Chiang Mai: Four Day Travel Guide

Independent vs. chains: why not the best of both worlds?

In a world dominated by big business, how can independent hotel groups and small brands compete with the world’s big chains? With Marriott now operating more than one million rooms worldwide and other giants not far behind, it’s easy to wonder what place a small independent hotel group could have in the modern world.

But "independent" doesn't have to mean "lonely". For small brands such as AKARYN Hotel Group, modern industry trends can allow them to punch well above their weight.

Diminutive in size AKARYN may be, with its handful of luxury hotels and three high-end brands, but their strong following and reputation with the millennial market allows them to compete with their large chain rivals.

Let’s not forget that millennial travellers are a group that values independence over all else. Consumer trends are moving towards authentic, localised experiences, in line with the Airbnb phenomenon. Almost 60% of millennials stay at independent hotels compared to 30% of baby boomers, and as Gen Y gradually replaces Gen X, independents and small brands will only grow in popularity.

Some would argue that the distribution reach and loyalty programs of large chains mean that independent hotels will never be able to truly compete. But this is no longer the case; technology is levelling the playing field, with OTAs providing global distribution and social media disrupting the traditional concept of loyalty.

Millennial guests are much more likely to be attracted by word-of-mouth recommendations and online influences, including travel review sites and social media.  Positive social media sharing creates an emotional connection with guests, so for smaller chains to compete, they only need to focus their marketing budget in the right way.

Online channels can allow small hotel brands to create a strong identity, and some tech-savvy brands are able to achieve repeat visitation of 30-60%. Add to this the reduced bureaucracy and overheads associated with small brands, plus the expanded scope for original design and creativity, and being independent starts to make a lot of sense.

Finally, with branded independent hotels now outperforming big chains in terms of rates, companies like AKARYN Hotel Group can not only compete with the industry’s giants – they can also win. It's the best of both worlds.