Last June 30th, an electric Brazilian national team put on a masterful performance to defeat the reigning World Champions, Spain. While the Brazilian faithful had placed high hopes in a young team led by their magical, yet inexperienced star player Neymar, many soccer fans and experts remained hesitant to speak of a Renaissance of the Brazilian “joga bonito.”
In many ways, the mixed feeling of hope and skepticism towards the Brazilian soccer team echoes the travel industry’s attitude towards the impact the World Cup will have on the Brazilian tourism industry. While hopes are high and travelers will surely flock to the region for this once in a lifetime event, the reality is that Brazil still faces many obstacles in establishing itself as a global top destination beyond the 2014 World Cup.
In a recent article by Reuters, Brad Haynes outlines how dilapidated roads, barriers to foreign airlines, little to no knowledge of the English language amongst hotel staff, and a lingering stigma of Brazil’s crime and drug woes during the 1990s will substantially deter the nation’s potential tourist growth. In particular he notes:
“A foreign fan heading to a soccer match in Brazil next week may find one of the answers right away – at the hotel counter. Even in Recife’s more expensive hotels, introducing oneself in English can prompt blank stares and embarrassed grins. In one case, the concierge at a hotel – FIFA-certified accommodation for the World Cup – went silent after such an introduction.”
Haynes is correct in saying that a language barrier is a major deterrent to travelers. An important factor contributing to the success of top Mexican destinations like Los Cabos and Cancun has been the omnipresence of basic conversational English skills amongst hotel staff.
Language is only one of many elements that Brazilian hoteliers should address in preparation for the World Cup. In addition, Brazilian hoteliers must strive to deliver outstanding guest satisfaction, execute sound pricing strategies, promote their destination’s local attractions and implement systems to gather feedback from the massive influx of arriving travelers.
Optimizing RevPar with a long term perspective:
Consumers understand supply and demand. They know that occupancy will be up during the World Cup, and hence prices are going to be higher than normal. But, they can also sniff when a rate is ridiculously overpriced. A key factor for consumers in determining whether a hotel is unreasonably overpriced is its review rating. So, if a hotel is dramatically more expensive than its competitors but has a lower review rating, consumers will know that the price is out of whack. Many revenue managers are now looking at where their hotels rank against their comp set when determining their price to ensure it’s inline with expectations. (Learn more about The Changing Face of Revenue Management)
In addition, a recent study by the Cornell University School of Hospitality Research about the relationship between star rating and ADR found that a one-point increase in star rating on a five-point scale allows hoteliers to raise their prices by approximately 11.2% without adversely affecting the probability a consumer will book a room. Therefore, hotels that rate higher should be more confident raising prices.
Moreover, it is crucial to remember that if hoteliers focus on the short-term benefits, over-price their rooms and create false expectations for travelers that they can not meet, the negative effects can be far reaching. For example, hoteliers in South Africa that overpriced their rooms during the World Cup found that they had discouraged many tourists that used to think of South Africa as a more affordable holiday destination.
Mobile Local Information Guide:
While tourism boards and regional associations will be working together to deliver key local information to tourists, hotels should lead the way and become their guests’ most trusted information resource. Given the language barrier that muddles the communication of basic information, Brazilian hoteliers should seek innovative ways to assure they can communicate helpful information to their guests.
The Brazilian government has already contracted 3rd party providers to provide 4G service in World Cup host cities; if these providers can deliver a reliable mobile network, hotels should make sure to offer mobile-friendly sites that are rich with helpful information in multiple languages. Not only should your mobile-friendly sites offer basic information like getting from the hotel to the stadium, they should also serve up general tourist information. To ensure a seamless mobile experience, hoteliers should consider working with companies with mobile expertise in the region like buuteeq.
Most tourists will likely take a day or two off from seeing games and for their “off-soccer” days, hotels should showcase local places of interests, from beautiful natural locations to the best restaurants in town. If travelers are only entertained by the games, then they will not be as motivated to return during their future vacations – they need to love the destination independent of the World Cup.
Generating Reviews and Learning from Them
The massive influx of travelers will provide hoteliers with a great opportunity to improve hotel operations by really listening to guest feedback. It is important for Brazilian hoteliers to solicit reviews for a number of reasons. More reviews will not only provide more data points to understand and improve their operations, they will help improve their TripAdvisor popularity index, a critical factor for consumers when making booking decisions.
To improve review frequency, hoteliers can leave notecards in guest rooms encouraging guests to leave a review on TripAdvisor or display a sign at the front desk encouraging reviewers to find their hotel on TripAdvisor. Hoteliers can also include links in post-stay emails, email signatures and surveys, etc.
With 93% of online travel consumers attesting that online reviews have an impact on their booking decisions, managing online reputation and responding to online reviews will be critical to driving new sales after World Cup traffic dies down.
More than just responding to reviews, Brazilians hoteliers should embrace proactive reputation management. Forward thinking hotels and leading brands like Hilton, Wyndham and Hyatt use sophisticated SaaS online reputation management software solutions, like Revinate, to aggregate, analyze and respond to all their guest feedback across multiple review sites and social media channels.
Brazil will have a one of a kind home field advantage to unleash its full potential. But, home-field advantage and potential are not guarantees for success. Just like the national soccer squad played with a point to prove, Brazilian hoteliers must demonstrate they can overcome their obstacles by executing an intelligent game plan and adopting modern hospitality solutions in order drive sustainable tourism growth beyond 2014.