How does Ralf Ohletz think social media has impacted Regent Hotels & Resorts?
It’s a work-in-progress, but social media is here to stay. It’s a really good tool for us to bring forward our product. Regent, at this point, is a virtually small company — it was never a large company. When it was taken over by Four Seasons in 1992, it had about 18 to 20 hotels. It was developing in very interesting parts of the world, which then opened as Four Seasons hotels. One example is Four Seasons Hotel New York, which started as a Regent. The other one is the Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet, which again started as a Regent. The Regent in Milan opened as Four Seasons Hotel Milano. The first all-villa resort in the world — to my knowledge — in Bali started as a Regent and opened as Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay. When most of the Regents became Four Seasons hotels, Four Seasons took them on quite willingly because both companies have a very similar outlook in many respects.
The Regent and Four Seasons philosophy matched and merged, so Regent just kind of disappeared. Twenty-five or 30 years later, we are quite different. We operate in different areas and with different needs, i.e., social media. Ultimately, Regent never approached this sort of “American” outlook where you have to advertise what you have. It was sort of word of mouth and being the best product in its location that made its product known.
When people have a great experience in a hotel, they go and tell their friends. This is a wonderful way of strengthening the product without advertising that we are the best. In advertising, everybody wants to show the best of what they have — they’ll always photograph the best room, the best view or the beautiful lady swimming in the pool — and when you get there, it’s not quite the same. We never embraced that view because we felt that we have to match people’s expectations. If you overadvertise or overexcite your product and someone goes there and it’s not what is already in his mind, then you have a problem.
Our view was always very different because when it’s the consumer who uses his social media to tell his friends, it’s a much more effective way than paying for it and taking a double-spread ad out.