two categories. The One Bedroom Suites have separate bedroom, bathroom and lounge and the Park Suites and Executive Deluxe Park Suites come with unique decoration along with a separate living room. All the Park Suites are located on the top floors and offer stunning views over Green Park. The Daily Rate ranges from GBP 179.00 to GBP 324.00. The Hotel also provides the following services to its consumers:
   
Shopping Nearby Laundry/Valet Service Luggage Storage 24-Hour in Room Dining
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Currency Exchange Safe Deposit Boxes Smoke Detectors In-Room Massage Treatments
       
Dry Cleaning Service Handicap Accessible Facilities Tour Service 24-Hour Security Laundry Service Secretarial Service Limousine Service Sprinklers
       
24-Hour Concierge Service Wake-up Service Available Live Entertainment 24-Hour Fitness Facility Covered Parking Facilities Pay Parking Facilities 24-Hour Front Desk Business Center
4. Analysis of Relationship Marketing Strategies: The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London
4.1 Brand identity and strategy
Sheraton’s latest global ad campaign communicates the message – “At Sheraton you don't just stay here, you belong”. The global hotel chain positions the brand on a range of core value propositions centered on the idea of warm, comforting, connections. Sheraton’s brand positioning features the 'heart of the house' theme for its employees – it is a workplace that is second to none, it is a highly invested venture in training and development and it creates an environment that allows its associates to connect with their guests confidently. As a result of successful communication between every single aspect of its establishment at the Park Lane Hotel, Sheraton is able to animate its brand positioning values to life, at every level of experience a guest encounters. This “connection” is visible everywhere, starting from new television advertising to any new collateral with a new signature "warm welcome." Sheraton has also introduced Yahoo! Link, a lobby hub where guests can browse the Internet, explore the Yahoo!designed, locally-tailored website, grab a coffee, work, chat, read, watch TV or play a game.
4.2 Network Marketing
The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London has strategic alliances at different levels with a number of renowned organizations. The cooperative conducts allow the hotel to access different markets easily, create sales synergy, expand its range of services, fill in the gaps between service ranges and gain
reciprocal access to expertise into other resources. The strategic alliances also provide the organization with a much stronger basis to market its products and services to its target consumers. The strategic alliances are as follows: 4.2.1 Starwood Alliance Sheraton is the flagship brand of the global hospitality giant Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. The parent company, Starwood Hotels and Resorts Worldwide, Inc. is one of the largest hotel and resort chain worldwide with ownership of almost a thousand properties worldwide. Starwood owns, operates, franchises and manages hotels, resorts, spas, residences, and vacation ownership properties under its nine globally recognized brands - Sheraton , Westin, Four Points by Sheraton, The Luxury Collection, W Hotels, St. Regis, Le Méridien, Aloft, Element by Westin. With some of the biggest and the most attractive brands in the hospitality and tourism industry worldwide, with properties in the most exotic locations, Sheraton leverages the advantage of the widespread network connected with smart automated computer database system. 4.2.2 SIXT rent a car This is a vertical cooperation between Sheraton and SIXT, one of the leading car rental companies in the world through the Starwood alliance. Guests can rent cars right from their hotel and save a lot of money. 4.2.3 Eurostar A strategic alliance with Eurostar, a high speed railway service that connects London with Paris and Brussels, two of the most exotic cities in Europe enables guests at the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel go back and forth any time they want to. These trains use the Channel Tunnel between England and France. Eurostar has 17 services from London to Paris on weekdays, of which six are non-stop. Eleven LondonBrussels services are provided of which three are non-stop. On top of that, it offers a daily back and forth service on the exciting route of London-Disneyland Paris. It also offers a snow train service to the Alps in the winter. When the guests arrive in Paris or Brussels, the Starwood alliance allows Sheraton to book them Starwood hotels over there (The Westin Paris or Le Méridien Etoile in Paris and Aloft Brussels Schuman, Sheraton Brussels Hotel, Le Méridien Brussels or Four Points by Sheraton Brussels in Brussels).
4.2.4 SPG on Tour This is a member only service provided to only Starwood Preferred Guests (discussed later on the Creating and Developing Customer Loyalty section) that allows member to book Live Nation concert tickets using their Starpoints (points accumulated from usage of Starwood properties and services). Ticket packages often include premium seats, in-hotel pre-show parties, transportation to the venue etc.
4.3 Customer Relationship Management: Creating and developing customer loyalty
Sheraton incorporates one of the best Customer Relationship Management practices in the industry with the aim to optimize the satisfaction of its customers, which is a prerequisite for customer loyalty. Sheraton’s very own Sheraton Club International program was the pioneer loyalty program in the hospitality and the tourism industry. Later, the parent company, Starwood converted this loyalty program into SPG – Starwood Preferred Guests, the most attractive customer loyalty program in the world. Starwood Preferred Guest The Starwood Preferred Guests is the most attractive customer loyalty program in the world. According to Starwood Hotels and Resorts' corporate profile, the SPG program has over 41 million members. Partnerships Starwood has a partnership with American Express (AMEX), the globally renowned credit card service provider. AMEX is of the official credit card partner for SPG. On top of that, SPG has partnerships with airlines service providers from all around the globe. The airlines partnership of Starwood Preferred Guest is known as the “SPG Flights” program. The “SPG Flights” program currently has thirty two airlines companies under the SPG flagship brand allowing members to fly across countries with redemption of StarPoints. StarPoints To get your BUSINESS Reports / Case Studies/
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Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) Members acquire StarPoints with the usage of Starwood properties
