6 Tips for Maximizing Occupancy

Occupancy is the name of the game in the hotel business. You need to fill rooms in order to be successful. But how exactly do you get more heads in beds? If a property is hoping to increase occupancy, typically the first instinct is to lower rates. But slashing prices cuts into your bottom line and could end up costing you more than any additional reservations provide. And it can undermine your credibility—making guests see your property as less valuable because your prices are telling them that it is. Luckily there’s a lot you can do to win bookings and improve your occupancy rates that won’t sacrifice revenue or reputation. Read on for six tips you can use to maximize occupancy:

Target the right market

This is pretty obvious advice but finding your market and targeting it is the most essential step for making bookings. Creating generalized marketing material that applies to everyone just isn’t going to fill rooms efficiently. So, consider your property culture, analyze the historical data, and find the demographic that your property is particularly suited for. Then make marketing decisions accordingly. A targeted effort will yield far better results than a haphazard one.

Offer something special

Instead of cutting rates to incentivize guests to book, add value to the offer instead. This can be anything from special packages and promotions to simple policy changes that add convenience. Late checkout, free WiFi, or a complimentary breakfast are easy additions that mean a lot to your guests and make you stand out from the competition.

Promote your location

Use your website, social media accounts, and blog to hype your locality. Creating content that highlights the things to do and see in your region will help inspire people to make the trip. You’ll be seen as experts with strong local connections and they’ll remember your property when they go to book accommodation.

Take advantage of local events

Whether it’s concerts, festivals, conferences or even a marathon happening nearby, events in your community are great opportunities to win new bookings. You just have to take advantage of them. Post about the events on your website and social media pages so guests who are interested find your hotel on internet searches. And consider offering special packages or promotions for attendees. A ‘Marathoner’s Package’ could include a discounted massage at your on-site spa or guests with a ‘Festival Package’ could have access to a free shuttle to the venue. And if possible, collaborate with the hosts of the event so you can be listed on their marketing collateral.

Collaborate with locals

It’s more than just local events that have the potential to attract guests to your property. Partnerships with local people and businesses can be a considerable advantage as well. Real estate agents can score you some long-term guests (from a few weeks to a few months), and cross promotions with local restaurants and attractions can bring more awareness to your business.

Be inclusive

You can win a lot of guests by making your property as inclusive as possible. This can mean having things like high-chairs available for traveling families, wheelchair-friendly units, and pet-friendly policies. It can also mean allowing guests to host private events on-site. Anything that makes your hotel welcoming for all guests will work in your favor. It’ll widen your pool of potential customers and earn the loyalty of the ones who choose to stay.

 

The hospitality business is a competitive one. In the pursuit of winning bookings over competitors or securing high occupancy rates, hoteliers can be tempted to start cutting prices. But there are better strategies out there. Follow these six tips to fill rooms without reducing rates.

 

BYOD: A Hospitality Trend Worth the Buzz

People are very dependent on their phones and tablets—especially when they travel. In fact, a recent study found that mobile devices are considered the “single most indispensable item” by travelers. That puts them ahead of essentials like a driver’s license and toothbrush. With people that attached to their smartphones, it’s no surprise that the BYOD trend is gaining steam in the hospitality industry.

What is BYOD?

BYOD—or ‘bring your own device”— refers to the practice of having employees (or, in this case, customers) access applications with their personal devices (instead of using company-owned ones). It’s a trend that makes sense. Virtually everyone is already carrying a powerful phone or tablet around with them. And it’s a device they have experience on and feel comfortable with. So why not let them use it and save on hardware costs?

How can BYOD be used in hospitality?

BYOD policies have been adopted in many industries to great effect. And hospitality is no exception. There are many ways a BYOD-friendly environment can benefit lodging operators (and their guests).

In-room applications >> Many lodging operators have equipped their hotels with in-room tablets. These devices act as control centers, with applications for lighting and climate control, ordering room-service, and making requests and reservations. They’re a great addition to any room, but all those tablets add up. If you adopt a BYOD system, your guests get the convenience of centralized control without the cost (not to mention the ongoing maintenance) of expensive hardware for you.

