A Hotelier’s Guide to Social Media Messaging during the COVID-19 Crisis

As a company and brand it can be hard to know what to say when the whole world seems to be grinding to a halt and business is far from usual. For the time being, travel restrictions and physical distancing have devastated demand for travel services, including airlines, hotels, restaurants and attractions. While COVID-19 is a unique challenge, we know from past global tragedies and recessions that the travel industry will recover. Humans have always traveled, and once we beat the threat of COVID-19, we will travel again with enthusiasm and renewed appreciation.

In the meantime, it’s important for businesses to maintain a connection with their customers. Take this opportunity to strengthen your customer relationships so that your hotel will be top of mind when travel bounces back.

Focus on your property’s social media channels and take advantage of organic traffic. Social media, including your hotel blog, is the least expensive form of marketing and—right now—may be the most effective. People are turning to social media more than ever to stay connected, informed, entertained and inspired during this time of lockdowns and physical distancing.

But, what do you say to your customers who, like you, are experiencing varying levels of fear and uncertainty as our daily lives have been disrupted to the core? Content you scheduled before this crisis is probably no longer appropriate, so hold it back for now or at least review it from our current perspective to avoid coming across as insensitive, irrelevant or, worse, exploitative.

Now, more than ever, the right message is key to building customer relationships as the focus shifts from selling to caring.

Be helpful

During these uncertain times, we all have a lot of questions. In relation to your property, customers want to know about your COVID-19 status and how you are helping to keep people safe. The clearer you can be, the more helpful and reassuring you are to your customers. Is your property open for bookings or temporarily closed? What procedures are in place, or will be in place, for keeping guests and staff safe? What, if any, are the ramifications of canceling or changing bookings during this time?

If your hotel is able to support the community in some way, get the word out. Hotels in areas under lockdown may be open to frontline workers and members of the public needing to self-isolate. Some properties are adapting to current needs by providing services such as meal deliveries, food donations and laundry services. Providing real solutions to current needs will be noticed and appreciated by customers—both those who require the support and those who don’t.

Even properties that are temporarily closed can stay connected to customers with helpful suggestions about how to stay positive and healthy under stay-home orders. Sharing recipes from your restaurant or at-home relaxation techniques from your spa, for example, can provide a welcome distraction for customers in quarantine and allows them to enjoy elements of your property in their own homes.

Content Ideas:

>> Provide updates about your property’s status (open/open with limited services/temporarily closed/opening soon…)

>> Outline or demonstrate protocols and precautions you are implementing to keep guests safe when staying at your property, for example, enhanced housekeeping measures.

>> Highlight safe places and things to do in your city that comply with physical distancing rules and other restrictions in place, for example self-guided outdoor activities, viewpoints, scenic drives.

>> Share your efforts to support the community during this time.

>> Promote (sensitively) special offers, amenities, and flexible cancellation policies available for immediate or future bookings.

>> Share recipes, work-out routines, at-home spa treatments, and kids’ activities from your property’s experts that people can use at home.

Be positive

There’s enough bad news out there at the moment. We all need some positive input to help see us through to brighter days. Be a part of that light for your customers with messages that comfort and inspire, and reinforce the feeling that despite physical distancing rules, we are all in this together.

This doesn’t mean that we should make light of the situation, and we should definitely not ignore it. This is indeed a grave situation that we are in, and many are dealing with significant loss. Messages should convey a compassionate and hopeful tone, highlighting the good coming out of this crisis and reminding customers of what there is to look forward to.

Content Ideas:

>> Introduce/interview your employees; what do they love about their job, how are they staying positive, and what are they most looking forward to when the COVID-19 crisis is over?

>> Remind customers of what makes your property special and that it’s waiting for them when they return (the dazzling sunset views from your patio, private hot tubs, or exquisite menu…).

>> If your property is open, share positive reviews coming through at this time.

>> Share interesting or little-known facts about your city to drum up inspiration for future travel.

>> Share feel-good news stories about your local area, from acts of kindness to community initiatives to positive impacts on the natural environment.

>> Share livestreams, webcams or virtual tours from local venues and attractions that allow people to share in experiences from their own homes, for example, Shedd Aquarium’s penguin walk.

>> Ask guests to share travel memories (photos) from past stays with you.

Show customers you care

Now is the time to stand behind your brand values and show customers you care. Reinforce your commitment to their wellbeing and to customer service. Be sensitive to their needs and emotions and show them you understand the issues they are facing.

Review all messaging before publishing, carefully assessing how it may be perceived. Position your offerings as providing value to customers and relevant to real needs in the current climate. Modify calls to action (CTAs) to downplay urgency and excitement in favor of a more helpful tone, for example, instead of accompanying a package promotion with a “Book now!” button, consider choosing a less urgent CTA like “Learn more.”

Focus on strengthening existing customer relationships through messaging that empathizes, supports and inspires. And be responsive. Responding quickly and thoughtfully to comments and questions is one of the best ways to show your customers you are there for them.

Whether your property is able to remain open or has had to temporarily close, maintaining a connection with customers during these uncertain times will help set properties on the right foot when the industry recovers. As the focus shifts from selling to caring, the right messages will earn loyal customers who will stick by your business through this crisis and beyond. Don’t go dark. Be there for your customers and they will be there for you.

Email Marketing Tips for Independent Hoteliers in the 2020s

Businesses are reaching out to customers today in more ways than ever before—by social media, chatbot, mobile messaging, SMS, phone call, email, online advertising, TV and radio ads, and print… Phew! But of any marketing channel, email still delivers the best return on investment (in both time and money) and remains the key strategic channel for 91 percent of marketers (DMA, 2019). For hoteliers, modern tools to automate and personalize guest email communications make email one of the most efficient and effective ways to acquire and retain new customers.

