Taking on the Giants
One Costa Rican hotel owner had enough of the costly intermediaries he thought necessary to fill his hotel and responded by successfully building a non-profit Costa Rican hotel association over the last six years – The Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica.
Eric Robinson, owner of the Adventure Inn Hotel, near the San Jose International Airport states, “I had had enough depending on the Global Distribution System hierarchy (GDS), that is, Travelocity, Expedia, Orbitz and Hotels.com to send me guests, and when they do, they want a 25 to 30% commission or more, eating up most of the profits. It’s hard to win.”
In 2005, Robinson was able to garner a group of 22 hotel owners and persuade them to refer guests to each other. “When guests check out and are going to other parts of Costa Rica, they are eager for hotel information. I thought what a lost opportunity, and Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica (AHCR) was formed. Things were a bit slow until member hotels started realizing it really does work, and we haven’t looked back.”
Not counting the 10% discount guests receive when they mention AHCR at booking, another special ingredient that the Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica offers to potential guests that the GDS is unable to do, is the ability to talk directly with the hotel, make special requests for an ocean front room, or flowers and a bottle of champagne waiting in their room, or even negotiate a lower price for multi-night stays or groups.
Eric proudly relates, “The success of AHCR got out and in 2008, our membership drive produced 71 member hotels, and again reservations kept rolling in to our hotel owners. Then, by the end of 2010, after the third membership drive, the AHCR has 89 two, three and four star owner-operated hotels strategically located throughout Costa Rica, with no big hotels, no chain hotels, with each hotel taking on the personality of the owner.”
But referring guests to each other was just the start. In 2005, Eric designed and printed 10,000 colorful glossy road maps which located and described each member hotel. In 2008 he made 25,000, and with his third drive, he had printed 41,000 large, attractive, easy to use road maps that are a “real hit” with all the guests. Each hotel is also given 400 maps to freely distribute to departing guests, plus many maps are given to select car rental agencies in Costa Rica for their clients to use.
To ensure the quality of the hotels, Eric personally inspects each hotel property for cleanliness, eco-responsibility and that “owner’s touch”, requiring him put 2,800 kilometers on his car every membership drive while navigating around Costa Rica. “I often go in the wet season when business is slow, and the roads are a definite challenge. I’ve forded rivers so deep, if I hadn’t had the windows rolled up, I would have gotten soaked! All part of the challenge of building on a plan.”
“The hotel membership fees for a full two years of hotel to hotel referrals, to be listed on the AHCR web site, and to be located and described in 41,000 road maps is a paltry $300, which can be made back with one or two reservations,” says Mr. Robinson. “We’re a non-profit hotel promotion organization, and our powerful website, that interlinks between all members, helps us compete with the search engine ratings and exposure factors of the big, international hotel chain web sites. As a whole, we’re just more visible, more competitive.”
The next membership drive begins in mid 2012. “Each year I keep getting more and more requests to become a member, but I don’t think I want to expand much beyond where we are now with 89 members.”
The world isn’t stopping for anyone and the big Global Distribution System players had better start sharpening their pencils, or competition from groups like the Adventure Hotels of Costa Rica will soon be cutting deeper into the territory of the “Giants”.Explore posts in the same categories: Business, Discount Travel, Ecology, Ecotourism, Hotels, Travel