Keep yourself fully occupied!
What do you hate most? Online travel agent commissions? Tourist Board subscription fees? Tripadvisor reviews? Competitors’ prices? Assessment grading costs?
Pick up most brochures listing places to stay and you’ll see page after page of pictures of bedrooms and bland external shots. Facilities described as features are endlessly repeated in ad after ad with little differentiation beyond the size of and rates charged by establishments. Marketing tactics are highly variable from the centralised branded activity of major hotel chains to small ads placed by local guest houses. Turn on a smart phone and you’ll find the most successful operators using dedicated, booking enabled mobile sites to showcase and drive direct sales of their available rooms.
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Promotion and booking has moved online and many accommodation providers are feeling the heat from high commission charging online travel agents and hostile customer reviews. Grumblings about the cost of tourist board/DMOs (destination management organisation) subscriptions and advertisements have increased at the same time as their role as room sales intermediary has been taken over by the online travel agents. Competition from home stay specialists such as Airbnb and Housetrip is increasing as homeowners are increasingly tempted to monetise their private propertise.
What makes you so special?
Large companies restlessly seek to identify greater shareholder value providing customers with a constantly shifting selection of hotels, brands, names and experiences. Independents without a clearly defined and unique offer run the risk of being squeezed between luxury and budget brands or fail to adapt to higher customer expectations. Knowing how to market your business properly has never been more vital. So, if you’re responsible for attracting more guests and increasing revenue, you’ll need access to effective promotional tools and resources.
Top ten must-do’s when marketing accommodation
• Identify customers who are most likely to deliver your revenue and profit needs and find out what they want
• Decide what kind of realistic market positioning you have and offer outstanding value in that category
• Build a strong brand identity and be consistent with your service delivery and promotional messages
• Promote the experience and benefits you offer, don’t just list standard features and facilities
•Target those customers that best match your offer, category or niche
•Develop a plan to increase the percentage of direct and contracted sales over OTA, GDS and third party channels
•Focus on customer retention through direct communications, loyalty schemes, upgrades and utilise social media
•Make sure you create and execute a timed, costed and measurable annual local sales & marketing plan
• Develop content for mobile devices and adapt and extend for web and print, not the other way round
• Establish revenue per available room and customer satisfaction as key performance indicators
• Stay in control of dynamic booking, don’t let it control you, offering added benefits in place of rate cuts
Ten top tips for promoting room sales
• Provide real time online availability and instant booking on your own website as a minimum
• Run press advertisements to promote last minute availability ONLY
• Improve SEO by updating your web and mobile sites with fresh relevant content on at least a daily basis
• Create new content using the (free) Google Keywords facility to improve your website’s SEO
• Network hard at chamber of commerce and business breakfast meetings giving regular presentations and fam visits
• Programme sales visits to and from domestic and inbound tour operators, conference organisers and ground handlers
• Demand exclusive discounts from your most popular local attractions and package up to attract more leisure stays
• Work to become the preferred partner for all your local non-residential conference venues
• Join forces with other local hotels and venues to achieve the critical mass to attract and service larger event business
• Set key performance indicators for the speed of response to, and conversion of, non-automated enquiries
GDS: global distribution systems
OTA: online travel agents
SEO: search engine optimisation