While email marketing has been around since the 1990s when the internet revolution changed our lives, email marketing strategies have changed a lot since then. Here are our tips for doing hotel email marketing right in this new decade.

Grow Your Email List

Since the introduction of anti-spam and data protection laws like CASL and GDPR that were designed to protect consumers, marketers have had to adhere to stricter rules regarding sending emails, like compiling permission-based email lists. Such laws have helped to ensure B2C communications are reaching more engaged and receptive audiences, which is a win for both consumers and businesses.

It’s important to keep growing your email list in an organic way. Allow customers and potential customers to opt in through your website (for example, newsletter sign-ups and through your online booking engine), and encourage them to do so via other channels too, like social media, mobile messaging, booking confirmations, on-property signage and even in person upon check-in. Make the value of joining your mailing list obvious, whether for exclusive perks and discounts or for local travel tips and advice.

Also very important is to make sure all email marketing communications include an opt-out (unsubscribe) option in the footer of every email.

Use Data to Deliver Relevant Content

When it comes to routine emails that are directly tied to guest reservations and focused on building a loyal relationship, like booking confirmations, pre-arrival emails and feedback requests, targeted communications can be automated by your property management system (PMS), whereby relevant content is triggered by booking data (such as room and rate types, and check-in and check-out dates).

When it comes to sending promotional emails (like specials and package promotions, birthday or anniversary offers, exclusive discounts, or property news and events), the key to delivering relevant content is segmenting your mailing list and tailoring content to fit those segments. This depends greatly on customer profile data stored in your PMS or CRM, including demographics, interests, previous stay and spend history, etc. Segment your list in a way that makes sense for your property, for example, by highest-value customers, industry demographics (business guests, leisure guests, families, etc.), purchasing history, geographic location, etc.

Keep To the Point and On Brand

In our era of digital media, attention spans have become shorter. Inundated with choice, online consumers have become adept at skimming and scrolling at top speed. If we don’t get the information we need instantly, we move on to the next site—or delete the email. We don’t have time for long-winded paragraphs of text.

Just like current hotel website design trends highlight simple, clean layouts, concise text and captivating images that do most of the talking, marketing emails should follow suit. Grab and keep your customers’ attention with well-written and to-the-point textual content, and a simple, visually pleasing design that reinforces your brand.

Include Strong CTAs

Make it clear what your customer’s next steps should be by including a strong call to action (CTA), whether you want to encourage customers to contact your front desk, or direct them to a dedicated landing page for more information.

For example, a booking confirmation email might also promote upgrades and add-ons with an “Enhance My Stay” button that takes the customer to the “Amenities” page on your property’s website, and/or directs them to contact your front desk via the provided email address or phone number. An email promoting your latest special package could include a “Book Now” button that takes recipients directly to your online booking engine, with the package pre-selected. An email requesting guest feedback about their stay should include an in-email survey or a CTA (such as a “Review My Stay” button) that takes them directly to the feedback form on your preferred review platform.

Ideally, customers should be able to achieve the desired result with a single click, so send them exactly where they expect to go upon click-through. And always include an email address and phone number for your front desk, along with an invitation to contact you with any questions or special requests.

Use Subject Lines That Make Value Clear

Over the years, email subject lines have become increasingly important for cutting through the chatter and they have a direct impact on open rates. It pays to put some thought into them.

Just like email content, the subject line should also be brief and to the point. It should clearly communicate the benefit or value to the customer. For example, the subject line for an email promoting a new package could read something like, “Wine, dine and recline in Kelowna.” The subject line for a special offer could go something like, “Enjoy an extra night in Brisbane on us.” A request for feedback, something like, “Help us make your next stay even better.” Pique curiosity about renovations with a subject like, “A sneak peek at our new pool… opening soon.” Avoid the hard sell and instead tell customers how what’s inside can benefit them. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “Would I open this email?”

Make It Mobile Friendly

Various reports conclude that more than half of all emails are now opened on mobile rather than desktop. And if an email doesn’t display well on mobile, it’s immediately deleted in more than 70 percent of cases—no matter how good the content is.

From booking confirmations to special promotions, all your emails should be mobile friendly. The easiest way to do this is by making sure your PMS or CRM solution offers responsive email templates. Then, think mobile-first when designing the layout of your email by keeping image sizes in check, keeping paragraphs short, using buttons instead of linked text, including image ALT text, and linking to your property’s social media accounts. Once your template is set up, send yourself a test email and check it on both mobile and desktop before sending it to customers.

Automate, Automate, Automate!

With modern PMS and CRM solutions, managing guest email communications is almost effortless. As mentioned above, templates can and should be set up for booking confirmations, upgrade offers, pre-arrival, check-in/welcome, in-stay, check-out and post-stay emails that are triggered by reservation data such as stay dates, and room and rate types. Pulling data directly from reservation information, including the guest name, automated emails save hoteliers significant time while personalizing communications.

Test & Track Engagement

Finally, make sure your email marketing is working by tracking engagement, and testing and tweaking to improve results. Customer engagement and ROI can be measured by tracking open and click rates and, of course, revenue generated by email campaigns. Test what works best by trying different subject lines, CTAs, message length, delivery times, and track those results too. Modern email marketing platforms provide real-time tracking and reporting that makes analyzing campaign success easy.

Staying in touch with customers is critical to winning bookings and guest loyalty, and email is still one of the best ways to do it. Automating guest email communications, modern hospitality technology ensures hoteliers deliver personalized communications to each and every guest at the right time. Ask us about WebRezPro PMS’ automated email templates and direct integrations with hospitality CRM platforms that make guest email communications a breeze.

How Independent Hotels Can Show Guests Some Love This Valentine’s Day

The month of love is almost upon us—is your hotel ready to woo guests? Whether you personally relish the romance of Valentine’s Day or think it’s nothing more than a marketing tactic, Valentine’s Day is a prime opportunity to boost the bottom line of any business in the hospitality industry.

