It was 20 years ago when Michael Palmer became a hotel owner, purchasing a Hilton hotel in Ventura County, Calif. It was his first foray into the hotel business. He’d gone through college planning on a different type of career, graduating and becoming a CPA. But then his career began to take a different path.
“We got into real estate, and from there into the hospitality industry,” he explains of his career’s beginnings.
Palmer made his entrance into hospitality, becoming director of The Beacon Hotel in Miami, Fla. Today, he owns parts of hotels and is involved with the management of those hotels. He says his experience in running hotels has helped him tremendously in his current business endeavor.
Today, he serves as CEO of K Hotels, an international sales and marketing representation company. The company is billed as the voice of knowledge for independently owned hotels of all shapes, sizes, personalities, and styles. “We work with boutique hotels, independent hotel, and niche hotels—hotels with great service and personalities. We provide marketing strategies for these hotels and help connect consumers with these hotels,” Palmer says.
K Hotels is made up of a select group of hotels, each unique and ready to meet the needs of all kinds of travelers. Its current portfolio includes over 50 three-, four- and five-star hotels throughout the world in many of the world’s most desired destinations.
“It’s an affiliation. Basically it’s a marketing and sales relationship with each one of them,” Palmer explains. “It’s customized to their needs.”
Palmer says that independent hotels and boutique hotels are usually at a disadvantage when it comes to getting their messages out to the public. “It’s like an analogy of a little bottle floating in the ocean with a message inside of it. Until it washes on shore and someone reads it, it isn’t discovered,” he says. “We want to help independent hotels get that message out. That’s what we help hotels to do.”
To that end, K Hotels focus on activities such as marketing strategies and social media strategies for today’s world of new and changing media channels. “It’s gone from the hotel industry not changing for centuries, but then years ago the global distribution systems came into effect and that’s how travel agents booked travel. Then along came the Internet. That is now the dominant force of booking travel,” Palmer says. “The bigger OTAs are so dominant on them. It’s good news and it’s bad news.
“We’ll design strategies that will scrape off some of that business,” he continues. “It’s not focused on the OTAs. There are a number of channels available like social media. We design programs where people are encouraged to go directly to the hotel.”
Palmer has been with K Hotels since 2007. He says that year was significant for him and his ideals abut the hotel business. “In 2007, I noticed that the global distribution systems were losing market share to the online travel agencies,” he says. “We had to fit our marketing strategy to take advantage of that, but there’s still the global distribution systems that are important to hotels and we wanted to work with that as well.”
Palmer says hotels’ websites and search-engine optimization strategies play an ever increasingly important role in the hotel industry. “Now, content is critical to all hotels’ websites and marketing channels, so we work with them on that,” he says. “Every channel needs a strategy.”
K Hotels has prospered in the last few years, Palmer says. Despite the hard hits the travel industry has taken from the lagging economy, the company has added independent and boutique properties to its membership, he says. And with each new hotel in its portfolio, Palmer and K Hotels continue to develop targeted strategies to today’s changing world.