May 2015: Within weeks of opening the third Protea Hotel Fire & Ice! in South Africa – this time in Menlyn, Pretoria – the Protea Hotel Group, which is now part of Marriott International, has been named the coolest hotel brand by the Sunday Times Generation Next 2015 Brand Survey Award.

It is the fifth year in a row this coveted award has gone to Protea Hotels, and the sixth time it has won the award since its inception.

Nicholas Barenblatt, Protea Hotels, Group Marketing Manager, says companies need to be reacting to the fundamental changes that the reach of technology is creating in the engagement patterns of the generation Y and Z segment.

“Not recognising what makes this market tick and not using the right channels to communicate with them on their own terms, will have a negative effect on one’s ability to attract, engage and convert them into customers and potential brand advocates. They are a generation that works and plays in the new media and social channels.”

“As a company we’re listening to them and adapting to their needs and expectations, because lagging behind the curve at this stage means you’re unlikely to ever catch up,” Barenblatt says.

Danny Bryer, Director of Sales, Marketing & Revenue, says, “Protea Hotel Fire & Ice!, our lifestyle brand is a prime example of our ‘coolness’, because it demonstrates that as a company we don’t take ourselves too seriously. It’s geared around meeting the needs of a millennial traveller and by doing so it shows that we are prepared to push the boundaries to create impactful experiences with customer involvement, which in turn leads to organic word of mouth.”

The annual youth survey, conducted by HDI Youth Marketeers, is closely watched by marketers. It is considered a strong gauge of how young people experience the brands they engage with, and what they expect of them.

“Protea Hotels is a brand that is progressive and confident, and it understands implicitly that technology, the internet and social media have all changed the way in which GUESTS interact with their loved ones, their friends and followers, and the world at large. We believe that that fundamental understanding of the modern GUEST’S needs is at the heart of our continued success and is the reason we keep garnering awards,” Bryer said.

However, service remains the brand’s core driver and it is this that Bryer believes brings GUESTS and visitors back time and again to experience the coolest hotel brand in South Africa.

While the hotel is frequented and loved by GUESTS of all ages, the brand is particularly supported by Generation Y and Z, with its clear social conscience. “This is because of an attitude of care that extends beyond STAFF’S care of GUESTS, towards a greater care for the environment and the social milieu in which the hotels operate. It’s really impossible to be considered the coolest anything by Gen Y if you operate without any regard for the world around you. Generation Y – just like Protea Hotels – is driven by a clear calling to have fun, but to do it with a conscience.”