Unlocking the power of strategic brand partnerships


The hospitality industry has undergone several seismic shifts in recent years. Yet despite the rise of personally owned vacation housing options, a global pandemic that shut down travel, and global economic turbulence, hotels are still attracting visitors. That’s reassuring, but it emphasizes the need for hotels to adopt competitive marketing strategies, including partnership marketing by way of brand collaborations.

How popular have hotels and travel become? Recent findings from data and market research company Savanta show that 68 per cent of people opt to stay in hotels when taking trips. And they’re taking a lot of trips. According to Skyscanner survey results published in The Toronto Star, more than one-quarter of consumers say they’re planning three or more getaways in 2024, up from just 17 per cent in 2023. In this dynamic environment, hotels that explore collaborative partnerships to broaden and customize their offerings are well-positioned to set themselves apart from the competition and nab larger amounts of market share.

Hotel and brand collaborations are especially common and popular among luxury hotels. Take the Hyatt-Fila collaboration that’s being unveiled this year in China. Named FILA HOUSE, the property delivers the Hyatt experience overlaid with Fila’s fashion-forward, athleisure touch. Visitors booking rooms there are getting the best of the worlds they appreciate—and that’s beneficial for both partners.

Another recent brand partnership was a bit more “surreal.” The St. Regis Toronto celebrated the return of Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) as an official hotel partner in 2022 by hosting an experiential “Daliland” film set exhibit on premises. The immersive activation saw The St. Regis Toronto’s hotel lobby transformed with a replica of the St. Regis suite used in the film, famously home to iconic surrealist artist, Salvador Dalí who lived there each winter for over 40 years at The St. Regis New York. The intention of the space, according to organizers, was to establish a relationship among guests, Salvador Dali himself, and cutting-edge AI technology to build an exciting and thought-provoking experience meant to spark creation, ideation, and conversation on the nature of Surrealism.

Not to mention bringing film festival visitors to the hotel through this unique and memorable brand partnership.

Without a doubt, the benefits of brand collaborations are extremely valuable. Innovative collaborations between hospitality brands like hotels and external partners from a variety of industries can significantly influence guest satisfaction and loyalty in several key ways.

First, they enable the hospitality brand to offer services that might have been hard to deliver or execute otherwise. For example, could The Standard Hotels have designed and manufactured a proprietary line of swimwear on its own? Perhaps, but it made more sense to join forces with Onia Swimwear and sell exclusive apparel in its hotel shops.

Secondly, brand partnerships foster the opportunity for increased guest personalization. It’s hardly a secret that personalization is a “must-do” for hospitality brands. Per McKinsey and Company’s research, 71 per cent of consumers expect brands to offer an individualized experience. Personalization can be made much simpler with a little assistance from an external partner, especially one who perhaps has more familiarity with technology. Taking advantage of personalization through technological solutions is key for the future of hotels.


How tech is affecting travel’s hottest brand collaborations

Thanks to AI and other technologies, hotels and brands can now predict and meet the changing needs of their guests with precision in real time. With this kind of technology, hotels can effectively tailor their services to each guest’s preferences, ultimately leading to higher satisfaction levels as guests feel respected and understood.

Of course, this puts a stressor on the brands involved in figuring out how to harness technology. One method is to utilize first-party data. By combining data insights, the brands can better see consumer behaviour patterns and explore emerging trends. Though this takes a great deal of trust (and ethical data privacy responsibility) between the brands, it allows them to remain at the forefront of serving exceptional experiences by combining insights.

For instance, a leading trend might not have made itself apparent within either brand’s market yet. Nevertheless, having an insider look derived from such sources as customer satisfaction (CSAT) survey scores, net-promoter survey (NPS) scores, repeat stay data, and online reviews can keep hotels from falling behind. It can also prepare them to uncover new trends specific to their market and take the first steps before their competitors do.

Selecting brands for collaborative ventures

Successful collaborations don’t just happen fortuitously, though. They happen when both brands are sincere and pragmatic from the get-go. Therefore, if you’re working on behalf of a hospitality industry entity like a hotel, you should be prepared to select potential “partner brands” carefully. In general, you’ll want to keep a few key criteria in mind.

  1. Practice authenticity: The masses—spurred by social media’s instantaneousness and ubiquitousness—are not afraid to call out what they see as phony or forced collaborations. To keep your brand reputation and sentiment high, only move ahead with partners who authentically align with your brand’s values, organizational mission, and target audiences.
  2. Perform in-depth quality checks and assessments: In the same vein, put all possible partners under a “quality” microscope. Does the brand’s image and industry presence maintain a minimum quality you approve of? Do the brand’s standards mirror your own? These considerations are very important to the public. If you’re a luxury hotel appealing to luxury travellers, you can’t afford to work with a brand that doesn’t have the same quality ethos. Additionally, check up on the financial viability and standing of any potential branding partner while you’re in the exploration phase. Confirm that a brand is capable of fulfilling its commitments if you work together and even have a contingency plan in case of an emergency. Nothing can tarnish a brand collaboration faster than if one party drops the ball.
  3. Look for partners who are wholeheartedly willing to collaborate: Seek an adaptable “we’re in this as a team” partner who wants to communicate and share with your brand. You shouldn’t have to feel like your collaboration is always an uphill battle. Instead, you want constant and compatible two-way communication to stay on top of industry opportunities, and someone who’s willing to adapt. Aim for a partner who not only complements your offerings but completes them.

Owning tomorrow’s travel trends for day trippers and jet setters

With the right brand relationship, anything is possible—including being at the forefront of the trends we’re seeing emerge in hospitality right now. Consider the adaptation of digital channels, for example. In response to the AI and social media boom, many people have increased their expectations of hotel and brand digital offerings. These trends allow you to show how in touch your brand is by providing digitally-forward branded amenities, like a mobile app for digital check-ins, an online platform for ordering at on-site restaurants, or a chatbot to assist with reservation FAQs.

Another trend is the desire for attention-grabbing experiences. To gain attention, you might want to consider partnering with unique, or even outlandish, brands that elicit a reaction. By delivering unexpected moments within your branded collab, such as partnering with an exclusive beverage brand and implementing a line of signature cocktails, you’ll give people a reason to talk about your hotel.

Hotels haven’t fallen out of fashion. On the contrary, they’re gaining momentum while moving into the second half of the decade. And those that launch, test, measure, and improve their branded partnerships will be poised to capture attention and build a cadre of fans.

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