Here are some ideas to make guests fall in love with your property this Valentine’s Day!

Offer Something Special

It goes without saying that romance packages do well during February. From wine and chocolates to spa treatments and candlelit dinners, romance packages are popular throughout the year. Consider spicing things up by offering something a little different to stand out this Valentine’s Day. Some ideas that go well with accommodation include couples classes (think painting, pottery or surfing lessons), tours and activities, event tickets, and in-room extras like massage kits, fairy lights and cocktail stations—and consider including babysitting for couples with kids. You could even go all out and put together a customizable proposal package!

Have you thought of offering something special for those without partners too? A self-love spa package could be promoted to singles, complete with a free drink at the bar during singles’ happy hour. Or perhaps an anti-Valentine’s Day package for groups of friends that could include tickets to a show, party or speed-dating event.

From activities to in-room extras, ancillary products and services that can be included in packages can also be offered as add-ons, allowing guests to customize their stay whether they book a package or a standard rate. People are inclined to indulge on occasions such as Valentine’s Day, so take the opportunity to offer relevant upsells to boost your bottom line.

Your imagination is the limit—just be sure to tailor packages and add-ons to your property’s key guest segments and to reflect the personality of your brand. Once you’ve created your special offers, make sure those packages and add-ons are available to guests on your property’s website through your online booking engine.

Celebrate in Style

Dressing up for special occasions makes us feel good about ourselves and Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse for doing just that. If your property has the space and facilities, why not throw a party to celebrate your guests? The glamour and mystery of a masquerade ball, the seduction of a salsa dancing night, or the fun of a speed-dating event will attract both travelers and locals looking to celebrate Valentine’s Day in style.

Look to your locale for inspiration. Today’s travelers enjoy authentic experiences so injecting some local flavor into your event will help create a memorable affair. Whatever event you plan, make sure it fits your brand and clientele, and incorporate it into a swanky date-night package your guests can’t resist.

Set the Mood

Nothing sets the mood for romance like soft light, seductive music and succulent food, so dim the lights, choose a romantic playlist and add some aphrodisiacs to your menu.

When it comes to decorations, both common areas and guest rooms can be dressed up with fairy lights, flowers, heart garlands and such. Choose decorations that complement your property’s décor to avoid coming across as tacky, and resist the urge to go over the top—you don’t want to alienate guests who aren’t there to celebrate Valentine’s Day.

When choosing a romantic playlist, it’s important to select a soundtrack that also reflects your brand identity. Consider incorporating local artists and if you can host them live, even better. Imagine the elegance of live piano music or the soul of an acoustic guitar in your lobby.

Valentine’s Day is the perfect excuse to spice up your menu with irresistible limited-time specials that will also attract local customers. Let your chef express their passion through creative and adventurous dishes like oyster shooters, sweet and smoky cedar-planked salmon, shakshuka, black truffle ravioli, and chocolate and raspberry torte. Don’t forget cocktails!

It’s important to set the mood even before guests set foot on your property—you’ve got to lure them through your doors via your website first! Do this by making sure your Valentine’s Day specials and packages are promoted on both the packages page and the homepage. Consider adding a popup, inviting guests to take a peek at your romantic specials. Update photos to include images that portray your romantic side, like an intimate table setting for two, a rose-petal-covered bed, a couple enjoying a drink at the bar.

Share the Love

Once all your Valentine’s Day plans are in place, shout it from the rooftops! Make sure customers know what your property has to offer.

In addition to promoting your Valentine’s Day specials and events on your website as mentioned above, send targeted email campaigns to segmented mailing lists. (Here are some great examples from our partner, Revinate.) Consider offering discounts or exclusive deals to guests who have stayed before or just to your most loyal customers. Send two rounds of emails—one a few weeks in advance to remind customers Valentine’s Day is coming and let them know what you have to offer, and another about a week before the big day to catch those last-minute bookers! Managing email campaigns is a breeze with a property management system that offers automatic emails and/or integration with CRM platforms.

If you are hosting a themed event, create posters that can be put up around town, and start promoting it on social media weeks in advance.

Speaking of social media, occasions like Valentine’s Day generate plenty of fun and photogenic content to share on your social channels. As well as promoting your property’s special offers, take the opportunity to create themed content that strengthens customer relationships and attracts new ones. Contests and campaigns asking guests to share their own stories and content are good ways to drive engagement. Put effort into creating enticing images that provide a glimpse of what awaits guests at your property.

Run targeted Facebook ads, bid for online advertising terms like “Valentine’s Day hotel deals,” and make sure you communicate special packages through your OTA channels too. Selling special rates and packages on multiple OTAs is simple and automated when your property management system is integrated with a channel manager.

Whether or not you’re a lover of Valentine’s Day, it’s an occasion that lodging operators should embrace. With Valentine’s Day spending totaling approximately 20 billion dollars in the U.S. alone, this romantic holiday can be a lucrative one for hoteliers. We hope some of the above ideas help make guests fall in love with your property this Valentine’s Day.

How to Win Holiday Bookings

Here we are almost at the end of 2019! As the year winds down, business heats up for hotels all over the world. Both a joyful and stressful time, the holiday season brings a torrent of travelers into the market. While this typically means an increase in bookings for most accommodation providers, the ever-expanding selection of lodging options available to travelers (from new hotel brands to Airbnb rentals) also means that competition is getting hotter. It’s time to gear up your marketing efforts to ensure your property gets its fair share of holiday bookings.

Holiday Specials & Packages

Running holiday specials and packages is a proven way to attract guests. You’ve probably been doing it for years. But if you’ve been offering the same deals for years, you might want to consider changing things up a bit.

Due to the wealth of properties to choose from these days, holiday packages can all start to look the same to travelers. While Christmas is a time of tradition, try thinking outside the box to stand out by offering something a little different from the usual discounted-stay-with-dinner approach.

