Marketing Plan = Hotel Industry


Executive Summary
This marketing plan has been prepared, taking into consideration the current economic situation. This weighs in heavily in every aspect of the plan

Our luxury travel market has become quite challenging to operate and we have to take into account of what has been working for us and what has not been working for us. In order to survive, we might have take some steps that we might not have considered before.

In doing this, we have to be careful not to lose market share to the competition that has resorted to price wars which would be detrimental to the market in the long term. Should the price war continue, it would be difficult to bring the rates up when the economy improves and it would mean less profits for all the players.

The weak market has weighed heavily on the recommendations made. This is the general consensus of the direction that our organization should take and same time be flexible to adapt to any surprises that may arise in these uncertain times

The budget is also based on the assumption that market sentiment is weak and the industry does not see a pick up anytime soon. With the government lending a hand via training grants, we have embarked on careful cost cutting measures and prudent spending.

1. Terms of reference

This marketing plan is for the Four Seasons Singapore. The target market is the luxury traveler. Objective is to further target the luxury market travelers from that come into Singapore and also look to market ourselves in emerging markets.

At the Four Seasons Singapore 60% of all room revenue is dependant on annually contracted clients from various industries. The rest 40% is from the leisure market, contracted as well through cruise ships and other channels like luxury concierge travel services worldwide and travel offices like Amex Centurion travel whose clients have to be earning a certain level of income to qualify. Singapore is a major embarkation and disembarkation point for luxury cruises like the Cunard Lines. As the Four Seasons Singapore is the smallest boutique hotel in the shopping district, we are able to differentiate from competitors.

2. Business Mission

The mission of Four Seasons is to operate medium size hotels that provide exceptional quality to the luxury traveler. Frequent international travel began to pick up in the 70s and Four Seasons decided to capitalize on this by concentrating on a niche market.

3. PEST Analysis
3.1 Political

The government is very pro tourism, 65% of Singapore’s GDP is from the services sector and the Singapore government feels that this is its competitive edge. The government is providing training grants for hotels to help upgrade its workforce so that when the economy recovers, Singapore will be ready. The government is also lobbying for business to increase tourist arrivals actively overseas. We have taken advantage of the governments training grants.

3.2 Economic

The downturn has caused many industry players to slash prices and has caused a mini price war. We are staying away from this and have creatively packaged our room rates with benefits and have taken this slow period to reward past customer loyalty. This we feel will further increase customer loyalty.

3.3 Socio-Cultural

Unlike accommodation, we rely heavily on the local market for our banquet and food and beverage revenue. The power distance in Singapore society is to our advantage as we are considered a premier location to dine and to hold events. Weddings are a huge part of our revenue and being an auspicious year for the Chinese to wed, we are seeing continued growth and the market could be further exploited.

3.4 Technological

The slowdown has also affected our suppliers and our equipment suppliers are offering competitive prices. There are many more offers that we could look into to better equip ourselves in the future, taking advantage of flexi payment plans offered

4. The Market

Corporations worldwide have cut travel budgets and combined with falling tourist arrivals, the demand for hotel rooms have fallen among luxury hotels. Inflation and recession normally leads to a shift in demand for inferior goods and demand has shifted to three and four star hotels but they are still perceived to be expensive and people are still staying away even though rates are quite competitive when compared to the three and four star hotels. In order not to lose market share, Four Seasons has to ensure that there is no decline in service and its service promise.

We have a reputation of being more personal compared to our competitors and we strive to build a relationship with our guests. As our competitors are all large hotels with almost the double the capacity, perception by guests who fill up feedback forms is that they feel that they are just another person compared to when they stay at the Four Seasons where we emphasize name recognition and usage.

Our main source of business is from contracted corporate clients originating from both overseas and the local markets. Of this 90% is from the overseas market and 10% are from local companies. Location plays to our advantage together with our size of the hotel. Our niche market demands peace and quiet but a close proximity to the hustle and bustle of the city. We are the only hotel in the shopping district that is able to offer this due to our strategic location which is at the beginning of the street. Another advantage is the recent renovation that the hotel has gone through. We have a new product compared to the other luxury operators.

