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  • Writer's pictureGerry

Should I stay or should I go........somewhere else?

Updated: Aug 2, 2019

I wrote recently about the battle or struggle for loyalty in airline carriers. After we landed at our recent destination I was faced with an equally competitive landscape and an approach I had assumed to have withered on the vine a long time ago.

I am talking about hotel/lodging loyalty and the battle for heads on pillows.

We were staying at the Nickelodeon resort in Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic. Our 6 year old was delighted with the choice. My wife and I however had a strange experience as part of this trip.

As part of the welcome process we were introduced to our ‘personal concierge’. Pretty awesome we thought. However it would seem that our concierge’s main purpose was to convince us to go to a breakfast presentation from Prestige Travel on their vacation investment opportunities.

I am not entirely sure why we went. Part curiosity (my wife is involved in the hotel business) and part empathy for our concierge, who made sure we knew how important this was to her.

We had breakfast with our representative which was a strange experience. He was a real gentleman. And he was sharp on all sales insights that would help him build out our ‘bespoke’ opportunity.

A couple of points of guidance from me to him tho:

- You should know your competition. Air BnB is absolutely a challenge to what you were selling. Know how it works.

- The main (I think) Nickelodeon character is in fact not called “BobSponge”

- A 50yr commitment may not be a lifetime but it’s pretty damn close.

- Your main meat supplier being from Canada may not be as impressive as you think.

Anyway like I said, it was palatable because he was a nice guy.

We then went onto the next phase of the process back at the computer screen. He presented the packages available. It’s an impressive package, no doubt. And the price per week dropped in at the end is unbeatable, or unbelievable depending on your cynicism levels. The key tho was the price of “membership” that unlocked these prices and access to these locations.

And this is where it went South in a hurry.

When Jen asked him the price of membership we were met with the answer “That is a great question. I need to bring my supervisor over to tell you that!” Our guy wasn’t authorized to tell us the price!

In addition, the package credentials and benefits were presented as slides on the screen. However the important details about our package and preferences and any prices that were shared were scratched out on a piece of paper!?!

So over comes our Supervisor. He latched on pretty quickly that we may not be “his people” so he decided to talk in hypothetical terms about what the price ‘could’ be. Of course the math made no sense and it was illustrative in the sense that it was clearly under the price that would be charged. This part ended pretty abruptly.

The third player was the Supervisor’s Supervisor sent in to ‘check his work’. I should point out that the neurosis on display ensuring we weren’t being pressured or didn’t feel pressured, was off the charts. The ‘work check’ session was in fact a last chance sale attempt. Of course it was! It was masqueraded as a “keep in touch” opportunity to bring us back at a later date. Some industry ruling standard was used as the reason behind this essentially 50%off offer.

We signed a document to confirm we hadn’t been pressured (pity there wasn’t one for ‘transparent interaction’) and we were free to go.

I write these posts, not to ‘out’ businesses. You are all free to check Trip Advisor and any other community or attend a meeting and conclude for yourself. However it begs a number of questions/points:

1. When choosing Love or Fear it is clear that Fear can win in the short term. I am sure many people parted with hard earned cash last week and whether they get value for money or not will rest with the individual. Based on Trip Advisor certainly many have been disappointed in year 2 or 3 of a 50 year deal. It’s unlikely it will get better.

2. When partnering with brands, you need to make sure they uphold the values and spirit of your brand. I am surprised Nickelodeon are supportive of this practice with this partner.

3. There is a love based model out there. Disney’s vacation club has way more transparency and public support from it’s users. Not to mention a superior experience. Where are you positioning your business? From an investment opportunity it isn’t in the same league. From a proposition point of view, assuming Beaches/Sandals was another model looked at, how did you decide on what to include and what to stop short on. Did you ask your consumers?

4. Pricing transparency. This cloak and dagger stuff leads me to conclude a couple of things:

- They clearly didn’t want the price written down anywhere ‘solid’. Does this mean it changes depending on my reported vacation spend or my watch brand or my CC status? For a fleeting moment they thought we had an Amex Black (we don’t) but it certainly seemed to excite our sales team.

- How do you expect me to evaluate a proposition without knowing the cost? I simply can’t. So they are clearly willing to head into a stress situation with their customer. You should question anybody’s motive when they are prepared to do that.

On the other end of the scale we have Air BnB partnering with RXR in NYC to convert commercial properties to “urban lodgings”. And as Alan Murray of Fortune reported in his article on 30th April, Marriott and their Bonvoy program are setting up a collision course with Air BNB by launching a luxury home rental site with 100 locations.

Like him I am not going to predict any outcome, but I am interested in the reasoning behind why each business is stretching its proposition into these territories.

Air BnB has well documented legal challenges in NYC. Taking this ‘hotel’ approach to urban lodgings will reopen this lucrative market to their users.

Presumably Marriott and specifically the Bonvoy program, have data and customer analysis that shows they can stretch their prime members pockets by offering beyond their current proposition. Or this model fits with a set of “who and why” questions. If that’s true, the bonus is that they get to test an AirBnB type proposition to see how it floats while better providing for their members. Smart.

Could be an interesting expansion on both sides and worlds apart from our Dominican experience.

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