Streaming >> Whether it’s Netflix, YouTube, Spotify or any of the many other options out there, most people use at least one streaming service. And these types of platforms are only going to get more popular. Creating a BYOD environment means guests can access the content they know and love while staying at your property. And it’s a great opportunity to upsell. 60% of respondents in a survey said they would pay between $3.99 and $6.99 for the ability to stream personal content.

Keyless entry >> Another hospitality trend enabled by BYOD policies? Mobile keys. A simple app allows guests to unlock their door with their smartphones. Not only is this more convenient for them, but it also saves you—and the environment—the cost of printing all those plastic keys (Did you know a 200-room property goes through roughly 12 000 per year?).

Mobile check-in >> Becoming more mobile-friendly is all about making your guests’ stay more convenient. And providing the opportunity for mobile check-in does just that. It’s a chance for customers to skip the queue and they welcome it with open arms.

Things to consider

We’ve talked a lot about the benefits of a BYOD hotel, but there are a few things you should consider when jumping on the bandwagon.

Infrastructure >> Setting up a BYOD-friendly property does involve some initial investment. If you want to offer personal streaming in your rooms, you’ll need TV’s with streaming capability (think smart TVs, Chromecast, or Apple TVs). Keyless entry requires compatible door locks. And climate control applications have to be paired with smart lights and appliances.

Bandwidth >> Another concern with a BYOD environment is bandwidth. Relying on guests’ personal devices means free WiFi is a must, and that could put a strain on your internet service. That being said, WiFi is so important to guest satisfaction these days, that you’ll probably need to invest in as much bandwidth as you can get regardless.

 

The ubiquity of smartphones and other mobile devices has changed the hospitality industry in many ways, especially when it comes to consumer expectations. Personalization is the name of the game and creating a BYOD environment is a great step in that direction.

 

Four Considerations for a Seamless Check-In Experience

As tech solutions have transitioned to cloud-based systems, the concept of the hotel lobby has suddenly become amenable to a complete restructuring. Without a reliance on bulky legacy systems, front-desk staff are no longer tethered to the front desk. Equipped with a tablet, they can move freely around the lobby to engage with guests in a more personable and authentic way. It’s a freedom that has resulted in a new, living-room-inspired trend for hotel lobbies. And it’s a hit with guests—who get to ditch the line and enjoy a cup of tea or coffee on the couch as they’re being checked in.

For properties using cloud-based technology, empowering front-desk staff with tablets should be taken into consideration. And once you’ve made the change (or if you already have), here are four features and products to make check-in even more seamless for guests and staff alike.

A wireless EMV card reader

Most hotels have already made or will soon be making the switch to an EMV card reader. As the standard in credit card security, these terminals are becoming a must-have. There are many options out there, but not all of them are created equal. When looking for an EMV reader for your property consider opting for a wireless version. There’s no reason to tie your staff down with wired terminals when you’ve just liberated them with tablets. A wireless card reader can be carried around by front-desk staff so guests can remain comfortably seated during the entire check-in process.

Electronic signature capture

Creating an efficient check-in experience is all about simplicity. And a PMS with electronic signature capturing technology makes signing receipts and registration cards as simple as possible. Guests are able to sign on the tablet screen, allowing staff to ditch the paper and pens altogether. In addition to making check-in faster and cheaper (no printing or paper costs), electronic signature capture is an environmentally friendly alternative sure to improve your property’s ecological impact.

Keycard interface

Typically, front-desk staff must manually enter information into a keycard writer in order to program a key at check-in. For hotels transitioning away from a traditional front-desk, this can be a bit of a hassle (as staff certainly won’t be carrying card writers around with them). But it’s a hassle easily alleviated with an interface between your keycard writer and your PMS. As you’re checking the guest in, the PMS will send all the necessary information directly to the keycard writer. When the check-in process is completed, the staff member can simply retrieve the card and deliver it to the guest—no manual entry required.

Document scanner

Filling out guest profiles can be a bit of pain. Of course, if the booking is made online, guest information will have already been input. However, when hotels get a walk-in, they need to enter the customer’s name, address, and other information. It’s a time-consuming process susceptible to manual errors. With a document scanner, like the one from TTI Technologies, front-desk staff (and guests) are spared this inconvenience. The customer simply provides a piece of identification (driver’s license or passport), and the scanner will use it to auto-fill their guest profile.