Our market is mainly the US and UK market. Brand recognition is high and travelers mainly first time travelers who come to Singapore are most likely to book with us as they feel re-assured that service would be consistent.

Based on statistics, travelers from the UK and the US made up the two of the largest groups after India and China. The exchange rate being an advantage, travelers from the UK and US perceive us as being value for money, compared to travelers from India and China whose currencies are lower than the Singapore Dollar find us to be expensive.

4.1 Market trends

Many companies have cut down on corporate travel. With the collapse of Lehman Brothers, Singapore on the whole lost about 8000 room nights and we have lost 1000 room nights. Corporate travel is down by 40%. Many five star properties have decided to slash prices but we have a belief in our product which is fairly priced. Past experiences has given us precedence on how to run operations and keep costs down in times of crises. The competition has slashed prices and we feel that cutting rates is not the way to go as it would be difficult to justify to our guests the increase when the economy recovers and we will lose integrity. 'It is still possible that Asia could start to recover before the end of 2009,' said Dr Martin Buck, Director of the Competence Center Travel & Logistics at Messe Berlin, which commissions the ongoing research from IPK (http://www.hotelnewsresource.com/article37267.html#Continue). We need to come up with creative ideas which would add value to our product and services. A room could be packaged with additional benefits. It’s a consumers market as they are aware of the hotels undercutting each other and is using this to get the best possible deal. Four Seasons is refusing to be drawn into bargaining as its detrimental to the brand and its image as a luxury operator should it involve in bargaining.

4.2 Local Business Trends

The economic slowdown had brought about a culture of prudent spending across all industries. With threats of unemployment looming, the negative impact on luxury goods is great. The government is also driving home this message to spend wisely by cutting down on hosting foreign dignitaries in local hotels. Although we are not reliant on the local business for our accommodation revenue, we are heavily dependant on the local market for weddings and catering business. Although everyone is cutting back, the Four Seasons is a much sought after venue. Wedding blogs and our marketing activities like hosting wedding fairs have created awareness and has helped us to hang on to our revenue targets.

4.3 Economic cut backs

With the reduction in spending, the government is encouraging the local industry to go back to the drawing board to train employees and better equip them with skills. They are offering incentives and tax breaks for training purposes. The governments move to cut taxes on exhibitors at trade shows, highlights the governments commitment to improve the situation by making Singapore competitive and indirectly boosting the local tourism sector.

4.4 Market Growth

The growth of our target market has been steady for the last 5 years in tandem with a steady increase of visitor arrivals. The long term agreement to host the Formula One race for the next five years has guaranteed a demand for rooms for a 2 weeks in September. Overall the world travel industry is expected to shrink at the rate of 2%(world travel trends report 2008\2009)

Long haul demand is also expected to fall and we might see growth in the short haul traveler. This would also boost business for low cost carriers in the region. The luxury market again is not expected to make a recover to its pre-crisis levels anytime soon and we must look at being creative in tapping the short haul market.

Analysts predict that only hotels that would ride the current economic situation will be those who are able to innovate. They go on to say that hotel sales and marketing personal cannot assume that the respective business processes will return to the same model that worked previously when the economy recovers. Scott Anthony in the Harvard Publishing Weekly pointed out that the name of the game now is to figure out what will provide optimal value to hotel guests in the product price segment. Value is no longer a price point. The example cited is that value to a $99 paying customer for a room night may not be the same as someone paying $500 a night. He concluded that we cannot expect customers to immediately pay a premium unless they are given a good reason to do so.

5. Strategic Issues Analysis

Our current marketing objective is to target the luxury traveler in the emerging markets and to target the growing affluent people in existing markets and introduce them to luxury travel and accommodation

To effectively communicate our strategic objectives to our target markets

As new markets emerge we have to identify these new markets to promote our hotel

To fulfil our promise of uncompromising quality and service to our hotel guests

How we segment the market can be equated to benefit segmentation. Our target market is one that values high quality and service. They are also prepared to pay more for the benefit.

Our competitive advantage can be attributed to three main points. Service, location and size. We are a premier choice for guests who seek small boutique hotel experience that offers’ privacy and discreet service.

