Editor's Blog

Apples with apples

The race to undercut other venues in the competition to confirm business seems to be heating up, with Travelodge’s Tesco-style price checker (see news story) allowing it to prove it’s cheaper than its rival hotel chains.

So, like the regular supermarket price comparisons between Asda, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose and the like, Travelodge will be able to go head-to-head with the prices at the Marriott, Thistle, Premier Inn etc – and, according to their press release, allow Travelodge to immediately lower its prices should other hotel chains try to undercut them.

This is great if you want to know exactly what the cheapest option is and as prices come tumbling down, there will inevitably be some good deals when booking venues.

But, as with the supermarket price checker sites, it pays to remember that sometimes that you’re not checking apples against apples. You could be comparing a plastic bag of lunchbox fillers with some juicy organic, pesticide-free lovelies picked with care and transported in the most environmentally-friendly way possible. There’s a reason people still shop at Marks and Sparks rather than Tesco – and that can be tied into a whole lot of things including quality, perception, brand, service, loyalty and image - remember it’s not just food, it’s M&S food.

Travelodge’s admirably open admission that it claims to ‘invest’ £13m in price cuts in 2009 highlights just how competitive the market currently is and admirable also is its vow to highlight what it calls ‘rip-off pricing practices’ such as per person, per night rates and VAT exclusive prices.

Guy Parsons, managing director UK, Travelodge, is quite right, too, in saying: “Offering shower caps, trousers presses and fluffy bedspreads does not justify hiking prices beyond consumers’ reach. Customers must be able to access maximum value when they stay away in this country.”

I think value is the key factor to keep in mind here. Cost-cutting is great, but not if it comes at the expense of service or quality. The brands that can keep prices low and ensure quality standards remain high will be the ultimate winners. Nobody looking for cheap apples wants to find out they’ve bought a lemon.

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