 

Checking-in is the first in-person experience a guest has at your property. You should be doing everything you can to make it a good first impression. With new cloud-based technologies and mobile devices, hoteliers are better equipped than ever to provide a quick and easy check-in for their guests. So make sure you’re using all the tools at your disposal!

 

Be a Star Online: A 5 Step Guide to Reputation Management

Building a good reputation has always been important for business. Like almost everything else, the internet hasn’t changed that fact; it’s just adjusted how the game is played. Consumers are more empowered to voice their opinion than ever before, and they use it. Depending on how you respond to and manage the online dialogue surrounding your property, the ubiquity of reviews can be a powerful asset or an overwhelming obstacle for your business.  Because the truth is, your online reputation directly affects bookings in a significant way. In fact, a study from Boston University and Microsoft concluded that a 1-star increase online can boost demand by 26%. That’s no small effect. And not at all surprising considering 92% of people use reviews to inform booking decisions when researching hotels.

The things guests are saying about you online matter in a big way. If dealt with correctly, you can not only mitigate the potential damage of reviews but actually make them work for you. Here are five steps for managing your reputation online.

Step 1: Monitor online content

If you want to deal with your online reputation, you need to know what people are saying about you. To this end, you should be regularly monitoring the reviews (and other content) that are being posted across the web. The internet is a big place, so this probably sounds daunting.  But, thankfully, there a number of tech options out there to bear the bulk of that burden. Setting up a simple Google Alert (for free!) can send you updates whenever posts are made, anywhere on the web, using the term of your choosing (your hotel’s name is a good place to start). You can also choose to partner with providers like Hootsuite or Revinate. These solutions automatically monitor multiple platforms, aggregating and organizing review data so you can analyze and act upon it.

Step 2: Respond appropriately

Now that you have your finger on the pulse of your online mentions, the next step is to respond. Obviously, you shouldn’t reply to every single review, but it’s a good idea to offer a few kind words for the occasional positive review (think “we’re so glad you enjoyed your stay!”) and then prioritize the negative ones. And don’t be hostile or defensive. Express your sincere apologies for their unsatisfactory experience and offer an opportunity for further communication to address their concerns. Remain professional, and you have the power to seriously mitigate the fall-out from a bad review.  87%  of users on TripAdvisor indicated that an appropriate response to a negative review improves their opinion of the business.

Step 3: Leverage good reviews

As previously mentioned, the growing trend of guests sharing their opinions online can be a huge benefit to your business. The experiences of customers are much more trusted than traditional advertising material, making glowing reviews marketing gold. So use them! Whether you choose to include testimonials on your webpage or make a point of liking, sharing, and retweeting positive mentions, make sure you’re not missing out on the potential of quality user-generated content.

Step 4: Learn from bad reviews

You work hard to give your customers the best possible experience, so it definitely hurts to get a bad review. But if you choose to look ‘em in the eye and learn from it, they can make your business stronger. Of course, some guest complaints are isolated incidents (or totally unreasonable) and, in that case, you can politely apologize and move on. But other negative reviews can alert you to real weaknesses that would be wise to address. So keep tabs on the nature of your negative reviews. Are there any illuminating patterns? Once you’ve highlighted areas for improvement, take action. Your business will be the better for it.

Step 5: Encourage feedback

The final step to building a strong reputation online is to generate more content. The more reviews published online, the more legitimate and trustworthy your business appears (assuming you’re responding appropriately). So do what you can to encourage guests to post about their time at your property. This can be done in a number of ways, but you should certainly be inviting feedback in your post-stay emails.

 

A good reputation is critical to the success of any business. And in this day and age, the majority of that battle is being fought online. Follow these five steps to keep gaining ground. Good luck!

 

From Outrageous to Outstanding: 5 Imaginative Hotel Marketing Approaches to Get the Creative Juices Flowing

Knowing your clientele and building value-added packages are both good pieces of marketing advice. However, recognizing what to do is quite different than seeing how to do it. Guests seek originality; hoteliers seek inspiration. How does one achieve that indefinable connection to a potential guest? We can’t claim to offer an easy answer to that question (if we could, we would have sold it to Madison Avenue long ago), but because much of North America and Europe is gearing up for the summer tourist season, and many hoteliers have marketing campaigns on their minds, we thought we’d have a little fun and look for inspiration in five examples of inventive hotel marketing. Outrageous or outstanding? You decide.