Perhaps your Christmas package could include an in-room Christmas tree, Christmas stockings and peppermint bath salts?

Look to seasonal local events and activities to inspire packages that could feature sleigh rides, snow tubing, or tickets to a celebrated Christmas concert. Consider partnering with nearby local businesses to offer unique seasonal perks like Christmas shopping discounts, craft beer tasting, ice-skate rentals, or even a small gift (locally made, of course).

Find out what your competitors are offering and try to top it—not necessarily by providing a bigger discount, but by putting a more creative spin on your promotions to stand out.

With a modern property management system that offers flexible rate management tools, your imagination can be the limit when it comes to designing holiday packages and specials.

Festive Menus

If your property offers onsite dining, have you tried spicing up the holidays with seasonal menus? There’s nothing quite like traditional holiday dishes to get people in a festive mood. Make sure all your guests can partake in culinary festivities by providing options for specialized diets, for example gluten-free and vegan choices.

For properties without onsite dining, consider partnering with popular local restaurants to offer your guests discounted meals over the holiday period, or simply compile a list of nearby eateries with exciting holiday menus that you can recommend to guests onsite, on your website and on social media.

Specialty Programming

For something extra special, why not arrange holiday events or activities on site? Think big, like Christmas markets, parties or performances—or think smaller, like cookie decorating stations and elf tuck-ins for kids, carolers in the lobby, card-making workshops, snowman-building competitions, or a toy drive.

Such activities can be marketed to the local community as well as prospective guests, and will contribute to a memorable holiday stay experience.

Festive Decor & Amenities

Christmas just isn’t the same without a little glitter and sparkle, so make sure your property is dressed for the occasion with some festive decorations—like a beautiful Christmas tree for the lobby, fairy lights for the patio, festive napkins for your breakfast bar… Just don’t get too carried away; there is such a thing as too much tinsel! (Really!)

Christmas-themed amenities will go down a treat with guests too. How about a hot chocolate and/or mulled wine station in the lobby, wish list kits for kids (free downloadable Santa letter templates are available online) or a gift-wrapping station?

Holiday-Themed Website

Make sure prospective guests know about all the fun festivities you have planned by spreading some holiday cheer to your website. Update property images to reflect the seasonal vibe at your hotel, and consider decorating your website too with a tasteful touch of festive graphics and messages (again, be careful not to go too far with the glitter and sparkle!).

Make sure holiday packages and specials are up to date and available through your online booking engine, promote your holiday menu, and for properties that sell gift certificates, now’s the time to draw some attention to them! Add a holiday spin to your local attractions page by highlighting seasonal activities and events, complete with insider tips like the best decorated street and the best spot to watch the NYE fireworks display from. Your blog is a great place for sharing the excitement of local and on-property holiday build-up and will help boost SEO too.

Social Media Marketing

Don’t forget to drum up some excitement for the holidays and drive traffic to your website through your social media accounts too. Post images and videos showing how your property is prepping for the holidays, from putting up that magnificent tree in your lobby to that drool-worthy new dish your chef just created for your holiday menu.

Consider boosting engagement with simple contests and polls. You could offer followers the chance to win a free Christmas package upgrade (for example) by simply liking, commenting on, or sharing your property’s post. Inspire user-generated content by creating and promoting a holiday hashtag for your hotel that guests can use to post their own on-property pics for the chance to win.

Setting a budget for boosting posts that are performing well will help gain even further reach.

Email Marketing

Last, but not least, let’s not forget about email. In our world of rapid technological evolution, email has stood the test of time and is still one of the best ways to communicate with customers.

In addition to sending holiday email campaigns to segmented mailing lists, booking confirmation and pre-arrival templates can also be updated to include information about holiday upgrade offers and seasonal amenities for guests staying over the holiday period. And why not send past guests a Christmas gift of a special discount or promo just for them? Property management systems that offer automatic emails (and/or integration with CRM platforms) and the ability to create password-protected rates, make holiday email campaigns a breeze.

You could even add a festive touch to the design of your holiday email communications—but be careful not to overshadow your property’s branding.

As temperatures drop and competition heats up this holiday season, try to offer guests something a little different for Christmas to stand out. Aim to spread holiday joy to your guests and you’re sure to win holiday bookings—and great reviews too.

Boost Off-Season Occupancy with Staycation Bookings

As we leave the peak travel season behind us, it’s time for hoteliers to implement strategies to maintain occupancy as best as possible. Beyond dropping room rates there are more resourceful ways to boost reservations—marketing your property to staycationers is one of them.

A staycation is a vacation taken close to home, normally within a comfortable driving distance. As our lives are becoming increasingly busier, staycations are becoming increasingly popular. Whether it’s an overnight stay in a local hotel or a camping trip at the beach, a quick getaway that doesn’t require getting on a plane is an attractive option for families, friends and couples who are short on time and looking for an easy, budget-friendly escape from their daily routine. In fact, staycationing is such a convenient way to get away from it all that staycationers tend to get away more often—at any time of year.

Attracting locals to your property not only helps maintain occupancy rates during the off season (and all year round), but offers the potential to grow a loyal customer base. Show local visitors a great time and they’ll come back again and again.

Focus on Food

A big part of travel and escaping the daily routine is enjoying local cuisine—and not having to cook! While staycationers are most likely already familiar with the local fare, the luxury of having it prepared for them is a compelling reason in itself to book a weekend away. Take advantage of this by promoting your property’s dining services and/or culinary hotspots in your neighbourhood through packages and discounts, or simply by highlighting recommended restaurants on your website and social media channels.

Cooking classes and wine tastings can attract locals looking to do something a bit different.