Our core competency is being able to provide a consistent high level of service. Although our competitors also aspire to provide a high level of service, consistency is an issue as being a much smaller hotel, we are able to monitor and control our services more effectively, preventing lapses

Four Seasons is positioned as a luxury hotel providing seamless luxury service. We use past and current awards by travel magazines to convey the benefits of choosing the Four Seasons

5.1 Marketing Mix Effectiveness

Product

Rooms were recently renovated and this is an advantage compared to our competitors who have not upgraded recently

Promotion

We have come up with creative promotional offers. These are communicated through publications and travel operators that cater for the luxury market

Price

With the economic slowdown, our competitors have begun to slash prices. We have maintained our prices but have added services to the basic rates to make our product attractive

Place

Our location in the shopping district and its close proximity to major shopping centers is another factor that the hotel is marketed together with its excellent location
6. SWOT

Strengths Weakness

Strategy: Our differentiation strategy is a tried and tested formulae. Does not only work locally but is a similar strategy adopted by all FS Hotels

Structure: Compared to other hotels, our structure is flat and decentralized. It facilitates communication

Skills: The hiring strategy has ensured that those recruited have a diverse range of skills and language capabilities

Staff: The staff are hired only if they have demonstrated a high level of service culture. The five levels of interview ensure that general consensus is reached before the hiring decision is made.

Brand Strategy: The well established brand ensures that we are still the top choice among the luxury traveler

Reputation: The reviews and awards from travel publications ensure a strong reputation. This reputation greatly aides our marketing efforts when sourcing for new business. Staff: Stringent recruitment, staff that we are looking for are hard to find and the hiring process takes a long time

Systems: Most hotels credit air miles and we refuse to do so even though our guests ask for it.

Facilities: Dining options, we only have two restaurants and many guests expect a fine dining restaurant in our hotel

Opportunities

Market: There will be retuning growth after. The training would be needed to be stepped up and to better prepare when business returns.

Competitors: Apart from the current competitors, we do not foresee any new entrants of the boutique hotel niche, we are still not faced with direct competition

Suppliers: The current economy crises is allowing us to renegotiate prices, we have managed to tie up long contracts at preferential prices
Threats

Substitutes: Furnished condominium units offering rates and situated across the hotel is cheaper and might attract the one night staying guests

Economy: The recovery from the economic slump might be longer than expected

7. Marketing Objectives

7.1 Strategic Thrust

Four Seasons current markets offer few prospects for future growth. The brand is well established and we feel that it has reached a plateau. Thus the need to enter emerging luxury markets. Four Seasons Singapore has to focus on markets like Russia and emerging markets in South America. Magazines such as Forbes comes up with emerging markets that is producing millionaires a sign of a growing affluent segment. The lead could be used to market our hotel.

7.2 Strategic Objective

The strategic objective would be to build sales and market share. As Singapore
being marketed as a destination for both business and leisure in emerging markets, we should follow suit and promote ourselves as the premier luxury hotel in Singapore.

8. Core Strategy

8.1 Target Market

The target market is the luxury traveler in existing and emerging markets

8.2 Competitor Targets

Four Hotels in Singapore are perceived to be our competitors. When the Singapore Tourism does its rankings, we found out to be the top of the list. This we should use when advertising to re-emphasize that we are the best hotel to stay with

8.3 Competitor advantage

Our advantage boils down to three main factors. Reputation for unsurpassed service levels, location and the size of the hotel

9. Marketing Mix Decisions

9.1 Product

We have a good product and a reputable brand. No change must be made here. The services that accompany the product must be looked into. Much improvement can be made here in the form of added benefits like room amenities. These do not have to be of great cost to us but they have to be meaningful and creative and we must also have a wide range. This is to avoid repetition and to maintain the element of surprise when the guest walks into the room. These amenities could be in the form of edible items or bath products that could be arranged prior to arrival. A token of appreciation should also be looked into, maybe in a form of a bear with the Four Seasons logo, it would be a reminder of their stay. The credit of air miles should also be started through partnerships with airlines. This would be an added reward for our guests who choose us. This would also build repeat business. Another move could be a company loyalty program. This might benefit us when it comes to the business traveler that often travels to various locations. A loyalty reward program would induce a potential guest to choose Four Seasons.

