Travel talks: Emma Fraser, Hotel marketing head

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Group director of marketing at TFE Hotels Emma Fraser grew up wanting to be an international lawyer or an air stewardess. She reckons she's ended up somewhere in the middle, with plenty of travel. She studied international hotel management at Middlesex University and afterwards went overseas on what she thought would be a three-month holiday. She ended up working in hotels in Australia and Dubai and Singapore for the past 15 years. Her company, TFE, has hotels around the world including in New Zealand.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business at the moment?

"The war for talent remains a constant challenge. It's a continual problem in hospitality because most people see it as transient and we have really focused on that area to make sure we grow talent and retain it. Hotels constantly have to refresh themselves in an increasingly competitive industry."

How will the fall in the kiwi dollar against our main tourism partners affect your operation?

"It's going to help.

That drop in the dollar is going to drive tourism. The US is coming back which is great - we can see that particularly in Rendezvous Auckland. The lower New Zealand dollar can only assist in the Australian market where over the past two months New Zealand has become 12 per cent cheaper."

What initiatives do you have under way this year?

"TFE hotels is growing and is moving its Adina Apartment brand into Auckland. Travelodge is evolving from 'Great value rest assured' to a promise of giving guests more of what they want and less of what they don't want. We're very focused on guests connecting to the neighbourhood - where's the best place to eat, see and play? We track what a guest's purchasing history has been, this is behavioural targeting and we use technology and social media reviews, such as on Trip Advisor. All our hotel managers monitor Trip Advisor. At the end of the day people don't choose a four star or a five star hotel, they're choosing it based on recommendations."

Is the industry in good shape?

"From a forward booking perspective the coming season looks strong, even though we do not have any large events immediately on the horizon to drive demand. Leisure is strong, and so is the meetings business, there's not a lot of additional inventory coming on so it's good for incumbent operators."

How is your business affected by new technology/digital disrupters?

"Disrupters is a very strong word, they're enablers, technology will always evolve, and opportunity to use new technology and new channels. We will continue to drive TFEhotels.com as our primary channel for bookings and conversion, however, there is always an opportunity to use new technology and channels as part of any marketing mix. While some in the hospitality industry view online travel agents as disrupters, we like to look at them as a distribution partner and an enabler to our distribution mix, balancing the value that they provide. OTA services are part of the landscape now so it's important to recognise opportunities where they exist and to remain agile, to ensure we keep up with the shifting landscape."

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