Love-Love atop the Burj al Arab

A tennis match between Andre Agassi and Roger Federer (arguably two of the biggest stars in men’s tennis of the last three decades) is bound to draw attention. Set that match 692 feet in the air on the helipad of the Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai and you have a marketer’s dream. Even the best of poets could not prepare your mind for the imagery of the stunning aerial view of the circular helipad turned grass court perched near the top of the famous Dubai landmark. While not outwardly boasted as such, the larger than life match simultaneously promoted the hotel (one that already sells itself as the most luxurious hotel in the world) and the Dubai Duty Free Men’s Open (not to mention the tennis stars themselves). This was not the first or last time that the hotel invited the big names in sport to perform on their helipad. In 2004 golfer Tiger Woods teed off and in 2013 racer David Courthard spun donuts in his Formula One car. While the latter is often touted as the most exhilarating stunt atop the helipad; for us, nothing quite captures the imagination or stops one’s breath like the image of the agile players moving freely about at those heights without the security of a safety net or even a railing. But perhaps you don’t reach the height of success in sport or hoteliering without a little risk. (For those who are interested, the game was a friendly match. The score wasn’t tallied, officially).

No “no room at the inn” at Travelodge

This promotion does not soar to the same heights (literally or metaphorically), but it does cross the ages. In 2007, Travelodge in the UK attempted to right a historical wrong by ensuring that Mary and Joseph would not hear the infamous words “no room at the inn.” Over the twelve days of Christmas (Christmas Eve to January 5), Travelodge invited couples named Mary and Joseph to spend one free night enjoying the amenities the original couple were made to do without. While the eligible participants were a narrow group (although thirty couples took advantage of the offer the first year), the originality and playfulness attracted international media attention and delighted even those who could not partake. They managed to tap into the right market at the right time. The promotion proved so popular that Travelodge brought it back for six years.

Marriott’s Pops Up at Coachella

Every hotel desires to draw clientele to their doors, but that format seemed too rigid for Marriott International. So, they brought their hotel to their loyal customers. At the 2017 Coachella Music Festival in California, eight safari tents were set up to resemble – in beauty and comfort – a room from their boutique hotel, Moxy, which launched in New York’s Times Square later that year. Anyone who has attended an extended music festival (with all the tents and porta potties that accompany that experience) can fantasize about the clean, white, lush comfort offered by Marriott. Lucky loyalty member recipients glamped out in a private space that included luxury beds, furniture, air conditioning, and private bathrooms. The effort was enough to win Marriott international attention and the “Most Original Campaign” prize from LE Miami. Marriott returned to Coachella in April 2018 to up the stakes, providing a luxury yurt experience to more loyalty members.

Warner Leisure Hotels Serves Up Anti-AGin

What if you could take the hotel experience away with you not just in the ephemeral way through memory, but in a physical way? Warner Leisure Hotels attempted to offer just this when they commissioned Bompas & Parr to create Anti-AGin, a gin distilled with skin enhancing properties, including digestible collagen and anti-aging botanicals. The science behind the gin’s claim that ingesting collagen will reduce the appearance of age is still one for which further study is needed. But the story’s good. Reduce the signs of aging while sipping on a gin & tonic? Yes, please.

Let Archer Hotel Tell you a Tale

Storytelling is part of the travel experience. Real and imagined, during and afterwards, we construct stories to enhance the romance of our travel experiences. Archer Hotel, across the street from the Empire State Building in New York, has taken that idea step further. As Fodor’s Travel explains, “Guests are led to believe that the hotel and their experience there have been curated by the worldly gentleman named Archer.” Archer is the one who stocks rooms with items that guests might fancy: chocolates, champagne, salted caramel, a particular brand of sparkling water. He writes welcome and thank you notes. During turndown service, he’s been known to place a book a guest may like onto the bedside table. Even before the doors opened in 2014, as Skift explains, Archer was seen on social media “living large in Paris one week, then drinking craft beer in Williamsburg the next.” Archer became the fictional embodiment of the experience of the Archer Hotel. No guest is under the delusion that Archer exists, but with his globetrotter mystique, impeccable taste, and attention to guests’ individual needs, they’re more than willing to indulge in the fantasy.

