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!

 

5 Ways to Increase Direct Bookings

Online travel agencies (OTAs) are here to stay. And that’s okay; when used well, they can be an extremely valuable marketing tool. But no matter how successful your partnerships with OTAs are, you should never neglect opportunities to boost direct bookings. With the lowest cost of acquisition (no hefty commissions required), these reservations are just too valuable to dismiss. And with that in mind, here are a few suggestions for maximizing direct bookings at your property:

Maintain rate parity

Cost is the most significant factor affecting the channel on which a customer chooses to complete a reservation. Rate parity agreements likely prohibit you from undercutting OTA rates, so the best you can do is ensure you’re not charging more on your own website. Once cost is consistent between your site and OTAs, other incentives and practices can be used to win bookings.

Offer discounts to limited audiences

Being forced to offer your best rates on OTAs is a frustrating situation to be in, but there are ways around it. While you can’t post discounted rates directly on your website, you are permitted to advertise discounts to limited audiences. This means groups of people like your followers on social media or email subscribers. Consider hosting regular campaigns on these platforms with discount codes to be redeemed at the time of booking. And actively encourage users to follow your pages and sign-up for emails. Calls-To-Action on your website like “Add your name to our email list for access to special offers” should do a lot to encourage participation.

Provide incentive

Discounted inventory is not the only option for encouraging direct bookings. Anything that adds value to a reservation can help persuade a guest to book direct. What sort of things should you throw in to sweeten the pot? Every property has something different to offer, but guests are always happy with things like free WiFi, gift cards, mobile check-in and access to amenities. Some hotels have even found success by making a charitable donation for every direct reservation. So don’t be afraid to get creative! Just be sure to find something that suits your clientele and company culture.

Maintain a user-friendly website

There is an expectation nowadays for online experiences to be easy, efficient, and fast. And users have very little patience for websites that don’t fit that bill. If you want guests to follow through on a direct booking, a great deal of attention needs to be paid to the design of your website. An integrated booking engine is a must, and your content should be compelling, easy-to-navigate and mobile-optimized. If guests don’t have a seamless user experience, they won’t hesitate to abandon your website for their favorite OTA. Looking for a website redesign? Contact our design staff today.

Consider re-marketing

Even with a flawless website, there will be guests who abandon the booking process. While they might not commit to a reservation, these potential customers will have shown a keen interest in your property, and you’ll still have an opportunity to capitalize on that interest. Re-marketing allows you to identify those “almost” customers and target them with online or social media ads in order to win them back. Interested? Check out Google Adwords and Facebook’s Custom Audiences. Both offer simple re-marketing solutions.

Every hotelier dreams of a reservation calendar dominated by direct bookings. Without the substantial commissions charged by OTAs, they’re the most valuable type of reservation, and should be pursued. While you’ll likely always rely on OTAs for bookings, make sure you’re doing everything you can—from updating your marketing practices to adjusting your web design—to encourage customers to book direct.

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.

Over, Under, and Double: A Hotelier’s Guide to Booking Crises

Managing reservations to maximize revenue can be a complicated task. Trying to minimize the damage of no-shows and cancellations can result in more reservations than available rooms—while playing it safe to avoid double-bookings can leave units unnecessarily vacant. Here’s a quick guide to dealing with and reducing booking crises.

Overbooking

Overbooking inventory is a strategy used by many hotels to account for no-show guests and cancellations. When it works, it saves a lot of revenue, but there’s significant risk associated with the practice— particularly for smaller, independent properties which have fewer rooms to play around with. When it backfires (i.e. when you find yourself in front of a confirmed guest with no room to offer) it can be extremely stressful and cause a lot of damage to your brand. Unhappy customers have a tendency to express their dissatisfaction online after all.