9.2 Promotion

With economy in a critical situation, the sales process needs to be innovative. This is something our marketing department is lacking. Instead of just cold calling, they must use targeted prospecting and pre-approach qualifying methods. We need to be clear on what kind of new customers will find value in our product. They could be in the form of meeting planners that could be of more value to the hotel. The key to note here is that value may not be a price point. A main process that our sales department could do is a through research. What is economic condition of the respective industries that our target market is an important area to consider. Changes in their business models and how we can tap their needs and add value to their experience must also be considered. When dealing with them, we need to have a message that appeals to them that concerns their business process improvement, or else all our efforts in trying to solicit a business agreement might fail.

9.3 Price

We have a perception of being a expensive hotel. The current market, where hotels are cutting prices, we have refused to do so. Since there are more and more hotels cutting prices, we could modify our room categories and offer them at lower prices to match our competitor rates. There are about 50 rooms that are 5 square feet smaller than regular deluxe rooms. These could be sold at a lower price and the price difference can be justified by the smaller size. Loyalty could be rewarded with the room upgrades and throwing in spa treatments for repeat guests. This could be a viable strategy as we are not dropping rates across the board but opening up a limited supply for the price sensitive luxury traveler. This would be a room only offer and we could make revenue on food and beverage that the guest could potentially consume.

9.4 Place

As demand drops from our usual US and UK markets, we should shift our focus to China and India market where 40 million trips were made out of China alone. Despite the global slowdown, this would be a good market to target as young consumers in Asia see personal travel as a key activity in their lifestyles. Research shows that top discretionary spend priorities among young consumers is personal travel

9.5 Physical Evidence

The area that needs improvement that does not reflect our 5 star service is our spa. This would need significant upgrade as this area lacks the luxurious feel which is felt everywhere else in the hotel. Renovations and changes are needed in line with current spa trends. This would allow us to compete for the luxury leisure traveler with the other hotels.

9.6 Processes

Although we have various processes that enable us to maintain a personal touch, we could do a little more to ensure we maintain a continuous relationship. Small ideas of sending a birthday card on a guests birthday for those who have a record with us, would go a long way to adding a personal touch and increase the chances of us being their choice when they make a purchase

9.7 People

Four Seasons has a reputation of being only the best. Although all the necessary procedures are in place to ensure we hire the right people, the process of recruitment must be sped up. Many a times the 5 step interview process takes 4 to 5 weeks and potential employees decide to work somewhere else as they cannot wait that long. Talent sometimes slips through our fingers due to this slow process.

10. Marketing Budget

Sales and Marketing Budget

Total Labor 808300
Total Supplemental Pay 94700
Total Benefits Expense 147200
Total Employee Meals 22200
Total Labor & Benefits 1500
Dues and Subscriptions 800
Miscellaneous Expense 800
Operating Supplies 4900
Postage, Freight, and Courier 20500
Printing and Stationery 70000
Promotion 11600
Telecom Expense 34900
Trade Shows 15600
Training 75100
Travel - Meals and Entertainment 34900
Travel - Other 3700
Media - Advertising Production 14700
Agency Fees 15000
Collateral Material 60500
Corporate Advertising 387900
Direct Mail 72400
Media - Food & Beverage Advertising 29400
In-House Graphics 5200
Marketing Fee 536600
Outside Services 14700
Photography 17200
Media - Rooms Advertising 38800
Media - Trade Advertising 8000

Total 2,547,100

Figures are based on 5 years of historical data an spending patterns.
Certain figures here have been amended to reflect the expenses should this marketing plan be accepted by management.

Notable increase here is the Marketing Fee and Corporate Advertising.
These are the areas that need additional investment as we go hunting for more business.
Thru corporate advertising, our hotel is exposed to all markets that have a Four Seasons Hotel in the country. Tie in or special deals for Four Seasons Singapore could be promoted to current guests in other Four Seasons Hotels. Marketing fee here is used to
fund the marketing effort in emerging markets. The marketing expense is $27.33 per available room and is 14% of the estimated net profit of $18 355 300.