 

Some of these examples are explicit publicity stunts aimed (and successful) at garnering media attention. Others are longer term experiential marketing strategies aimed at selling an ideal lifestyle. All of them would have started in someone’s mind through contemplating questions like: How do we use our hotel’s resources to the fullest? How do we creatively collaborate with our community? How do we share our hotel’s experience through marketing? It’s your turn now. How can you inject a little of the outrageous into your marketing strategies?

 

Location First Marketing: A Hotelier’s Guide

It used to be that location was the most important factor for a business’ exposure (and therefore success). Whether it was a hotel or a boutique, being visible was necessary for winning customers. Then the internet happened. Suddenly, people could find what they were looking for online, and everyone became a potential customer, regardless of location. But things have changed once again. With the advent of mobile devices (and the ever-increasing frequency with which they’re being used), location is once again playing a major role in marketing—only this time around, it’s the customer’s location that matters most.

What is location-first marketing?

Location-first marketing is when a business uses a customers’ physical location to target them with relevant content. There are a number of different strategies for taking a location-first approach—all made possible by the ubiquity of GPS enabled mobile devices and location-gathering apps.

Why it works

These days consumers expect a personalized experience from brands. It’s an expectation that extends to their marketing collateral—and that makes sense. Irrelevant ads on our news feeds and web banners are annoying. But if we’re met with content that’s relevant to our lives, suddenly those advertisements have value and feel less intrusive. Instead of disregarding them, we’re more likely to engage. And that means higher click-through rates.

Location-first strategies

There are several location-first strategies hoteliers can use that range in complexity. Here’s a quick overview:

Geo-targeted Ads>> Whether it’s for emails or online ads, geo-targeting is a common strategy for marketers. Platforms like Google Adwords have built-in features that make geo-targeting easy. Depending on your goals, you can target users by country, area within a country (perhaps there’s a city with an affordable direct flight to your locality), or even a set radius surrounding a location of your choosing (maybe your local airport?). The platform also has options to target based on search intent, physical location, or both. Whatever ad campaigns you choose to run remember to analyze the numbers. The performance of an ad in various locations can tell you where (and where not) to target in the future.

Geo-tags on social media>> Geo-targeting is not just for ads. A savvy hotelier can use it for guest engagement as well. Geo-tags are commonly used on social media. On platforms like Instagram, users will often tag their location when uploading posts—making it easy to find location-specific content. If you want to surprise and delight a current guest, check-out your properties geo-tag for recent content. Perhaps a couple just got engaged at your property (and posted about it). Surprising the happy couple with a complimentary bottle of Champagne would do a lot to nurture guest satisfaction.

Geo-fencing>> This is where things become a bit more complicated. Geo-fencing is a marketing strategy that sends SMS messages, emails, or push notifications when a person crosses a “virtual barrier” (or a geo-fence). For example, someone walking down the street past a Starbucks could be sent a notification advertising a special promotion at that location. And it’s not just for advertising. Geofencing can be used to check-in guests, monitor posts made at a property (without requiring geo-tags or hashtags), and collect data on how guests spend time at your property.

With GPS-enabled smartphones, there are treasure troves of location data that marketers can and should be putting to use. Targeting customers with marketing collateral specific to their location creates a personalized experience more likely to yield a conversion. Make sure you’re using location-first strategies to get the most out of your marketing efforts.

