In this age of heightened competition, there are many instances of almost brutal contests for customer acquisition, around the world. While New York and London’s shopping districts are prime examples of such an environment, the hospitality industry in the UAE is one big battleground.

And not just any, but according to a recent report from Cushman & Wakefield, Dubai alone is listed as one of the top 25 regions globally for hotel investment. It seems as if the whopping $3.9 billion invested between 2011 and 2012 into this sector didn’t suffice, and there’s room for even more!

However, in a market where the top hospitality brands of the world compete to acquire a well-informed and tasteful consumer, the essence of success lies in establishing long-term brand equity. When tourists think ‘UAE’, they should also think ‘that hotel’ simultaneously. To attain that level of brand equity, CRM plays a great role.

Rapid ‘Climb’ to Success for UAE Hospitality, Literally

It seems fitting to say that when they do something in the UAE, they do keep in mind the world at large. A lot of countries have skyscrapers, but the world’s tallest, Burj Khalifa, stands in the UAE. Another jewel in this crown has become the presence of the JW Marriott Hotel Marques, the world’s tallest hotel. The climb to the top of the 1600-room hotel is symbolic of Dubai’s rapid climb to tourism stardom.

According to figures released by the Department of Tourism for last year, the number of rooms available in Dubai equaled 53,000, with an impressive 74% occupancy rate. Come 2012, the capital of Abu Dhabi witnessed growth of 28% during January of this year alone.

Part of the reason why the hospitality sector has grown so significantly is because of the promotion of the airline industry by the government. Etihad Airlines, the national carrier, has largely vested interests by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi. Consequently, it becomes easier for creating tourism packages that bridge together ‘affordable’ and ‘attractive’ for tourists. An example was services launched by Etihad into the China market during early 2012, which helped boost the arrival of Chinese guests to more than 4,400 by the first quarter of this year.

Putting Dimensions of CRM Into Perspective

The clarity of competition exists for the UAE market, consequently, the application of customer relationship management strategies should be proportionate. Leading hotel brands such as Hilton, Four Seasons, Marriott, Hyatt etc., who also have luxurious presences in the Emirates, bring their global CRM strategies to the UAE to attain leadership status in the market.

On top of CRM strategies is hotel loyalty programs. According to Kent Cooper, VP of Middle East & Africa Sales for global brand Fairmont Hotels, “Our loyalty program, the Fairmont President’s Club (FPC), is more than a set of benefits and offerings; it is the way we do business and how we treat our most important customers. It is an extension of the brand’s message and voice and how we earn the loyalty of our guests – indeed it is an integral part of our marketing and guest satisfaction efforts.” (Hotelier Middle East) The statement reflects how well Fairmont’s brand definition strategy integrates with their approach to customer relations.

Secondly, technology plays a great role in hotel CRM strategy process. Hilton’s overall CRM strategy is called, ‘Customers Really Matter’, and a key part of that framework is OnQ, an IT centerpiece. Through OnQ, Hilton employees have insight into what customers really want, hence, in essence, the technology is not just there to effectively manage hotel operations, but also to help employees understand their customers better.

Also, Four Seasons is keen on using technology for effective CRM. Finding out that 78% of their most wealthy clients were hooked on to social media (mostly Twitter), Four Seasons has a penchant to make sure that the online interaction is focused upon as much as the hotel counter interaction.

In short, defining a hotel’s long-term brand depends on CRM choices and approaches they will take in the short-term to win customer trust and loyalty.