Promote Local Events

Staycationers often look for activities and events to spice up their normal routine, so get involved with what’s happening in your community to provide a stay that excites and refreshes. In addition to recommending local restaurants, promote local events and activities too. Consider partnering up with tour operators and event organizers to offer packages or discounted tickets.

Organize & Promote Your Own Events

If you have the space, consider organizing onsite events that attract locals. Think markets and fairs, snowman competitions, art exhibitions, live music, etc. Even locals who only turn up for the event but don’t stay the night will get the chance to familiarize themselves with your property and may then follow you on social media (where you can inspire them to try a staycation with you).

If your property caters to private functions such as weddings and corporate events, boost marketing efforts for these services to attract local clientele.

Create Packages

Long-distance travelers aren’t the only ones who enjoy value-packed and hassle-free vacations afforded by packages. Bundling accommodation with activities (from dining to spa treatments to boat tours) provides guests with an experience that allows them to save money and time compared to organizing everything themselves, and that appeals to locals looking for a quick getaway too.

Offer Free Parking

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

If you typically charge guests for parking, consider including it as a perk for staycationers. Because staycationers are more likely to arrive by car than long-distance travelers, free parking is a very relevant amenity that will be much appreciated.

Highlight Local Gems

Vacationing close to home gives people a chance to get to know their region better. Help them discover experiences that might be new for them, from tourist-centered activities like Segway tours and wildlife viewings to hidden local gems like the new cat café or a family-friendly nature trail.

Reveal neighbourhood hotspots in a local guide section of your website, on social media and share local recommendations with guests on site.

Welcome Pets

It’s much easier (and cheaper) to travel with a dog in a car than on a plane, so many staycationers will choose to bring their pets. If you don’t want to rule these travelers out, welcome their fur babies with pet-friendly rooms and amenities.

Reward Loyalty

Because staycations are typically easier and more budget friendly than vacations in far-off lands, travelers staying close to home are more likely to staycation more frequently, whenever their schedule allows for two or three days away. Reward them for their loyalty to keep them coming back and inspire them to tell their friends about you.

Think discounted rates, a free drink, and personalized service and communications that cater to their preferences and needs—from dietary restrictions to their preferred room type to the special occasion they might be celebrating.

Be Active on Social Media

Guests from nearby are more likely to follow your property on social media. Because your property is part of their local experience, you have the power to be especially relevant to them. They will be eager to learn of specials, events and activities you are promoting, and to be reminded of the wonderful time they can have at your property.

Keep your property’s social media accounts active with regular posts and stories that highlight the distinctive local experience you offer.

Staycation bookings help properties reduce reliance on seasonality, and offer a great opportunity to develop a loyal customer base. Show local guests they can experience something new and special when vacationing close to home, and your property is bound to become their go-to weekend getaway.

With all these bookings coming in, you’ll want to make sure your reservation system can keep up! Read our recent article on what to look for in an online booking engine.

5 Essential Website Features for Independent Hoteliers

The online world might feel like it’s changing every day, but a professional website is still (and will continue to be) the cornerstone of any business’s internet presence. It’s responsible for showcasing your property to the world, communicating credibility to interested parties, and facilitating direct bookings. A hotel website can make or break your business, so it’s essential that you’re using it well. Here are five important features that will help your website reach its full potential:

Booking widget

Being successful as a hotel means making bookings⏤so of course, your website should be equipped to do that as simply and seamlessly as possible. Be sure to use an online booking engine with a widget you can embed directly in your hotel website. Allowing customers to search for availability quickly will reduce user frustration and increase conversions. More direct bookings mean more profit for you!

Chatbot

A few years ago, we blogged about chatbots, naming them a tech trend to look out for in the future. It seems that future has arrived as chatbots have fast become a staple of hotel websites. The AI software is an excellent way to guide users down the purchasing funnel. When a simple question arises (be it about dates, amenities, or anything else), it can be answered immediately. Without the inconvenience of having to make a call or lag-time associated with sending an email, a user is much less likely to abandon a booking.

Map

Potential guests want to know where your property is in relation to other businesses, attractions, and transportation. Include a map of your hotel’s location in the contact section of your property’s website. This will ensure users don’t have to click away from your web page, in search of more information about your hotel.

It’s best to include a map that is large and interactive. Embedding Google Maps will allow users to access directions with a simple click of the button.

Social proof

This likely goes without saying, but consumers today rely heavily on the recommendations of their peers. Glowing reviews online convince potential customers that you are the real deal, which is particularly important for independent hotels that can’t rely on global brand recognition.  While positive content on third-party sites like TripAdvisor and Google Reviews does a lot for your brand, adding social proof directly to your website can be a big help as well. Users often visit a property’s website at a critical point in their purchasing journey, and seeing a 5-star testimonial at that moment can inspire them to follow through with a booking.

Most review sites offer widgets that can display content and ratings made via their platforms. The same is true for social media pages. Consider embedding your Instagram or twitter feed within your website to showcase your active engagement with guests online.

Local insights

It’s easy to get caught up in showcasing the best of your property (and you should!) but don’t forget that to score bookings you also have to sell your location. “Why should I visit this city?” has to come before, “why should I choose this hotel to access this city?” Consider dedicating a page of your website to highlighting and celebrating the local culture, attractions, and businesses. It’ll help sell your locality as a must-visit destination, and prove that your business has the community involvement necessary to provide the best and most immersive experience.

A local insights page is also a great space for posting fresh new content. You can make regular updates about events and activities going on in the area, offering valuable information for your guests while improving SEO.

Your property’s website is an incredibly powerful tool. Ensure you include all the necessary features to make the most of its potential.

Tips for Insta-Success: An Instagram Checklist for Independent Hotels

It used to be photos in magazines and scenes on television that inspired us to travel, but the internet has made the world much more accessible, inspiring our dreams anywhere, anytime. While we are still motivated by traditional media and recommendations from friends and family, we’re also now constantly influenced by online campaigns and social media, where the experiences of people we know—and don’t know—feed our travel dreams.