For many independent hotels, the risks of overbooking are just too high. But that doesn’t mean you have no options. The first thing you can do to mitigate the damage of cancellations and no-shows is to include a fee in your cancellation policy and take credit card information upon booking. Not only is this an incentive to commit to a reservation (likely reducing no-shows and cancellations overall), but it means when a guest does choose to cancel, less damage is done to your bottom line. Check out our recent post for more strategies to deal with no-shows and cancellations.

All that being said, you should always have a prepared strategy for dealing with over-bookings. When you find yourself with more guests than rooms, you’ll need to choose which guest to walk (consider the loyalty of—and revenue being brought in by—each guest), find alternate lodging for them, and then do something to make amends (perhaps a free meal at your on-site restaurant).

Double-Booking

Unlike over-bookings, double bookings are never intentional, but rather due to errors made in inventory management. Hotels need to sell their inventory on a collection of distribution channels (their property’s website, numerous online travel agencies, and the Global Distribution System, for example) in order to maximize occupancy. But if inventory isn’t updated in real time, the same room could be sold by multiple distribution channels.

Obviously, it isn’t reasonable for a hotelier to update all channels as new reservations come in. It’s a time-intensive process prone to manual errors. That’s where technology comes into play. Having a property management system that interfaces with all your distribution channels means inventory is updated automatically across all systems, vastly reducing the possibility of a double booking (and all the headaches that come with it).

Underbooking

Some hoteliers try to reduce double-bookings by allocating separate inventory for each distribution channel. While this does eliminate the potential to sell the same room twice, it can also easily result in unnecessarily vacant units. One channel could sell all of their allocated inventory and start turning customers away while other inventory is sitting unsold on another platform. It’s not a recommended practice and luckily one that can be avoided with a pooled inventory model (all units available to be sold by all channels at the same time) and PMS-to-distribution channel interfaces (to reduce risk).

 

Reservation management can be tough. The task of balancing the need to fill rooms and the desire to provide a flawless customer experience is a delicate one. Make your life simpler by ensuring you have a property management system that takes credit card information at booking and interfaces with all your distribution channels.

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.

Repackaging Hotel Packages

Every hotelier ponders how to increase revenue. Whether you’re looking to increase midweek bookings, improve off season reservations, increase your ADR, or avoid offering discounts, the advice you’ll find time and again is: Create Value-Added Packages! So, we thought we’d take the time to explore how to make your hotel’s packages more compelling. Price is one aspect to think about, but it’s not the most important. Potential guests seek value and experience. Most packages include lodging and an activity, but because packages seem to be the answer to the numerous ways hotels seek new and returning clientele, there are many on offer, which means, to the potential customer, they start to all look the same. So, here are some reimagined packages to help spark your creativity.

Make Use of Your Locale

You are the only hotel in your particular space. What makes your location unique? Consider offering an upgrade to your mountain or cityscape view when someone books three or more nights. Who are your neighbours? Collaborate with the restaurant at a winery next door to create a package for an evening of wine and food where they can walk back to your inn via a private lantern lit path, or consider pairing with a local bakery for a morning delivery of fresh croissants. What amenities do you have onsite? Perhaps the chef at your restaurant has started to create buzz or a bartender’s cocktails bring in locals. Don’t just package free appetizers or cocktails with a room, but tell the story of why a potential guest should experience them.

Your city, town, and/or community is also unique. Exploit that. What businesses, services, and experiences are unique to your community? Is there a music venue or comedy club that’s gaining popularity? A so-called restaurant that is rumored to have the best fried chicken? Rotis? Ramen? Poke? Hot dogs? One of the first things a savvy guest will do is ask the hotel staff where to eat and what to see in the city; they’re looking for the inside scoop – the coveted personalized experience – so discuss this with your staff and approach up-and-coming businesses for mutually beneficial collaborations. Packages that highlight local individuality not only offer a unique experience to guests, they also demonstrate that you know and are connected with what’s going on in your community, which is another attractive trait that guests seek.

