Here in the north the days are warming up, travelers are planning their summer vacations, and accommodation providers are eagerly anticipating more guests. But along with higher occupancy comes more pressure and strain on property staff — the high season can be an exciting but stressful time! With increasing competition in the hotel industry, it’s more important than ever to handle operations skillfully and strategically during busy times to encourage travelers choose you.
Here are our tips for staying ahead of your competition this season.
Know Your Competition
You probably know who your competitors are, but are you familiar with their strategy? Having an idea of your opposition’s tactics is key to winning the game. Do a little digging to find out what your competition is offering customers and how they are offering it. Look them up on OTAs, visit their website, check them out on social media and read their online reviews to compare pricing, discover their USP (unique selling proposition) and learn what guests like (and don’t like) about them. This knowledge is useful for sharpening your own strategy and, by comparison, pinpointing areas where your property stands out.
Identify and Promote Your Strengths
While your property’s strengths are due to your property’s own merits, getting to know your competition can help shine further light on what differentiates your property from others. Enhance and promote those areas in which you do (or can do) better than the rest.
Identifying your USP (unique selling proposition) is not necessarily an easy task, especially in a crowded market. Your property’s own reviews are a good place to look for insight on why your customers choose your property and what they like about it — and also for highlighting areas that need improvement.
Whether it’s your outstanding customer service, location, interior design or unique local experience(s), make your USP the cornerstone of your marketing strategy. Promote it fiercely on your website, in OTA listings, on social media and in email and advertising campaigns.
Being the cheapest hotel in town isn’t going to win you customers. Attempting to beat the competition by simply undercutting their prices not only eats into your revenue but can actually undermine your property’s credibility. And while price is a significant motivator for most travelers, value for money is more important.
When it comes to comparing your rates with your competitors’ rates, also consider the value and experience your property offers relative to theirs. If your property is offering a superior experience — perhaps your rooms are nicer, you’re renowned for your onsite dining, or you provide more amenities — your price should be higher than nearby properties that offer less. Just make sure the value you offer is clear to customers.
Analyzing your data is key to successful pricing. Use your property’s occupancy and revenue data, as well as local market data (events, weather, economy, etc.), to help price rooms and optimize your distribution strategy. Implementing minimum and maximum length-of-stay restrictions can be effective for boosting RevPAR during peak times, depending on demand. Offering special packages is a great way to create high perceived value and stand out from your competitors.
As competition heats up, automated revenue management software is increasingly important to independent properties. Using powerful algorithms to forecast occupancy and optimize room rates, revenue management systems save lodging providers a lot of time and give properties a competitive advantage managing their rates.
Stand Out Online
It can be difficult to stand out in such a crowded place as the Internet, especially in the travel space.
As the most important piece of your digital marketing puzzle, it’s crucial to get your property’s website right. Your website must look great and be easy to use and navigate. High-quality images are key for painting an inviting (and accurate) picture of the experience your property offers, and go hand in hand with compelling and helpful written content about your property and location. Optimize your site for search engines and mobile devices (critical in our mobile-dependent world), and make sure you offer user-friendly (and mobile-friendly) direct online bookings. Read our recent post, Essential Elements of a Hotel Website for further tips.
Online travel agencies (OTAs) play a key role in expanding reach. While independent properties should always strive to increase direct bookings, studies show that more travel consumers currently use OTAs to shop for travel rather than supplier sites, so it’s essential to be visible on these channels too. Make sure your OTA listings are up to date and optimized with quality images, complete descriptions and amenity lists, and the right rates. Integrating your OTA channels with your property management system can give you an advantage over your competitors by automating (and therefore speeding up) rate and inventory updates across all channels.
Social media is another online space where most of your customers spend a great deal of time. According to recent research, 84 percent of millennial and 73 percent of non-millennial travelers are likely to make vacation plans inspired by someone else’s vacation pics and updates on social media. A great way for accommodation providers to stand out on social media is to encourage and share user-generated content. Read our Seven Smart Social Media Practices for Hotels for other effective strategies, including social media advertising (inexpensive, targeted and high-reach), posting videos, and adding a “book now” button to your property’s Facebook page.
You’ll want to make sure you are keeping on top of your property’s online reviews too. Reviews play a critical part in the average traveler’s decision-making process so be sure your property has plenty of good ones. The more positive reviews you have, the more likely customers will choose your property over the competition (and the better for SEO too).
Treat Every Guest like a VIP
If your property offers a consistently high level of customer service that exceeds guests’ expectations, word will get around, especially via social media and online reviews. Excellent customer service is born of genuine people who love what they do, supported by good training and the right tools.
An automated property management system (PMS) is an indispensable tool for managing daily operations and the guest experience. By streamlining and automating daily tasks, PMS greatly reduce the manual workload on staff, affording them more time to interact with guests — which, after all, is what hospitality is all about!
A modern PMS offers the ability to store rich guest profile data (and integrate with powerful CRM systems), facilitating the kind of personalized guest service that surprises and delights customers. Imagine being able to recognize repeat guests, surprise couples with a complementary bottle of wine on their anniversary, or swap the regular in-room welcome cookies for gluten-free ones for the arrival of an allergic guest. Imagine your customers’ satisfaction at being treated like valued guests (rather than just a reservation number).
From guest profile data to automated and customizable guest email communications to mobile (on-the-go) access, a cloud PMS equips properties with practical, relevant tools for upgrading the guest experience and for standing out in the market.
All the best for your busiest and most profitable summer yet!