According to recent research by easyJet, more than half of 18 to 65 year olds book holidays based on Instagram posts, with almost a third choosing destinations based on “instagrammability” (how photogenic a place is). Filled with beautiful photos and captivating videos, Instagram allows users to categorize and find posts via hashtags like #travelinspo or #sanfranciscohotel, making it an exciting platform for both discovering and marketing content.

With its focus on visual storytelling and boasting higher engagement rates than any other social media channel, Instagram is the perfect platform for travel marketers. One billion people use Instagram every month—that’s a huge, highly engaged audience just waiting to be inspired to visit your property! Whether you are already on Instagram or just thinking about getting started, the following tips will help you make the most of your property’s Instagram account.

#AccountSetup

Business Profile

If you haven’t already, make sure your hotel’s Instagram account is set up as a business profile. Switching to a business profile is free and gives you access to tools that help you market to a wider audience, improving visibility and driving sales.

With a business profile, you can run promotions through Instagram Ads (more on that later), and connect your Instagram account to your property’s Facebook page to boost the exposure of your posts. An Instagram business profile gives you access to Instagram Insights, providing real-time metrics on post and account performance, and helping you fine-tune your marketing efforts. Last, but not least, your business profile allows you to select a category for your business and add contact information (email, address, phone number, website, opening hours) so customers can easily find you.

Username

Choose a username that clearly identifies your property; ideally, the actual name of your property. Bear in mind spaces are not allowed in usernames, so keep it simple and understandable.

Profile Photo

Your profile photo should reinforce your branding, so it’s best to use your property’s logo or a photo of your hotel that is easily recognizable as a small thumbnail image.

Bio

In just a few compelling words (up to 150), your bio should describe your property while showcasing your property’s personality and prompting customers to take action. Your bio appears near the top of your profile and should include a link to your property’s website. If you’ve created your own branded hashtag you should include this in your bio as well (more on branded hashtags later).

#BestPractices

Follow Local Businesses

Use the Search function to find and follow other local businesses that complement the guest experience, such as tour operators, restaurants, galleries and other attractions, and engage with them (like and comment on their posts) to build your Instagram community. Follow your local competitors too (you know what they say about keeping enemies close!) to gain insight into their strategies and help you stay competitive.

Maintain a Cohesive Look and Feel

Decide on a “style” for your posts that reflects your property’s personality. Maintaining a cohesive look and feel for your account helps to reinforce branding and tell your story.

Quality Photos and Videos

Instagram is filled with great-looking content designed to inspire, so low-quality images stand out like a sore thumb. Creating quality content builds brand credibility and isn’t difficult to do with Instagram’s various filters and effects, allowing you to produce creative, professional-looking photos and videos with your phone.

Purposeful Captions and Hashtags

Keep captions short and sweet, but do put some thought into them. Captions play an important part in engaging followers and calling them to action. Use captions to provide context for images, and communicate messages in your brand’s unique voice.

Include relevant hashtags to help people find your post, but don’t go overboard—any more than 10 will come across as spammy and desperate.

Use a Branded Hashtag

Branded hashtags are great for promoting your property and campaigns and encouraging user-generated content. Consistently using your property’s name as a hashtag (for example, #willowmotel) with every post helps people find your content and encourages guests to use your hashtag when posting their own pics of their experiences at your property.

Branded hashtags can also be created for special promotions, events and contests, for example, #willowmotelselfie #freenightonwillow or #willowdisco2019.

Add Location

Take advantage of the Add Location feature to tag your posts with a physical location that helps users discover your posts and your property.

Instagram Stories

Instagram Stories are short slideshows of photos and or videos that make full use of the mobile screen, have the ability to add text, stickers and music, and disappear after 24 hours (unless downloaded, archived or saved as a highlight). Stories are an effective way to promote your property, with one third of the most-viewed stories being from businesses.

Instagram Stories are a fun and engaging way to interact with your audience and are ideal for promoting limited-time offers, showcasing new amenities, running customer polls, and sharing behind-the-scenes glimpses into your world, all while celebrating your business’s personality and style.

Extra tip: Any stories you want to preserve beyond their 24-hour lifespan can be saved as “highlights,” which are displayed prominently on your profile until you choose to remove them. This helps make the most of those stories you worked so hard to create!

Paid Advertising

Instagram ads work like Facebook ads, helping you get the most out of your best-performing posts. With five ad formats to choose from—image, video, carousel, stories and collection ads—advertising on Instagram is a cost-effective way to expand the reach of any kind of post. It’s simple too, with ads run directly from the Instagram app or managed from your Facebook Ad account (if your Instagram account is connected to your Facebook page). Just like Facebook ads, you have full control over defining the target audience, campaign objectives, budget and duration of each ad.

Remember to keep an eye on ad performance through Instagram Insights to find out what works best.

Engage

To become an active and engaging member of your Instagram community, it’s important to engage with other users by liking and commenting on the posts of guests and local businesses that inspire you.

Promote Your Instagram Account

Let customers know they can find and follow your property on Instagram by promoting your Instagram account on your website and your other social media channels, in pre- and post-stay emails and your newsletter too. An Instagram icon or button that links to your Instagram account is all it takes. 

Promote your Instagram account offline too, in in-room welcome packs and on property signage. Include your account name and branded hashtag.

Post Consistently

You don’t need to commit to posting every day to be successful on Instagram. The key is being consistent. Settle on a schedule that is manageable going forward; consistently posting two or three times a week is much better than posting every day for the first week and then quickly running out of steam.

#ContentInspo

As for what to post, focus on telling your property’s story. People use Instagram to find inspiration, so inspire wanderlust by showcasing your property’s personality and uniqueness. In addition to promoting your rooms and facilities, create content that highlights the stay experience from different angles.

