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Sochi Hotels: The power of the brand

No occurrence is sole and solitary,

but is merely a repetition of a thing

which has happened before,

and perhaps often.

Mark Twain

Have you ever wondered when reading the latest news headlines how “old”, if not ancient, the stories are? One of the recurring headlines that accompanies almost every major international sporting event is the readiness of the host city. These stories would have you believe none of the hotels in the chosen city will be finished on time, and the visitors to the country in question should prepare themselves for two weeks of misery. The recent winter Olympics in Sochi were certainly no exception.

As the Games opened, the International Olympic Committee reported that of 24,000 hotel rooms “97% are without issue”.  Of course, I feel very sorry for anyone who ended up in the substandard 3% – and some of them have voiced their misery loudly on social media. The question is, however, if the next time they travel to an international sporting event – or indeed, on any international trip – will they employ the very simple rule of thumb to ensure a comfortable stay every time? Given that many of these voices are the same as we heard during the last World Cup – hosted by Ukraine and Poland – I doubt this will be the case. Nonetheless, this rule is ridiculously simple: book your hotel with a brand that you know and trust.

I am sorry if you were hoping for something more profound. It really is that easy. In every area of modern life, brands represent corporate reputation. And for consumers, corporate reputation provides quality assurance.  Why do people shop at Tesco, buy a Samsung TV or an Apple mobile phone?  In all cases, you could in theory save money by looking for an unbranded alternative. The reason people choose the brands is because they know ahead of time the quality they will get for their money.

It’s exactly the same with hotels.  If you are making a once-in-a-lifetime trip to the Olympics, or to the football World Cup, why would you risk ruining your stay by checking in to a hotel with no brand or reputation?  David Jenkins, of the Jones Lang Lasalle Hotels and Hospitality Group, asserted none of the reported problems in Sochi concerned hotels operated by the major global hotel brands. These hotels have too much to lose. Reputation takes years to build, and can be lost in an instant.  Their market value depends on protecting and growing the reputation of their brand.

This is something which is understood by the man who is at the top of the global hotel industry.  Richard Solomons runs IHG – the International Hotel Group – which boasts 161 million “guest nights” each year, in any of the 687,000 rooms spread over 4,600 hotels in nearly 100 countries and territories around the world.  Its brands include InterContinental through to Crown Plaza and the Holiday Inn. IHG recently released a report on how hotel brands can earn the trust of customers around the world. The number one conclusion was that hotel brands need to be consistent to be successful. For travellers, a global brand is an assurance of quality.

As you probably know VIY Management invests in various hotels in Russia and the CIS (including the newly opened Park Inn City Centre Sochi).  All have been created in partnership with established, trusted brands, including Radisson, Four Seasons and IHG (with whom we are currently opening multiple Holiday Inn Express hotels).  Our work gives both local and international travellers in Russia absolute confidence in the quality of their accommodation. This enables visitors to then concentrate on the real purpose of their trip – be that business, pleasure or a mixture of the two.

Is this a lesson that travellers should remember in the run up to the World Cup in Brazil later this year?  Of course it is. Savvy travellers will book with trusted hotel brands and have a fantastic time.  But mark my words.  There will still be plenty of “dodgy Rio hotel” stories plaguing the press ahead of kick off…