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How to Boost Hotel Holiday Bookings During a Pandemic

COVID Christmas At Hotels

The holidays are coming! While travel is not yet at near-normal levels, there are many reasons and occasions people will choose to stay at hotels throughout the winter season, from visiting loved ones and wanting a change in scenery to celebrating traditions and creating new ones. Now is the time to consider and amplify all the merry-and-bright offerings your hotel can provide to bring a special twinkle to this time of year. Fortunately, making magic happen may not be as hard as you think; keep reading for ideas on how to generate demand and increase your bookings for Christmastime and all winter long.

Help Guests Rest Assured

First and foremost, assure your guests that you are following all safety regulations for a healthy hotel stay. Remember, guests’ hotel expectations have changed due to the pandemic and it’s important you uphold them for visitor satisfaction and positive reviews. Use social media, email marketing, DMOs, and your website to put visitors at ease as well as to provide that human touch in a touch-free world. Positively communicating the ways your property is reducing physical contact and enhancing safety (for example, self-check-ins, opt-in housekeeping, mobile messaging, smart room amenities, etc.) removes a big fear barrier for guests and gets them one step closer to enjoying a stay at your hotel.

Flexible Booking Options

>>Cancellation Policies: Another way to put guests at ease is to implement flexible cancelation policies, if you haven’t already, and make this information readily available on your website. Guests may need to cancel travel plans for many reasons such as illness, changing regulations, and contact tracing. Help your guests make plans by letting them know they have an ‘out’ for their vacation if their circumstances change at short notice.

>>Encourage Multi-Day Stays with Value Adds: Does your hotel require a minimum length of stay? Consider dropping this if you’re having difficulties filling up rooms, and instead incentivize guests to book for longer with discounted nights for multi-day stays or value-added packages.

Create a Winter Wonderland

Capture the spirit of the season with décor, inside and outside of your hotel. It’s not really enough to put a Christmas tree in your lobby, although that’s a great start. Think about your decorations as a marketing initiative that will bring social media eyes to your hotel when people share pics from your property.

Make your décor so lovely that your hotel is a talking point and a destination in its own right! And if you get creative, you can save on expenses while providing a community activity. Use your property for:

  • A Christmas tree decorating competition in your hotel lobby or outside property (entrants supply their own decor).
  • Gingerbread House competition: finished pieces can be displayed in a meeting room or your lobby.
  • Create an outdoor winter wonderland with trees (potted trees work great if you don’t have a forest on your doorstep), lights, inflatables, and the like for visitors to meander through while enjoying a hot drink.
  • Invite a local volunteer choir to come sing (outside) as part of another event or on their own. Maybe a caroling competition could be fun?
  • A Christmas Grotto and Santa Village will bring families to visit in droves. Adopt a creative way for kids to talk to Santa in a socially distanced way that’s also a lot of fun, such as a sanitized walkie-talkie or simply from a safe distance over an ice wall.
  • Incorporate fire bowls and camp chairs for small groups for roasting marshmallows and sipping hot chocolate.

For these initiatives, reassure your visitors that protocols are in place as outlined by local regulations (such as masks and capacity limitations). Booking time slots for visits can help manage numbers. If made available to the public, consider charging a nominal entry/participation fee while making it free for guests as a value add.

Since this is a marketing opportunity, be sure to incorporate a hashtag and promote the activity on your social media channels.

Home for the Holidays

Use staycation packages to bring locals to your hotel who perhaps can’t travel for the holidays but still want to make things special. Consider stay-and-play packages that incorporate local activities, as well as unique add-on offerings, such as:

  • in-room Christmas cookie decorating
  • in-room Christmas tree (pre-decorated or provide decorations for the guest to decorate it themselves)
  • in-room holiday movie packages complete with popcorn and a la carte treats brought to the room
  • letter-to-Santa writing supplies (with a next day response slipped under the door)
  • a call from Santa on Christmas Eve

Stay-and-play packages are popular with locals and out-of-towners, providing convenience for guests while boosting your revenue. Partner with local attractions (from ski hills to escape rooms) depending on your unique type of guest.

Eco-Friendly Options

According to Booking.com’s 2021 Sustainable Travel Report, 72% of travelers are looking for sustainable holiday options. How is this holiday related? Depending on your region, there could be a large demand for eco-friendly winter holidays that does away with the waste so often associated with Christmas. Promote your hotel’s position as an experiential treat that can be chosen instead of material gifts. 

Or, despite all the holiday decorating ideas listed above, your hotel could offer a more serene and minimalist stay without the excess of the season. Consider incorporating experiential packages that support local businesses (such as a culinary tour) or explore the great outdoors.

Tis the Season for Food and Beverage

The food and beverage industry has made pivoting look like an art form over the last year or so. And unfortunately, it will be hard to predict if in-person dining will be possible during December for your particular region. However, certainly your guests will need to eat and room service will be much appreciated and utilized. How can you amp up this opportunity? If you don’t have food service at your hotel, this is an opportunity to support a local restaurant in a greater capacity than Uber Eats can provide in a way that benefits guests, too. Consider special set in-room meals with an option for TV trays or card tables for a more comfortable (and portable) meal. 

Of course, highlighting F&B is all the better if you do have your own restaurant. If you have the capacity, holiday takeaway meals were extremely popular last year. Consider incorporating a non-traditional à la carte menu or set holiday menus for two, four, etc. For guests dining on-site, don’t forget the holiday cocktails! Fancy alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks help guests get in the spirit and do a lot to boost the bill. If you’ve incorporated SMS messaging for guest communication, this is the perfect opportunity to check in on your in-room diners in an unobtrusive way to ask “how is your meal, do you need anything, can we bring you another cocktail, would you like dessert?”

It’s the Small Things

Surprise and delight your guests with tiny, unexpected touches that will get talked about. Maybe it’s peppermint-scented hand sanitizer, Christmas cookie turn-down service, or a welcome letter from Santa. Invite your staff to brainstorm and we bet you’ll end up with some amazing ideas while inspiring some Christmas spirit, too.

A Word About Holiday Marketing for Your Hotel

“If you build it, they will come” may work for baseball diamonds but not for hotels. You have to get the word out. 

>>Create Digital Demand: Leverage social media, digital marketing, and email marketing to direct visitors to your hotel’s holiday landing page. With assistance from your web designer, a landing page can incorporate all of your holiday-specific initiatives in one place and makes it easy for guests to find what you’re offering.

>>Guest Segmentation: There are many reasons why people will travel during the holidays but the question to ask is why are your guests traveling. Your customers are based on your offerings, and vice versa. If you have segmented your previous guests, you’ll have an even deeper understanding of what makes your hotel unique and how you can appear to specific guests. Then, market your unique offerings to those specific interest groups. For example, if you’re located near a ski resort and have the email addresses of guests who have visited for that purpose, you’ll be able to send them a specialized offer, whether that’s a stay-and-play package or an après-ski value add.

The hospitality industry should be considered an essential service—not in the emergency sense, but in the sense of boosting and restoring our lagging spirits during these difficult days. Creative holiday hotel initiatives can spark the joy we’re all looking for right now. Hoteliers, we thank you for your hard work, your endless pivots, and all that you do to keep us merry and bright, not just at Christmas but all the year through, too!