Out and About in Your Neighborhood

Attract visitors to your destination by promoting the scenery, attractions and local hotspots of your neighborhood. Show them an experience beyond the walls of your property.

Guests’ Interests

What do your guests like to do when they stay with you? Exploring the surrounding mountains? Wining and dining? Relaxing on the beach? Show them the kind of content they love.

It’s In the Details

Exercise your artistic eye and capture those special details unique to your property—like that cool pattern in your tiles, that beautifully presented dish from your restaurant, the way the evening light dapples across your patio…

Behind the Scenes

Give your followers a privileged glimpse behind the scenes to show them how much you care about making their stay a great one. Staff interviews and selfies, renovations in progress, the making of your best-selling cocktail, property events… sharing behind-the-scene moments helps your followers feel more connected with your business.

Seemingly everyone is online these days, which makes social media an essential marketing channel for businesses today, especially for those in the travel and hospitality industries. Instagram’s popularity in particular is rapidly increasing, especially among millennials who are proving to love to travel. So be sure to make the most of your property’s Instagram account to reach highly engaged travelers and inspire them to stay with you.

Small Things Hoteliers Can Do that Make a Big Difference to Guests

Customer satisfaction is a top priority for any business, but for those in the hospitality industry it’s the entire purpose. Most hoteliers do what they do because they are passionate about making every guest’s stay special. And what makes anyone feel special? Simply feeling valued. From a warm greeting to a good cup of coffee, the smallest things can make a big difference to your guests, elevating an average stay to a memorable experience that will help earn their loyalty.

We all get busy and distracted from the main goal from time to time, so read on to make sure you are doing these small things all lodging operators should be doing to make a lasting impression on guests.

Remember Your Manners

In a world of chatbots and mobile check-in, good “old-fashioned” hospitality is still so important. All staff should be encouraged to be courteous hosts, getting the door for guests and helping with their bags, greeting guests with a genuine smile at every interaction, and using guests’ names whenever possible. Such courtesies are expected at luxury hotels, but should be a part of the service at any property—after all, what is hospitality without good manners?

Get to Know Your Guests

Being a good listener is an important skill for getting to know someone in any relationship. Hospitality professionals especially tend to have very well-trained ears for garnering information during interactions with guests that will help them personalize service. Pay attention to your guests’ preferences when it comes to menu items, amenities, activities, room preferences, etc., and special dates like birthdays and anniversaries, then record relevant data in guest profiles to help staff tailor guests’ stays and anticipate their needs.

Show Appreciation

Showing your customers in a tangible way that you appreciate them—for example, with a little gift or note—is always well received. Such small tokens of appreciation surprise and delight guests and make them feel extra special.

Even a simple, personalized note left in the guest’s room, welcoming them to the property upon their arrival, is a thoughtful touch that will make them feel appreciated and invite them to reach out should they need anything. If finances allow for including a small welcome gift as well, even better! From locally made chocolates, or vouchers for a couple of free drinks at the bar, to small souvenirs, welcome gifts don’t have to cost much—but to be extra memorable, try to choose them to reflect the personality of your property. Gifts for returning customers can even be tailored especially for them, based on profile data.

Offer Free Amenities That Matter

According to various surveys, free WiFi is considered one of the most important amenities to travelers when choosing accommodation. And lots of travelers get excited about free breakfast. We all love to get freebies, but only if they are of value to us. For example, if you choose to offer free WiFi (and you really should), make sure it’s good and fast. Slow, unreliable internet access will only frustrate guests and result in negative reviews, even if it’s complimentary.

When it comes to choosing amenities to offer your guests for free, pick those that are popular at your property to ensure they add value to the guest experience. In addition to WiFi, in-room tea and coffee should always be included, and filtered water is always appreciated (think about using a dispenser or refrigerated pitcher, not plastic bottles). Free use of cellphone chargers and universal adapters is another convenient amenity that will save the day for many guests.

If you’re worried about the financial implications of offering certain amenities for free, consider slightly increasing room prices; it’s better to raise rates by a few dollars than charge for staple amenities. And make sure to promote free amenities on your website.

Be Inclusive

Traveling can be stressful at times for anyone, but especially for travelers with disabilities and specific needs, from alternative dietary options to amenities for young children. Even small efforts to be inclusive can make a really big difference to some of your guests.

Providing simple gluten-free and vegan options at the breakfast bar and on menus, and adding ingredient lists and allergen warnings to menu options will be much appreciated by guests with food allergies and intolerances. Travelers with young children will always be grateful for diaper-changing facilities, use of playpens and highchairs, kids’ activity packs, and family-friendly local recommendations. Thinking about the placement of furniture and amenities so that people using wheelchairs and walking aids have space to move around easily and being ready with local recommendations that are wheelchair accessible, will make the traveling experience much easier and more enjoyable for guests with mobility issues.

Share Your Local Expertise

A quick online search will show your guests the main attractions in town, but what really makes a stay special are the authentic local experiences they won’t find in the travel guides. Let your guests know about the local gems in your neighborhood, and tips for enjoying main attractions as the locals do, like best times to visit, cheapest tickets, best places to park, best places to eat, etc. It’s the pleasantly unexpected local experiences that make for a truly memorable trip.

Share your local expertise in person, on your website/app, and within in-room information as well.

Be Responsive and Available

Finally, make sure you deal with complaints and requests immediately and diplomatically. Even the most seemingly petty complaint can make a big difference to a guest’s experience. Addressing and resolving complaints and requests quickly shows guests you care and makes them feel valued. Your property management system should help you keep track of guest requests, and free up your staff’s time to be available for guests.

Showing your guests they matter doesn’t require a big budget, just some good old-fashioned hospitality. Even simple efforts to make guests feel welcome can help create a memorable experience that will bring them back for more.

