The travel industry is very competitive, and is in a near-continuous state of launching strategic initiatives that are intended to change the market or competitive position:
the #1 reason for chartering a strategic initiative.
Many of these are bold endeavors to better serve a target market by making the experience more memorable, easy, or luxurious.
Here are three examples of strategic initiatives that drive growth and innovation:
1. Vancouver’s “US Direct” Strategic Initiative
To enhance the attractiveness of departing from Vancouver to cruise to Alaska, the Fraser Port Authority launched the “US Direct” strategic initiative. The program pre-identifies US citizens in arriving cruise ship passengers, whisks them through immigration and onto a bus, direct to their same-day departing Alaska cruise ship. Their luggage is delivered automatically from airplane to stateroom.
The initiative involved a number of stakeholders, including 6 major cruse ship lines, 8 major airlines, and US and Canadian customs. Leaders of strategic initiatives have to be skilled at spanning these boundaries.
2. Executive Lounges at Hilton Hotels
Executive Lounges are important to many hotel guests.
“For frequent fliers, the business lounge is much more than a posh breakfast diner—it is a travel destination in its own right. It combines a place to meet and mingle with like-minded guests, get connected and work, or simply dine, drink and relax. You are greeted by smiling concierges who can help arrange airport transfers, book flight and rail tickets, reserve dinner tables, and facilitate a stress-free check-in and checkout. The worldview outside, wherever you are, may change, but inside the lounge resides a globe-trotting camaraderie, a sense of belonging—topped off with exquisite service.
Hilton Hotels is currently undergoing a multi-year strategic initiative to develop its next generation of Hilton Executive Lounges. It involves extensive global research and feedback from HHonors members and frequent business travelers. Reports Hilton’s Dave Horton,
“We are exploring a range of exciting options to deliver a relevant, high-value Executive Lounge product.” These options include “the customizing of menus, services and other elements that respect the cultures of both the communities and individual guests we serve.”
In the travel industry, service designers and brand managers must strike the right balance between a consistent standard of service and the need to address the characteristics of the city where it is located.
3. Marriott Hotels Improves Brand Loyalty with Initiative to Change Bedding on 628,000 Beds in 10 Brands and 65 Countries
Fresh bedding and comfortable mattresses are a very high priority for business travellers, and Marriott launched a 2004-2006 initiative to spend $190 million on new bedding. The Marriott program involved 21 teams addressing the logistics of 2400 properties. The program team needed to provide a benefits proposition to stakeholders (e.g., franchisees) showing that this initiative would both improve consumer loyalty and reduce costs. Some of the interesting tools were:
- A monthly executive fact sheet that provided key stakeholders with specific information on the project status (number of hotels, obstacles, risks, upcoming milestones)
- Kicking off the initiative with a pajama party
- Developing a single source data base with all pertinent information on the project (for example, each Marriott property is different in details such as mattress height, thickness, and sheet size).
This initiative earned a nomination for PMI’s 2007 project of the year. Said Bob McCarthy, president of North American lodging operations,
“The program proved to be a masterful example of the best way to start, manage and implement a large-scale initiative.”
Leadership Lessons for Strategic Initiatives
Like strategic initiatives in other industries, strategic initiatives in the travel industry require program management disciplines with strong leadership. Here are five important tasks:
- Understand the “brand promise” – Travel companies have invested considerably in their brand, and it is a vital corporate asset. The brand is a promise to the customer about the kind of experience that they can expect, and it is important to leverage the brand as well as maintain the brand. At the same time, the program team needs to ….
- Understand the voice of the customer – Travelers have diverse needs, which can include luxury, convenience, and socializing. Of course, cost/price is a factor in designing the correct travel experience. Thus, the leader of strategic initiative in this industry has to carefully define the target market, and probe effectively for spoken and unspoken requirements. To do this, they need to…
- Effectively leverage business intelligence and analytics – In addition to market research, industry studies, and the like, companies are increasingly using social media to connect directly to their customers. The leader needs to be able to pick out the signals from the noise. This allows them to …..
- Establishing appropriate success metrics – A strategic initiative with a compelling vision is more likely to be successful. Metrics create insight and accountability. (And don’t forget about the importance of creating leading and lagging indicators.) Leaders use this vision and the metrics to….
- Drive effective and fast decisions – Fast and effective decisions lead to fast execution. Because of the competitiveness of the industry and because of the complexity of service delivery in a large organization, the leader and program team needs an effective set of decision-making tools to facilitate sound judgments about benefit-cost tradeoffs.
What other competencies are necessary for success?
- Strategic Initiative Case Study: Destination Disney (leadingstrategicinitiatives.wordpress.com)
- Growth as a Strategic Initiative (leadingstrategicinitiatives.wordpress.com)
- Vice President, Director, Manager of Strategic Initiatives: Position Description Best Practices (leadingstrategicinitiatives.wordpress.com)