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Global Lodging Forum 2014: What is the role of innovation in brand differentiation?

Hotel innovation has been at the core of discussions at the Global Lodging Forum, particularly during the first panel on Tuesday, March 18, entitled "What is the role of innovation in brand differentiation?".

Bernard BASTIDE Marketing Manager Building Automation System, Legrand :

As a supplier of electrical and digital installations, we have accompanied actors in the hotel industry for over 50 years and observe how the industry has changed. Today the new trends are for better consumption, new media and new technologies. An important part of our job is to advise professionals and we often recommend that they simplify their request. While today's technology makes it possible to do many things, it is necessary to avoid inventing a product that is unlivable for customers and try to stick to basic, simple and explicit solutions. Moreover, products are quickly outmoded and their durability is and issue that needs to be considered.

Christoph HOFFMANN, President & CEO, 25 Hours Hotel Germany :

The foundation of the brand 25 Hours Hotel is as follows: if you know one you know none. It is by definition the opposite of hotel chains that offer standardized products. We are seeking creative people who are able to imagine something special. As far as the financing of our development is concerned, it was not easy at the beginning and banks did not understand the concept of our product. We created a floor plan of our first hotel, because investors wanted to be sure that the building could be used by another company in case the project failed. As far as our growth is concerned, we need to remain prudent and control our development so that the product remains special.

Geoffray MAUGIN, VP Marketing & Digital, Sofitel Worldwide :

We recently undertook the repositioning of Sofitel's international supply, by shifting from a network of 206 hotels to a supply of 120 properties worldwide. It is a real strategy that we implemented through two brand labels: Sofitel Legend for hotels that perpetuate tradition and excellence, and Sofitel So to show that we are also a dynamic brand that is able to innovate. The latter were created to meet the needs of generation Y. The innovation is above all the contribution of artists whom we are working with that transcend the codes of traditional hotels.

Marco FANTON, Global Social Media Director, Melià Hotels International :

We recently opened the Twitter Hotel, whose experience is entirely based on the social network: customers connect via their Twitter profile and may thus communicate with the property's other customers and personnel. To launch the concept, we did not prepare an ad campaign but we did prefer to train personnel to make this project a success. Today people travel with a new kind of baggage: their personal accounts on social networks. In terms of strategy on this type of media, I think Twitter is not ideal for communicating about brands the way Facebook is; it is a more personal network. The question remains to find how to generate revenue from this experience.

Olivier HARNISCH, Executive Vice President & Chief Operating Officer, Carlson Rezidor/Rezidor Hotel Group

Innovation is an integral part of our DNA and we take it into consideration each time we develop a hotel. When the subject of innovation comes up, inventions and technology come to mind. Nonetheless innovation is not necessarily an invention and is not necessarily related to technology. It could even be a small change in serving method that is not easily copied. While expectations in terms of innovation have increased in recent years, we may nonetheless make the difference in another way by doing an excellent job in our hotels. We recently launched the brand Radisson Red to meet the needs of a growing customer segment whose purchasing power grows each year: generation Y. the brand is thus more focused on new technologies.

Serge TRIGANO, Co-Founder, Mama Shelter :

The hotel industry is a business in which it is necessary to always question ourself. When we decided to launch the Mama Shelter concept, we found ourselves faced with refusals from banks to give us a loan. Today, one of my greatest satisfactions is to see these same banks return to us as partners in our future developments, such as the Mama Shelter that we will soon open in Los Angeles. I think that what makes Mama Shelter strong is first and foremost the quality of the men and women who work there to create our success. In the development of our concept, we constantly try to make the make how we communicate and talk evolve.
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