Branding Strategies within International Hotel Chains : A case study of Lithuanian Market
Abstract: Background: The hospitality industry, especially the hotel business, is a relatively new, and rapidly growing industry in Lithuania. The last two decades resulted in a significant expansion of the local hotel market, as well as of operations of international hotel chains. Thus, competition among actors in the industry, along with the companies’ need to differentiate their offerings from those of competitors, has risen. Branding strategies are increasingly used by companies for achieving better positioning on the market, as well as for gaining a competitive advantage and customers’ loyalty. Knowing that global brands play an important role for firms’ visibility on the market, it is important to recognize, and understand the factors influencing marketing management- and branding-related activities. To accomplish this, an in-depth understanding behind the structure and branding strategies of international hotel chains should be developed. Purpose: The purpose of this thesis is to understand the rationale behind the structure, and operations of international hotel operators in Lithuania, with a focus on the hotels’ branding strategies. Furthermore, the thesis aims to investigate how companies use their brand identity to position themselves in the market. Methodology: This thesis relies on a qualitative research, with a main focus on discovery, and aim to expand current knowledge in the field of hospitality management and branding within the Lithuanian hotel industry. The study consists of an in-depth case study of three international hotel chains operating in Lithuania. The empirical data was gathered from semi-structured, and e-mail interviews with the chosen hotels’ representatives, as well as from secondary data such as annual reports and official websites. Conclusion: Three key findings are presented in this thesis. First of all, the authors identify business travelers as the main target group of the selected international hotel operators in Vilnius. Secondly, the examined hotel operators are recognized to standardize their structure and operations, but at the same time to customize their marketing strategies to the local market. Finally, the findings indicate that some hotels completely incorporate the brand identity of the chain, which they belong to, while others develop their own brand identity, relying only partly on the identity of the chain. Contributions: This thesis positively contributes to the academic community, as it expands the theoretical knowledge about the Lithuanian hotels industry, with a main focus on the branding- and marketing activities of international hotel chains. The findings provide a practical insight on how companies are positioned in the market in relation to their competitors. Moreover, with an extensive choice of accommodation available in the market, the comparison of hotels is beneficial in helping customers choosing the best alternative according to their needs.
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