Hotel Experts Say Internet, Economy Key

Hotel Experts Say Internet, Economy Key

Published: May 4, 2011 (Issue # 1654)

Efficient Internet marketing, highly qualified personal and an effective economy are the key factors for the successful development of the hotel industry, hotel experts said at the 39th general assembly of the European Hotel Managers Association (EHMA) in St. Petersburg last week.

The EHMA assembly, which gathered 450 of the most influential representatives of at least 350 leading European hotels from 28 European countries at the city’s Grand Hotel Europe, met to discuss the trends and problems of the hotel and tourism business in the post-crisis period.

Participants in the meeting, which was held in Russia for the first time, agreed that the Internet and social networks had become one of the major instruments for the world’s tourism and hotel business in recent years, and concluded that the future of tourism marketing belongs to new technologies.

“Surveys show that up to 80 percent of people look for information on the Internet when planning a trip. About 40 percent of people also gather tour information from their friends on Facebook or other social networks,” Sergei Korneyev, head of the Russian Tourism Industry Union, said at a press conference dedicated to the meeting.

“We can say that the Internet has completely changed tourism marketing, and we should do our best to use those tools for our work,” Korneyev said.

Pieter Bierwirth, President of the EHMA, also said that computers, the Internet and modern technologies embody a new stage in the hotel industry development, and compared them to the appearance of automobiles and planes.

In addition to Internet marketing, the other top priorities for the successful development of Russia and St. Petersburg’s tourism and hotel business in the post-crisis period will be high quality service, an effective economy and qualified personal, Korneyev said.

“These factors seem to be the most important ones, at least for the local hotel business today,” he said.

Korneyev said Russia’s hotel industry, which is undergoing a boom in the construction of new hotels, “needs to take care of providing more well-trained personnel for those new hotels.”

“In recent years, St. Petersburg, for instance, got many new hotels, new hotel chains; the competition grew. But we need to think about how to provide all those hotels with highly qualified staff,” he said.

Korneyev said the tourism industry was coming out of recession faster than many other fields, and had grown by 7 percent in 2010.

“However, in this situation our main task is not to give way on quality and economic effectiveness. We hope to learn a lot about those aspects from our international colleagues at the [EHMA] meeting,” he said.

Bierwirth said that although the hotel industry was highly dependent on the political and economic situation, and could not therefore solve every problem on its own, it still should be able to take certain effective anti-crisis measures.

In general, “the key to a hotel’s success includes three major components: The product, the price and good marketing,” Bierwirth said.

“Another important factor is getting the right people to work at the right place,” Bierwirth said.

Bierwirth said the global crisis had affected the hotel industry in different countries to varying extents.

“For instance, in countries and cities that offer both leisure and business tourism, hotels suffered less during the slump in the economy. At the same time, countries located a little outside the center of Europe, like Portugal, also suffered more,” Bierwirth said.

“In fact, there are good aspects in any crisis, because it makes you think how to improve,” he said.

Michel Fernet, first vice president of the EHMA, said hotels should always be ready to react quickly to any challenges.

“For instance, a key issue for many hotels in today’s restless times is security. When in India, there were bombings in hotels, they stationed more police there and tourists came back,” Fernet said.

Bierwirth said the EHMA delegation, which was meeting for the first time in a non-EU country, “was amazed to see the local development” of the hotel industry.

“Russia is obviously ready for a big leap forward,” Bierwirth said.

EHMA was founded in Rome in 1974 as a non-commercial association that unites professional managers of top-class hotels. Its members stated aim is to strive to improve the quality of service and to promote Europe as a tourism destination. The association includes eight Russian members.

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