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and their products and services. StarPoints can be used by the SPG members to redeem free stays at Starwood’s hotels and resorts all across the world. Besides, StarPoints can be redeemed to purchase merchandise with their partners such as GAP, Westin at Home, Nordstrom etc. Member Tiers/Levels SPG memberships have three levels – Preferred, Gold and Platinum. Each level is better than the previous one and come with better perks. SPG Privileges The SPG members receive special treatment at Starwood properties. For example, each Starwood hotel. Even the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel has a different check in and checkout counter dedicated only to SPG members. The SPG members do not have to stand in queues like general guests and receive special treatment. There is a Starwood Platinum Lounge for members where they can have special breakfast free of cost and gain access to multimedia. SPG members also have special bars and happy hours dedicated for their convenience. Most of the Starwood properties have special SPG floors with upgraded suites for members.
4.4 Viral and Guerilla Marketing
Viral and Guerilla Marketing are two most popular forms of innovative marketing strategies in modern business. Viral marketing or advertising is also known as marketing buzz. This incorporates marketing techniques using social networks in order to create brand awareness and media hype among target consumers. Sheraton has produced a series of videos and posted them on YouTube and Facebook to create marketing buzz. These videos are also posted on Starwood websites and different websites related to travel and tourism. Consumers can tune in to Sheraton’s official YouTube channel and watch their latest promotional videos featuring latest offers. They can also share these with their friends thus creating an exponential impact. Sheraton also reaches target consumers through Flickr.com, a popular photo sharing website. Internet users can explore The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London pictures and stay in touch and also share them with their friends. The netizens can also check out what other travelers think about The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London, review their photos or share their experience on Tripadvisor.com, an immensely popular website for finding out travelling destinations and lodging abroad. The Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London also has an official group on Facebook, the world’s most popular social network with more than 800 million active users to date. On this Facebook
group, members can virtually meet The Park Lane Hotel, London friends, discover deals and do a lot more. Through its account on Twitter, the world’s largest online social networking and microblogging service, the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London allows internet users to Follow hotel for up-to-the-second updates, offers and more. Guerrilla marketing is an advertising strategy in which low-cost unconventional means (graffiti, sticker bombing, flash mobs) are utilized, often in a localized fashion or large network of individual cells, to convey or promote a product or an idea. Sheraton is a client of WEBMEDIA, a worldwide guerilla marketing service provider.
4.5 E-Marketing
All the global travelers, the clients of the hotel industry, from vacation tourists expecting relaxation up to corporate travelers looking for the best amenities to make their stay more comfortable and productive, have high expectations for their trips. Sheraton, as a brand, has a brand, has its very own personality, look and feel, and it has its own special ways to attract and retain guests. The website of the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel plays a key role in order to portray its distinctive brand image and the exotic experience it provides to its guests. As Sheraton is a part of the global Starwood chain of hotels, resorts and spas, its website is developed by the Starwood web team in association with Adobe, the leading name in the world of graphics designing in the entire world. Starwood has used Adobe Creative Suite 5 Web Premium software to create a rich, highly tailored experience for each of its hotels with interactive content that engages customers across a range of media, from online to mobile. Starwood earns the most amount of its revenue from its branded websites. Each site highlights the unique characteristics and uncompromising service offered by each brand, enticing travelers to book a stay for their next trip. “The more compelling the online experience, the more likely customers are to choose a Starwood hotel, helping us increase bookings, revenue, and customer satisfaction,” says Stephen Gates, senior creative director at Starwood Hotels.
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5. Discussion & Recommendations
From the analysis above, we can see that the Sheraton Park Lane Hotel, London has been using a wide array of tools, media and techniques to implement strong relationship management strategies, which is way more effective for the hospitality and tourism industry compared to the traditional transactional marketing approach and the Marketing Mix concept. Yet, I have a few recommendations which I believe is essential given the sophistication and the super competitiveness of the hospitality and tourism industry of today for the Sheraton Park Hotel. I believe these recommended strategies will provide them with more competitive advantages, superior brand identity and stronger customer loyalty:  Mobile internet is the future of the internet and Sheraton needs to grab this emerging opportunity to reach its target customers worldwide. Advertisements on mobile websites and launching of mobile apps and games would be necessary to penetrate the mobile internet market.  As the analysis of marketing strategy if Sheraton Park Lane Hotel shows, its presence on the web is minimal. We have not found any evidence of its existence on the web through the use Google AdSense, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM) or Content Marketing. The hotel should pay more attention to these sectors of marketing and become more active.  The hotel can introduce its own line of merchandise which will improve both its profitability and exposure to target consumers. The merchandise line should be focused on bedding and related products and interior decoration products since Sheraton already has a reputation for its products in these categories.
6. Conclusion
With time and with the advent of technology and business innovation, marketing is more shifting towards the relationship paradigm from its classical school of thought – the traditional transactional approach. Innovative business To get your BUSINESS Reports / Case Studies/ ideas require innovative marketing strategies to succeed.

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