Hoping For Happy Customers? Start With Happy Employees

For anyone in the hospitality industry, customer satisfaction is priority number one. Happy guests become loyal guests whose engagement and advocacy help spread your marketing reach. So how do you ensure customer satisfaction? Of course, quality facilities and amenities are a must, but a quick scan of Trip Advisor proves that exceptional staff play a critical role in impressing guests. Online reviews for top-rated properties are brimming with references to friendly and knowledgeable staff going out of their way to accommodate and delight. That’s why it’s so important to have engaged employees that are happy and motivated to do their best. Not only will they be more productive and efficient performing their duties, but they’ll also go above and beyond to ensure every guest feels welcome and appreciated. Here are a few tips for nurturing happy and engaged employees:

Create a culture of learning

Ongoing training helps create an engaging and positive environment for staff. Working in hospitality can be stressful but being familiar and comfortable with the protocol for high-stress situations (like receiving a customer complaint, or responding to an overbooking) alleviates a lot of anxiety. Make sure to provide frequent opportunities for your employees to brush up on skills and procedures—perhaps even practicing with role-playing scenarios—in order to ensure they feel confident and supported on the job.

Foster a team-centered environment

Running a successful lodging operation requires exceptional staff coordination. Everyone from the front desk and back office staff to maintenance and housekeeping needs to be communicating to deliver a seamless customer experience from check-in to check-out. So the importance of teamwork shouldn’t be taken lightly.

Fostering a healthy team dynamic is all about open communication and shared goals. Not only is it necessary to provide frequent feedback (both positive and constructive), but your employees should feel like their input and feedback is valuable as well. Invite staff to share their ideas and then respond. Even if it’s something you ultimately decide not to implement, talk to them about it. Letting your staff know that their voices are heard is critical for fostering a team mentality.

You can also let your employees know they are an important member of the team by sharing with them your company goals. Make it clear how they are contributing to the success of the business.  And then keep them informed. Discussing what’s working and what needs improvement breeds trust and a sense of responsibility—and problem-solving as a team will likely result in more efficient and innovative solutions.

Set staff up for success

We mentioned earlier how important it is to support your staff with adequate training, but that’s not all they need. It’s also paramount that you provide employees with the necessary tools to be successful. Equipment that doesn’t function properly, whether it’s an agonizingly slow computer or a faulty vacuum cleaner, causes major headaches for your staff. And if they are constantly fighting with their equipment, employees will be neither happy nor efficient at their jobs.

It can be hard to know when a new purchase is worth it, but that’s precisely why communication is so important. Listen to your staff. They’ll know what is needed the most.

 

No matter how much technology advances, hospitality has and always will be about people. Warm smiles and authentic connections are still what leave lasting impressions for guests. And that makes your staff your most valuable asset. You want them to go above and beyond for your customers, so make sure you’re going above and beyond for them.

Summer is Coming! How Hoteliers Can Start Preparing Now

The temperature is rising here in the Northern Hemisphere, and summertime is finally in our sights. Hoteliers far and wide are heading into their busiest season as people look forward to enjoying the great weather, longer days, and their children’s time off school. It’s an exciting time for any business, but there are also greater pressures that accompany increased occupancy. Make sure your peak season is smooth and successful by starting to prepare for it now.

Review data

Looking at last year’s data is extremely important for seasonal planning. Understanding historical occupancy and revenue will help you determine how to price inventory and restrict lengths of stay in order to maximize profit. And a breakdown of bookings from each distribution channel can help you determine how to allocate inventory for the season.

Spruce up your property

Peak season is the best time to land new returning guests and generate positive word of mouth—as long as you make a good impression of course. Put your best foot forward by making the little touch-ups to your property that you’ve been putting off. Guests notice the little things. Are the curtains showing some wear and tear? Do the bathtubs need re-grouting? Do the walls need a new coat of paint? These small improvements can make a world of difference in the eyes of your guests and can be the difference between lukewarm reception and a rave review.

On top of minor touch-ups, hoteliers can also impress their guests with a few seasonal additions to their property. Potted flowers add a fresh splash of color (and may even reap the benefits of biophilic design). And creating useful outdoor spaces (think picnic tables, patios, volleyball courts, etc.) will make your property the perfect place for guests to enjoy the season. Have an on-site restaurant? You can give your menu a summery spruce as well. Fresh salads, fruity drinks, grilled meats, and seafood are excellent seasonal options to include.

Know what’s happening in your community

Summertime is prime season for festivals and other community events. Whether it’s a July 4th celebration, an annual musical festival, or a car show, there is always something going on around town. And knowing what events are happening in your community can not only help you determine the best yield management strategies but the best marketing strategies as well. Consider creating packages catered to guests interested in these local events and activities and include information about them on your various online platforms.

