Summer is synonymous with vacations, road trips and travel. Because of this, the season has also become the cornerstone of the tourism industry.
Many properties rely on the revenue they generate in the summer to carry them through the colder, quieter months ahead. Because of this dynamic, the pressure of carrying the fiscal year on the shoulders of the summer season can be immense.
Whether you’re managing a small 5 room bed and breakfast or overseeing a massive resort with hundreds of rooms, an empty room means lost revenue. Given the increasing popularity of the sharing economy, more folks are turning to apps like Airbnb to find affordable accommodation. This increased competition has been great for bargain-hunting consumers, but hoteliers are feeling the pinch. If your hotel books are looking a little empty for the season, it’s time to try a new approach. Anyone curious about how to improve hotel business should give the following tips a try:
1. Reward Loyalty
Loyalty programs are nothing new. Credit card companies, restaurants, and even your local hairdresser have programs designed to reward repeat customers. Start by rewarding past guests for their previous stays. Send out initial emails informing folks of your new program and invite them to sign up. In exchange for registering, guests will expect some kind of initial reward. Whether you’re willing to offer a free drink at the hotel bar or a discounted rate for their next stay, it’s easy to entice folks back to your property.
Once you’ve kicked off your rewards program, nurture it for the long haul. Make it easy for guests to earn points and even easier to spend them. Consider how long it might take the average traveler to earn enough points for a free stay. To maintain loyalty and interest in your program and hotel, offer rewards like room upgrades, room service credit and late check-out times. Throw in little perks like drink vouchers and free movie rentals, and you’ll have guests clamoring to come back.
2. Plan Around Local Events
Just like movie studios plan their budgets around their summer blockbuster releases, it makes sense to plan your hotel marketing around local events. Start by compiling a list of upcoming festivals, celebrations and milestones in your area. Perhaps there’s a food and wine festival on the horizon, or maybe your city is celebrating its bicentennial with a parade and concert series. Whatever is on the calendar, approach organizers to become the official event hotel. This may cost you upfront, but having your logo affiliated with the organization behind such events can garner major exposure.
Increase the value of these kinds of partnerships by offering incentives for folks attending the event. Consider offering a complimentary shuttle bus to the event, or give out vouchers for discounted Lyft or Uber rides to and from the hotel. This kind of amenity is incredibly valuable to guests and can be the deciding factor when they choose between two similar properties.
3. Partner with Influencers
Hotel marketing has changed dramatically since the invention of Instagram. No longer reliant upon print campaigns and commercials, hotels must turn to travel bloggers and style influencers to get their properties the attention they need. The good news? You can often reach a wide audience for little more than a free night or two for the influencer.
Invite a blogger to stay on site and give them one of your most picturesque suites. In many cases, you’ll be able to dictate the kind of photos that end up on their blogs. This allows you to create advertising campaigns that feel incredibly natural – like a friend is recommending your hotel. Pair this strategy with the referral program we discuss in number five, and you’ll be booked up in no time.
4. Swap Discounts for Freebies
People love free stuff. It’s what brings shoppers out to grocery stores for samples around lunch time and entices folks to sip on endless refills at their favorite restaurants. The word free, however, can make many a hotelier clutch their pearls. While discounts are common in the industry, outright freebies are harder to come by. When you’ve got empty hotel rooms to book, that has to change.
Compare, for instance, a sale that discounts rooms at 25 percent off versus a buy four nights, get one free promotion. While the 25 percent discount might be easier for a hotel to shoulder, the free night’s stay will likely be more enticing to folks who are price shopping. If you’re not willing to offer entire nights free, consider partnering with local restaurants and theaters to offer guests free meals and tickets.
5. Incentivize Referrals
When guests stay at an Airbnb and refer a friend to the app, they’re offered $75 in credit towards their next stay. While loyalty programs seek to accomplish a similar goal, they rarely benefit the consumer this directly. Take a page from your competitor’s book and offer a “share the love” style deal for guests. Send promo codes out to previous guests for the specific range of dates you’re looking to fill and ask them to share with friends. When a friend books using their promo code, reward the original guest with credit towards their next stay with you.
When creating such a program, be sure to use blackout dates to direct reservations to your slowest periods. This word of mouth marketing can be incredibly effective. Consider ramping up your specials before beginning this program to maximize the impact of the strategy.
There’s no one size fits all solution to filling empty hotel rooms. Since each market has its own challenges, it’s up to individual managers to determine which strategy will work best for their property. Still, with a little trial and error and a willingness to take a risk, your hotel books will fill up in no time. And once they do, you’ll be busier than ever, which is when our specialized hospitality answering service comes in to assist. We handle your phones, help book rooms, and answer caller questions while you focus on guests in-person to maximize their experience and keep them coming back for more.