Also, consider including (and tell potential guests that room rates include) shampoos, soaps, and lotions from a local producer. These can be marketed as features that add value in the eyes of potential customers. You may also want to consider selling these products in your lobby to further boost revenue.

The Wellness Package

The wellness package has been in vogue for many years if not decades, and they continue to be popular. Friends, couples, and solo travelers still enjoy weekend spa getaways or week-long yoga retreats. Whether you’re a larger hotel with amenities onsite or a smaller boutique inn who collaborates with a local yoga studio or spa, it’s also important to highlight the relaxation that your rooms provide through views, beautiful décor, comfort provided by a particular brand of linen and (again) wellness extras like local organic toiletries. These add-ons increase value while augmenting the package you’re offering and the brand you’re portraying.

You may also want to expand your idea of wellness. Increasingly, health and wellness is being associated with what has traditionally been called adventure. Consider including biking, kayaking, or walking tours in your wellness packages. Offer surfing or archery lessons, wall climbing or hiking. Wellness and an active lifestyle go hand in hand, and by combining and marketing activities in unique ways, you can set your hotel’s packages apart.

The Adventure Package

Expand your idea of adventure packages as well. There continues to be a market for getaways that include activities like zip-lining, white water rafting, air balloon rides, and whale watching, but the number of experiences that can now be marketed as “adventures” has grown. Urban adventurers are often looking for culinary escapades. Collaborate with restaurants, markets, food festivals, wineries, breweries, and distilleries to package and promote the culinary expertise of your area.

There’s also an increasing trend towards traveling to gain new skills. Travelers want to learn to cook local delicacies, to make wine, chocolate, and craft beer. Wood-working, photography, cheese-making, gardening, and sustainable farming are other skills that people seek.

Renovation vacations have also gained popularity. The Chateau de Gudanes in southern France offers packages with a variety of charming options, including morning yoga, guided walks to local villages, lessons on cooking traditional French food, horseback riding, walking through the woods to pick flowers, and an opportunity to help with renovations and contribute to the restoration of this historic property. They expertly craft a unique adventure for their guests by making use of their locale, collaborating with their community, and giving guests the opportunity to gain new skills.

The Seasonal Package: Think Winter!

In the past, winter travelers have sought sun and surf or slopes and skis. Not anymore. Winter travel to northern destinations has dramatically increased. Quebec’s Winter Carnival, China’s Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, Norway’s Ice Music Festival, and Japan’s Sapporo Snow Festival have all become major attractions. But even if your northern hotel is not in one of these high-profile locations, you can look for opportunities to create winter traveling packages that include experiences like snowshoeing, snowmobiling, and dog sledding. You may want to think about promoting your area’s ice sculpture competition, pop-up chef event, or ice wine festival to guests who live within a couple hundred miles. The seclusion and silence of the off season can also be attractive to some travelers who are looking for an individual and authentic experience away from the hustle and bustle of the tourist season.

Other Tips

Consider the Modern Traveler. Single parents travel with their children; grandparents travel with the grandkids; and people travel alone. Keep these groups in mind when you’re building and marketing your hotel’s packages. With these groups of travelers on the increase, packages should include options that include and attract them.

Allow Personalized Packages. Individual experience is a top priority for many travelers, so where possible, let your guests choose the components of their packages.

Think Ahead. Don’t wait until the beginning of December to think about what you’ll plan to do to attract guests over the holidays. Plan and promote early, but not too early. Find the appropriate balance between having enough time to create thoughtful packages and being close enough to the date that you can generate excitement.

Offer Exclusive Packages. You may want to consider approaching a bridal or lifestyle magazine or website to promote an exclusive offer to their subscribers. This can be especially effective for new or experimental packages because you can easily track results that will help you build future packages.

Your ability to create and promote unique packages will directly contribute to your hotel’s bottom line. By making use of your unique location, forming good connections within your city or community, and transforming traditional package genres, you can offer the personalized travel that guests seek when they search for new destinations and hotels to explore.

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!