Plan events and activities

Consider going a step further and planning your own events and activities. While you probably won’t be organizing something as extravagant as a music festival, there are many simple things you can do to make your property stand out from the competition. Pool parties, barbecues, garden yoga classes, and outdoor movie nights are a few relatively inexpensive and easy to pull off ideas that add value for customers.

Prepare your staff

Preparation for peak season should always include a formal briefing with staff. Not only is it a good idea to go over what’s new for the season (both on-property and in the community), but it’s beneficial to include a quick refresher of local attractions and activities as well. The recommendations staff make to guests should be up-to-date and seasonally relevant. Customers looking for a restaurant in the summertime will likely be more interested in a venue with a patio than a cozy atmosphere. And families in search of to-do suggestions might be more excited by walking trails than an art museum.

It is also essential to iron out operational wrinkles now.  Any inefficiencies or uncertainties felt by your staff should be addressed long before peak season, when the ramifications will be maximally felt.

 

The peak season is an exciting (but stressful!) time. It offers incredible potential to maximize profit and earn loyal guests. Ensure a successful summer season by beginning preparations now.

Be the Jazz Musician: Improvise Your Way to a Higher ADR

The Average Daily Rate (ADR) is one of the key metrics to measure the performance of a hotel. Because rooms are priced differently depending on their size, location, and amenities, the ADR (room revenue divided by the rooms sold) helps you understand how much rent is generated by each room on average. Your ADR will fluctuate over time due to holidays, special events, and day of the week (depending on whether you cater to tourist or corporate guests), and can be measured against historical performance or compared to competitors.

While room prices are based on many factors, monitoring and analyzing your ADR can help you identify trends so that you can make better decisions about when to add value by offering attractive package deals, when to increase room rates because of demand, and when to consider a rate increase because the price your guests are willing to pay has surged. The latter is every hotelier’s goal, and it can be as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Strengthen Your Online Reputation
  2. Personalize the Guest Experience
  3. Hire the Right People

 

It may seem like these are three separate solutions, but they depend on each other. One of the best ways to increase your ADR is to strengthen your online reputation, one of the best ways to strengthen your online reputation is to personalize the guest experience, and one of the best ways to personalize the guest experience is to hire the right people.

The Personalized Experience

From baby boomers to millennials, modern travelers are seeking personal experiences and authentic connections. According to a 2016 Report from the Cornell University School of Hotel Administration, a significant factor in delivering personalized experiences and raising a guest’s overall satisfaction is to improvise. It does seem contrary to a hotel’s mandate to offer consistent, reliable, and efficient service. After all, you’ve taken the time to establish strong policies of service, and rightly so. But, as this report explains, while “guests do appreciate consistent services in hospitality operations, an increasing body of evidence suggests that guests concurrently crave a sense of authenticity, empathy, and spontaneity.” In other words, your service policies and practices would be augmented by improvisation. The report likens the customer service representative to that of a musician. Most musicians play every note as it’s written, but a jazz musician uses the written music merely as a starting point from which they can ad lib to create something original. Allowing employees the freedom to be the jazz musician of customer service enables them to conceive creative solutions to problems and to carry out spontaneous acts of care for your guests.

The Trained Employee

You can’t just sit your service staff down and tell them to “Be spontaneous!” Creativity doesn’t work that way. What you can do, however, is hire the right people. Your employees should be passionate about the hospitality industry. They should also possess the knowledge to initiate effective improvisation.

Like the professional jazz musician, the best customer service representatives are trained and experienced. It’s no surprise that, as the Cornell report states, “higher-tier hotels report higher levels of creativity in their interaction with guests.” This, they claim, is because high-end hotels have more services to offer, which makes sense; the larger the pool of services and amenities on offer, the easier it is to think of a fit for a guest’s request or need. However, high-end hotels are also more likely to hire professional customer service representatives (ones who have made hospitality their career), which means they have a depth of experience to draw from when searching for creative ways to care for guests. But, whether you are a 2-, 3-, 4-, or 5-star hotel, you can provide your staff with strong training and the opportunity to grow their knowledge and education of hotel hospitality. Improvisation starts with strong policies and training.