11. Marketing Organization

Our Director of marketing, Cristina Dolendo, is responsible for the execution of the plan. She would work closely with the director of PR for all our promotional and public relations activities

11.1 Implementation

Product wise, for the rooms, the marketing department must try to promote our rooms by providing pictures as well. With the renovated rooms, we could increase the chance of purchase as they get to see how our rooms look like.

The amount budgeted for photography is increased by 30% in the proposed marketing plan from 2008 to $17200 in 2009. The marketing department has to liaise with the finance department to better understand the hotels financial goals and come up with promotions.

Given weak demand in the current market, the shift could be made from profiting from margins to generating revenue by volume. We will also continue to work on our customer relationship. The marketing department’s job is to get the guest in for the first time and its up to operations to ensure the guest returns in the future.

Interdepartmental communication is important and training has to be continuous to ensure that departments are communicating effectively.

The marketing team has to also keep a lookout for emerging markets to tap. As Orchard area is being actively promoted by the local tourism board, the marketing department should tie in with their promotions and highlight the close proximity of the hotel to shopping centers.

The plan will be ongoing and will be flexible to changes especially in the external environment. It will be altered and tweaked in order to react to these changes. Figures with regards to sales and effectiveness will be monitored using past results versus the actuals.

12. Control

Taking into consideration the economy, in view of a slow recovery, the net profit forecasted for 2009 is considerably lower that the past years. Although unlikely, should a competitor emerge, our differentiation strategy will still be the appropriate. With our reputation, we will build on this to ensure we increase market share

Reflexive Account

The first step that I undertook for the project was research. Since my project was on my organization, a fair bit of research was needed. I wanted the project to be realistic and wanted it to be something that my marketing department will find worth considering.

The Business mission was something that was explicitly stated on the website. The PEST analysis started it off and as the project progressed, finding and sorting relevant information was becoming a challenge. It would be easy to state my opinion in the PEST analysis but wanting it to be as realistic as possible, I had listed down many factors and by presenting it to the bosses, a general consensus was reached with regards to the factors affecting the hotel.

Market analysis was a little easier to conclude as we are reminded daily of the market situation and we have to come up with ways to adapt to any changes. The whole section of the market analysis is a very real and current piece of information and finding articles to back these up were easy.

The section of strategic issues analysis, I was under the impression that my marketing department would have all the relevant data but unfortunately they did not. Had to sit down and discuss these issues. I asked one of the sales managers if they had a copy which they can refer to but unfortunately only a few people have access to the marketing plan. Only the instruction are handed down but no one gets to see the whole plan. This is something I feel must change as the whole organization must know of the plan as
There could be much to learn and feedback could be useful in order to tweak the plan should things do not go according to plan.

Things got harder when asked what was our marketing objective. Many answered “its simple, its to make money”. This coming from a marketing person was quite unbecoming as I was expecting something substantial. Suddenly it felt that how can a marketing person say this as there are so many aspects to look at, besides making money. Thankfully someone from corporate office was able to help. She was also able to guide me on the core strategy.
Moving to Marketing Mix decisions, again I turned to our marketing department for an opinion and some of them could not understand what I was asking. They vaguely remember that they studied this is school and have long forgotten them. Everyone one was caught up with daily operations and chasing new business that they had forgotten the basics.

This led me to understand why we have some of the clients we have. Since we cater for the luxury market, it suddenly seemed that we are after every market that has a potential for revenue. We were slightly altering our prices to fit to the needs of the market rather that catering for the market that could afford us. Worse still in the current business situation where, every source of revenue is precious. Suddenly the well laid out marketing plan did not seem relevant as we are not following it. Went back to my marketing colleagues to ask if they felt the same way. Their answer being “ we have no choice”. Some felt that the plan for the coming year which is done at the end of the current year is just an exercise that is done to satisfy the requirements.

This is such a waste when looking at the textbook, where there is so much analysis into every aspect but in reality, people are not making it work. I feel that for organizations like mine, the yearly marketing plans must be fully flexible so that it can be altered and it should be shared company wide, reasons being that we as a organization would know the direction and those who come up with the plan will be more realistic.

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