Should luxury hotels ban ‘influencers’?

The Independent recently covered the fact that a Dublin luxury hotel banned influencers after a row with a UK based ‘influencer’. Definitely this type of ‘influencers’ should be banned!

A ‘media stay’ is a partnership / collaboration between a luxury hotel and a journalist whereas the hotel provides a complimentary stay of maximum 2 nights on a BB basis against guaranteed media exposure from the publication the journalist represents, be it a print magazine, a website or a social media channel. The reputation of the publication and number of previous reviews of properties of the same calibre the respective journalist has done are essential. Previous proven editorial coverage of the hotel / chain is also very much taken into consideration.

For instance, myself, I have never reviewed properties which I do not consider as being positioned luxury. For example, from the Hilton Group, I would only review Waldorf Astoria and Conrad branded hotels; from Marriott InternationalEDITION, The Ritz-Carlton, W Hotels, Bulgari, St Regis, Luxury Collection; AccorHotels Group – Sofitel, So Sofitel, Fairmont, Raffles, Swissotel; IHG GroupInterContinental, Kimpton

I also have luxury hotel chains which are a top priority  for CPP-LUXURY.COM. For example, we provide ongoing extensive coverage of hotels or chains that I would not necessarily review but it could also be the case of repeat reviews, which need to be motivated by novelties such a redesign, renovation, new Spa or dining menus, new Chefs etc. Priority luxury chains: Mandarin Oriental, Peninsula, Rosewood Hotels, Four Seasons, Dorchester Collection, Oetker Collection, The House Collective (Swire), Shangri-La, Kempinski, One&Only, Aman, Soneva, LUX Resorts, Cheval Blanc. 

Each luxury chain has very clear policies towards such ‘media stays’ but the most common decision maker is the Revenue Manager or the GM of the respective hotel. The decision is ultimately driven by the level of occupancy of the hotel during the requested dates and in many cases by the budget the hotel allocates to such media stays. The budget is not calculated as a lost occupancy but the cost price of the stay which includes the minimal costs such as housekeeping, electricity and breakfast.

As the journalist cements, in time, a solid relationship and builds trust with the luxury hotel chains and independent hotels, the ‘media stay’ might include additionally one meal (lunch or dinner), a Spa treatment and an airport transfer. Also, the exposure is expected to be more comprehensive. Very rarely, in case of new properties, hotel chains support also the cost of travel, however, in this case, the stay would be 3 nights and the exposure would include: a comprehensive review, an article by the Concierges of the hotel on the destination, an interview with the GM and an online banner. The interest of the hotel is to provide the journalist a 360 degree experience of the property and the interest of the journalist is to reflect most objectively on the quality of the respective hotel. Such reviews become a reliable source for potential luxury consumers.

While, formally, hotels do not expect an entirely positive review, the tone must be very balanced and the arguments need to be motivated by actual operational issues – for example, I would never comment negatively on design and aesthetics which are very much about personal taste, but I would be very attentive at service, condition of the room and the hotel overall, soundproofing, technology (AC, internet, TV), bathroom amenities, water pressure of the shower, quality of food, bed, location of the hotel etc. That is why, I always conduct an extensive research when I opt for a property on my travels to a particular destination, in such a way to avoid a predominantly negative review – for example, if the respective hotel has not been renovated in the past 7 to 10 years, I completely avoid it.

A ‘media stay’ is not a free vacation opportunity and staying at the hotel is not like Oprah wearing an Aquazzura pair of pumps to the bar of the Four Seasons George V, her favorite hotel in Paris.

Being able to review a hotel requires a deep understanding of the hospitality business (similarly to reviewing a watch or a car) – how a hotel operational structure works, the limitation of the offering of each hotel chain or independent hotel. Understanding the consumer profile of the hotel and their positioning in the respective market is a must. While The Peninsula may be among the top 3 luxury hotels in Hong Kong, The Peninsula in Beijing or Paris are hardly part of the top 5.

Showing a live video while having room service breakfast on Instagram or Facebook to millions of followers might sound impressive but it does not necessarily mean that the hotel has achieved its goal of targeting potential client. However, if Nicole Kidman, Cristiano Ronaldo or Kim Kardashian mentions in a simple photo on Instagram they are staying at a particular hotel (‘check in’), without even showing a glimpse of the hotel, that makes for a REAL influencer.

Oliver Petcu, CPP-LUXURY.COM

The Landmark Mandarin Oriental Hong Kong, Entertainment Suite