The Cornell report names three elements of improvisation: creativity, spontaneity, and bricolage (creation through whatever is at hand). By embracing the idea of bricolage, they explain, an employee can “rearrange available resources in crafting a solution to guests’ problems.” Arm your employees with knowledge and then give them the freedom to draw on and combine policies, practices, information, and their own history of experience in creative and spontaneous ways.

Technology’s Role

Technology is another tool that allows for spontaneity. Use your Property Management System (PMS) to store guest information, including special requests, prior accommodations and preferences, birthdays, anniversaries, number of children or grandchildren, names of pets, whatever personal details you think could build a pool of knowledge that could be drawn on to offer a more personalized experience during a guest’s stay or for future stays. Inter-hotel communication through your PMS also enables the members of your staff to access the knowledge they need to ensure a guest is well cared for.

 

Your ADR is a practical and important measure of the trends and performance of your hotel, but it relies on the overall satisfaction of your customers. A hotel that hires and trains the right staff is better equipped to offer creative (and effective) improvised service; a guest who leaves a hotel delighted with the level of personalized service is more likely to write a glowing online review; a culmination of these reviews will help strengthen your online (and offline) reputation; and when guest satisfaction levels are higher, you can consider raising room rates, thus increasing your ADR for the best possible reason: customers are willing to pay more for your level of service.

Social Media Dos and Don’ts: A Hoteliers’ Guide

Social media has become an unparalleled marketing force—and is showing no signs of slowing down. It’s doubtful any business owner in this day and age needs to be convinced of the importance of social media marketing. But acknowledging the need to be on social media platforms isn’t enough. You need to make sure you’re doing it right. Here are the most important social media do’s and don’ts to get you on the right track:

Accounts

DO be consistent across accounts. This is (of course) essential for profile information like your address, phone number, and website URL, but it’s just as necessary for branding and messaging. Maintaining common color schemes, profile pictures and style will improve brand recognition and inspire credibility.

DON’T get passive. Creating an account and then failing to post regularly is worse than having no account at all. Social media is a dynamic medium that requires regular attention to be effective. Make sure posting becomes part of your regular routine. Neglected accounts do not leave a good first impression.

DO use analytics. Like any marketing strategy, you should constantly be evaluating the performance of your content. Whether you’re utilizing the features offered by social media platforms—like Twitter analytics and Facebook Insights—or third party tools, paying attention to analytics can help you get the most out of the platform. Identifying key information about your demographic, highlighting content that is the most effective and determining the best time of day to post are just a few insights to be gained from the practice.

DON’T forget to leave your mark. You spend a lot of time and energy on your social media pages so don’t miss an opportunity to promote them. Be sure to include social media marks on your website, newsletters, and other marketing collateral.

Content

DO keep it concise. The key to a good post is brevity. People don’t visit their favorite brand’s Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter page to read an essay. They’re looking for palatable content that gets to the point. Keep your posts and captions short and sweet and your viewers will be much more likely to engage.

DON’T always sell. Social media is a personal space for which traditional marketing is ill-fit. Constant, overt advertisements will not be well received in this arena. Of course, you want to use it for some self-promotion (that’s the entire objective after all), but it needs to be mixed in with other content. A good rule of thumb is to limit promotional material to about 20% of all posts.

DO take advantage of UGC. One of the greatest aspects of social media is the unlimited potential to expand marketing reach with little to no cost. And one of the best ways to do that is leveraging user-generated content.  Implement social media campaigns with a unique hashtag to encourage users to share their content (perhaps even host a contest) and don’t forget to like and share when they do!

Engagement

DO encourage engagement. As already mentioned, social media is a dynamic and personal medium. To find success on the platform, you need to use your account to have a dialogue with your followers. Post content that encourages users to engage and make sure to respond and interact with them when they do.

DON’T ignore bad comments. Negative reviews are part of the hospitality game. Everyone gets them. To mitigate the repercussions, it’s essential you respond. Offer your apologies and provide contact information for further concerns and communication. It’ll earn your property a much stronger online reputation than simply ignoring (or deleting) them.

Social media is a critical part of marketing today. And it’s already significant influence will only continue to grow. It’s a medium with unparalleled potential, so do everything you can to make it work for you!