The Blue Ocean Shift: Unique Strategies Presented at the 2019 Executive Vendor Summit

Think about the moment when you first enter your hotel room. Look around: Does the room tell you anything unique about the hotel where you are staying? Or is it all beige walls and double beds with white covers, and you have to walk back outside and look at the sign on the hotel’s facade to even remember where you are?

You can walk into many properties across the world and find that once you have crossed its lobby, traveled up its elevator and opened the door to your room (or even before then), everything is pretty much the same. There is not anything particularly distinctive or memorable about your experience.

The realities of today’s hospitality industry — intense competition, distinct segments, similar strategies and shared opportunities for technological growth — have made it essential for properties to rise above all of the noise and stand apart from its competition.

At the 15th annual Executive Vendor Summit, Michael Levie, CHTP, the COO of citizenM Hotels and HFTP Global board vice president, presented a thoughtful strategy coined the “Blue Ocean Shift,” which moves the organization from the standpoint of market competing to that of market creating. The event was held February 26 – March 1, 2019 in Austin, Texas and was hosted by Hospitality Upgrade in partnership with HFTP.

The concept is this: Differentiate your product and make your competition irrelevant. You can do this in many ways, and you do not need to expend a great deal of money to do so. First and foremost, it requires you to change perspective. Think of the way you have been doing business as a two-legged stool: You built your foundation on two legs, one being “content” and the other being “process,” but it is not sturdy. You need another leg: “context.” These three legs work together to create balance and keep the stool upright.

The context in which we look at things ultimately impacts our content and processes (it could completely change them), and can also be very important in understanding the competition. When you look at the following four words (car, train, boat, plane) and think of what they have in common, the first word that comes to mind will most likely be “transportation.” This word will not inspire much. But if you shift your thinking, another word to describe them all is “leisure,” which conjures a new context of experience. You need to have the right context in mind in order to properly inspire creativity.

In order to envision your context, you need to define your segment. If you are a hotel, to which category do you belong — luxury, mid-market, budget or hybrid? As an example, citizenM hotels combined mid-market efficiency and pricing with luxury touches, creating a hybrid experience of “affordable luxe.” This allows the hotel to reach multiple segments of consumers including today’s frequent traveler who often blurs business and leisure. (Which brings up another point: Catering to the masses does not work. Stephen Herfst is the one who said, “By being everything to everyone, you are nothing to anyone.”)

A look at the citizenM Times Square hotel in midtown Manhattan, NYC USA

Also, define your guest. Figuring out who they are and what they are like will help you figure out how to best appeal to them and determine which features are most important to them. It will also help when you define your brand.

Most importantly: FOCUS. Focus on what it is that will truly differentiate your product. Making sure you have all of the right assets and aesthetics in place will make up for any perceived shortcomings and will also help you stand out from the competition.

“The Executive Vendor Summit brought together a very special group of individuals, and it was a great pleasure presenting and interacting with them all,” said Levie of his experience. “Sharing knowledge is what it is all about.

“Reading Blue Ocean Shift provides great insight and steps to differentiate your product and make your competition irrelevant. CitizenM Hotels has enjoyed working with the Blue Ocean team for years and is honored and proud to be used as an example in the Blue Ocean Shift book.”

You can learn more about the five-step blue ocean shift process online.

The Executive Vendor Summit is an invitation-only event presented thoughtful discussion topics, quality speakers and an interactive networking environment for vendors. By taking the customer out of the event, attendees are able to form critical relationships with peers and focus on the industry’s successes, challenges and opportunities and how to provide better solutions.


Briana Gilmore is the HFTP Communications Coordinator.
Briana can be reached at Briana.Gilmore@hftp.org or +1 (512) 220-4017.

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About the Author: Briana Gilmore

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