Samantha Williams, UK market owner for Profitroom, outlines 10 key strategies for hoteliers to improve and maximise revenue during the autumn and winter months.
Hotels have faced unparalleled trials and tribulations in the past few months and these issues look like they are set to be ongoing for the foreseeable future.
Traditionally, autumn and winter have been deemed the low season for hospitality businesses, but now, more than ever, hoteliers need to do what they can to maximise their revenues by encouraging guest engagement.
Of course, the fluctuations of demand depend very much on a hotel’s location. Coastal resorts that enjoy a boom during the summer months, will inevitably see a drop off as the weather changes. City centres, by contrast, have been suffering, with people avoiding public transport and many of the usual attractions off limits. Ordinarily, these hotels can hope for a boost in winter time as Christmas shopping and work parties bring in people in search of accommodation. This year though, things will be different. Online shopping, so popular during lockdown, will continue as the go-to method amidst ongoing uncertainty, while recent anti-COVID measures will postpone the Christmas party season.
Hoteliers based in all sorts of settings then need to do what they can to attract customers – by being creative and imaginative in how they project their messaging to their target audiences.
When we talk about projecting messaging, of course, the main tools for doing this centre on marketing. You need to market your brand and all it represents to make it more appealing than your competition, while at the same time working to cut through the fears that are currently affecting consumer confidence.
But how is this done? There are several tricks and techniques you can use to try and maximise revenues when demand is thin on the ground – be that due to seasonality or other issues.
Make it tailor-made
One thing that guests are placing more value on is a personalised experience. They want something that fits their needs and their interests. If you’re able to tailor packages to the individual then they’ll be more inclined to book with you. Make the most of your onsite amenities and help guests envisage the experience through storytelling and compelling copy.
The cliché of ‘a picture tells a thousand words’ is timeworn because it couldn’t be more true. And if that’s the case for a picture, what about video? Hoteliers benefit from having a highly presentable physical product – the hotel – so be sure to not just weave this in, but make it first and foremost by using imagery that accentuates its best points.
Highlight that cosy snug and warm fire in winter, and make sure your Christmas tree and decorations are prominently positioned. In short, make your hotel appeal for the time of year.
A good CRM
Key to reaching your audience is a marketing database that has all the relevant marketing consents and information about the customers. It makes the process of sales and marketing so much easier as it’s more than just a database; it’s a powerful revenue management tool that enables the creation of a uniform and consistent pricing strategy that you can specifically target.
We see time and time again that hotels who engage with their audience and existing customer base enjoy better return business. Whether that be through loyalty schemes, which can work wonders in fostering a bond that encourages people to come back, or by simply making audiences aware of the variety in your offering – and how great it is during autumn and winter.
If you’ve got an extensive database with the relevant marketing consents and GDPR compliance, then you have a wealth of opportunity on hand to encourage people to revisit, while being confident that they’re happy to hear about it.
Segmenting your marketing ensures the messaging is hitting the right spot. This can be done based on whatever characteristic is appropriate for your offer or package. If your target market is a romantic getaway for couples, then segment your database to only reach this audience. If it’s best suited to over 50s and retirees, then filter it accordingly. Likewise, a business audience. By segmenting your database, you’ll ensure you’re not spamming people with irrelevant packages or information – which should help to maintain their interest and ensure they don’t delete your correspondence out of hand.
One key thing to bear in mind is that your hotel target audience may evolve and develop over the course of the year due to the nature of seasonality, so be sure to regularly review this.
Another essential thing to consider is to not forget your domestic market – especially now given the ongoing travel restrictions. When looking to develop a marketing proposition, make it appeal to a home-grown or even local audience. In the current climate, they’re even more likely to engage and visit close-by establishments.
Early birds get the upgrade
As we move into autumn and winter, hotels need to revisit their existing offers and packages, revamping them to make them appropriately appealing for the season. Offer ‘book early’ promotions, with tailored copy and imagery that matches the time of year. Free upgrades, for instance, are a great way to tempt early bird bookers.
Since reopening post-lockdown, Profitroom’s data, compiled from more than 4,000 hotels around the world, has shown that it’s the more luxury, expensive rooms that have been selling out quickly. Guests have been willing to treat themselves and spend more to get extra space and added luxury, having been restricted in their movements for so long.
Now though, with it being several months since full lockdown, this trend isn’t so prominent, which means hotels can make more tempting propositions to prospective guests by offering room upgrades to those who book early.
Give your website the appropriate polish
It’s all well and good shouting about your offering to your database and beyond, but you need to make sure that when someone does express interest, what they see on your website matches your marketing material and is available to book online.
Your website is effectively the face of your business online – so it needs to match up with (and even surpass!) your physical offering.
Make your website mobile first – not just mobile optimised
It should go without saying that you need a mobile optimised website that works properly when browsing on a smartphone, but more than that, it should be mobile first. The days of browsing and booking on a desktop are numbered. You should be making your website work best on mobile, not merely make it functional.
Statistics suggest that, not only have 70 per cent of travellers research trips on their smartphone, but 70 per cent of all last-minute hotel bookings are made via mobile. That’s a huge proportion of the market, and one that’s only likely to increase as time goes on.
One way to make your website reach a seasonal audience is to create a specific landing page that highlights the qualities on offer at that time of year. Making it easily accessible allows browsers to appreciate the finer details having been led there via your various marketing channels.
Any landing page needs to be both compelling and actionable. Tailor your copy to ensure it relates and appeals to the guests you’re trying to target.
Retarget abandoned bookings
One startling statistic is that the abandonment rate for hotel bookings (taken from 2019) sits at an astonishing 84.63 per cent, which means only slightly more than 15 per cent, when looking at a booking, actually go through to confirm it.
Much of this can be attributed to guests entering the booking process to check both availability and price. This gives you the opportunity to create a hugely impactful retargeting campaign. If someone is intrigued enough to get into the booking engine before leaving, then there’s plenty of opportunity to tempt them back in.
Don’t neglect metasearch
One of the fastest growing advertising channels for hoteliers are metasearch engines. These work to aggregate information on price and availability, which makes them popular with consumers as it allows them to easily compare prices, conditions and the dates that work for them. The main examples of metasearch engines are Google Hotel Ads, TripAdvisor and Trivago, which do a great job of putting you in front of prospective guests. Metasearch can be an impactful tool supporting a direct booking strategy, by lowering online travel agency reliance and hefty commission fees.
Blog about it
The vast majority of us, when looking for a hotel stay, turn to Google. There are numerous tricks and tactics to help boost your ranking, but a key one is blogging. This provides relevant, interesting content for consumers – and the more up to date and fresh this is, the better in the eyes of Google. A search engine simply wants to produce the best result for those using it, and hotels can help by providing up to date blog content.
The beauty of a blog is that it’s self-published – so you can publish what you want, without worrying about having to conform with someone else’s standards. If you want to sing the praises of your hotel then your blog is the place to do it. Of course, it has to be relevant and appealing, so you do need to strike the right balance. But it’s an extra sales tool to help convince people your venue is the right one for them.
It’s not just your venue either. Create destination based blog content, which waxes lyrical about the wonderful things to do in the local area. If you’re rurally based and in reach of an arboretum, then talk about the beauty of the changing trees in autumn and how perfect autumnal walks are amongst the fallen leaves – before retiring to the warmth and relaxation of a crackling fire and comfy sofas.
Sell your location and position your hotel as the best place from which to enjoy it.
At the present time, it’s also imperative that you promote your COVID safety measures. With consumer confidence low, and people fearing the risks of infection, you need to project that you’re a safe venue and that you’re taking your responsibility to guests’ safety seriously.