The distribution game GOING INDEPENDENT

Horseshoe Bay Resort’s

Horseshoe Bay Resort’s recent transition to an independent forced the property to rethink its distribution strategy.Pictured: Horseshoe Bay Resort’s recent transition to an independent forced the property to rethink its distribution strategy.

Whether a hotel is making the jump from a brand to an independent property or opening as a new independent, managing distribution can pose a major challenge.

“It was a very big transition period from what we were accustomed to,” said Bryan Woodward, CMO of Horseshoe Bay Resort, a Texas property that finished transitioning from a Marriott flag to an independent in December 2013. “We really had to reinvent the wheel about how we do business.”

Going independent meant Horseshoe Bay needed to renegotiate with all of its distribution partners, which had previously been through Marriott, as well as set up the property’s own call center. “We decided to go with NAVIS for our call center, which has been great—we get about 70 percent of our sales through phone and about 30 percent online, and I think that has to do with how complicated a property we are,” Woodward said.

At the same time, going independent allows Horseshoe Bay to define its distribution strategy more freely. “If we decide that we want to spend a certain amount of money marketing on Expedia, for instance, we can,” said Woodward.

“You have to go back and build relationships and make sure the key players understand what the resort offers and how to promote it,” said Bill Winzer, director of revenue management at Horseshoe Bay.

➔ 30 percent

Percentage of bookings made via online for Horseshoe Bay Resort.

Source: Bryan Woodward, CMO of Horseshoe Bay Resort

Another key aspect of managing the transition is controlling the perception of the decision to go independent. “We communicated to our customers why this is going to happen and what the benefit is going to be, because everyone had questions,” said Woodward.

“When you take off the flag, often it’s a negative connotation,” said Winzer. “You need to treat the transition like a brand-new opening to make sure your message gets out there.”

As an independent hotel goes about setting its distribution strategy, it’s important to make sure that the property is maintaining a central point of distribution for the various channels available, said Michelle Woodley, Preferred Hotel Group’s SVP of distribution and revenue management.

“Trying to manage multiple channels through multiple systems is very difficult,” said Woodley. “It allows you to maintain some level of rate parity.”