Paid to Post: A Hotelier’s Guide to Influencer Marketing

Influencer Marketing. It’s likely a term you’ve heard thrown around in the last year or two, and perhaps is something you’ve considered doing yourself. You wouldn’t be alone; Hotel brands like Starwood Resorts, Fairmont, and Hilton Hotels are just a few of the businesses that have capitalized on this new opportunity. And a recent post on eHotelier included it as one of the top 5 marketing strategies for 2019. But it’s not just for large chains. Influencer marketing is a powerful tool available to independent hoteliers as well—one that is certainly worth your consideration. Here’s a quick guide to get you started:

What is influencer marketing?

Platforms like Instagram and YouTube have created an ecosystem of influential people with huge followings. And just like traditional celebrities, their endorsement has immense commercial value. By partnering with these individuals, brands can reach new and larger audiences more authentically.

The arrangements between brands and influencers (and the content that is created) can come in many forms. Brands can ask for anything from blog posts, to photos on Instagram, to Snapchat videos, and compensation can be in the form of money or free product.

Why should I do it?

It works >> Influencers are called that for a reason: they have influence (a lot of it). These internet personalities have amassed troves of followers sharing their lives online and have earned tremendous loyalty from their fans. So, their endorsement matters. In the same way that a recommendation from a friend holds more credence than an advertisement, the endorsement of an influencer packs a massive marketing punch.

Makes targeting easy >> Partnering with influencers also gives you access to very specific and well-understood audiences. Their followers are their business, so influencers are acutely aware of who their demographic is and what they want. This can help you choose who to partner with in the first place and also means the influencer can create content they know will resonate with their audience.

Who should I partner with?

Find the right audience >> Choosing the right influencer is key to finding success with this marketing strategy. You want to find someone whose ethos and audience align with your business. Make a profile of your typical guest (based on region, age, lifestyle, and income) and search for an influencer that can deliver that demographic. If you own a boutique hotel that caters to affluent millennials, find an influencer whose audience reflects that. If your guests are primarily families, partner with a family travel blogger. Like any marketing investment, you need to ensure your content is reaching potential customers.

Micro-influencers >> Influencers with massive followings can be extremely expensive to collaborate with, but don’t let that scare you. Social media is a flourishing ecosystem, and there are plenty of smaller influencers, called micro-influencers, that make great collaborators. Not only are they cheaper to partner with but they tend to have a stronger relationship with their followers (more like a friend than a celebrity) and therefore can have much higher engagement.

How can I be successful?

Assess their engagement >> The success of social media influencers has prompted many people to buy fake followers in hopes of reaping the same benefits. Obviously, you want to avoid collaborating with these types of accounts. To ensure your influencer is legitimate, you should assess the engagement of their account (the number of likes versus the number of followers) and take a scroll through their comments to see if they reflect genuine, loyal fans. A comment section full of spam is a big red flag.

Measure ROI >> At the end of the day, influencer marketing is like any other marketing investment. The point is to increase revenue at your business, so you need to know it’s working. Calculate how much the partnership is costing you (whether it’s in free nights stays, amenities, or a fee) and compare it to the revenue they bring to your business. You can track their impact by giving them a unique promo code, a branded hashtag or using UTM parameters. 

Social media has changed the marketing game irrevocably. Today’s consumers (made up by a millennial majority) engage with businesses and each other in entirely new ways. Influencers that rose to fame on social platforms are the newest celebrities, and they have the power to bring in massive revenue with their endorsement. Consider incorporating influencer marketing into your current strategy to increase your marketing reach. 

What to Post: Ideas for Creating Engaging Hotel Social Media Content

Social media is an integral part of any marketing strategy. To stay competitive in today’s marketplace, you need to regularly post content that is engaging, entertaining, and informative. That can be an overwhelming task; It takes consistent work and creativity to run an effective account. In fact, for many businesses, managing social media is an entire job description. But for independent hoteliers, social media manager is just one of many hats. We know that. So if you find yourself struggling to come up with content to post on your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter feeds, we’ve got your back. Here are a few suggestions for engaging social content:

Insider information

An easy way to ensure your social media posts are adding value for your followers is by posting insider tips and advice. Post information about nearby attractions, events, and local businesses. In addition to making you an authority on the area, piquing interest about things to do and see in your locality encourages followers to travel to the area. And if you’re the one who convinced them to come, it’s likely you’ll be the property they choose to stay at when they do. Consider approaching other businesses about cross-promotional opportunities. You can work together to promote your community and highlight each other’s businesses when you do.

Behind-the-scenes content

Social media is, by nature, a personal medium. It’s where people share their lives. So there’s an expectation that brands will share personal details as well—which is a good thing. Sharing behind-the-scenes content humanizes your staff and endears followers to your property. So take advantage of it. Consider posting pictures and stories that showcase your company culture. Something funny happens onsite? Snap a photo and share it on social media. Recently host a company event? Post pictures and let followers know what you’re up to. You can even use your platforms to showcase stellar staff and welcome new members to the team. Give guests a glimpse into what makes your business special.

Property highlights

It’s a good idea to avoid traditional advertisements on social media. They’re jarring for users, and constant selling is often ill-received. But that doesn’t mean you can’t post promotional material. It just needs to be organic and balanced (promotional content should make up less than 20% of everything you post). So show off what your property has to offer. Include posts about special packages, noteworthy amenities, information about loyalty programs and photos and videos that showcase your property.

Questions

Good user-generated content (UGC) can be leveraged to boost credibility and win bookings. As a business, you should be doing everything you can to encourage and take advantage of UGC. One good way to encourage sharing? Ask. Post questions that followers can respond to (things like “what is your best memory at our property?”, or “what did you like most about your stay?”) and then leverage those responses when they do.

Contests

Success on social media is measured by engagement. You need people to see, like, and respond to your content for it to be an effective marketing tool. And that can be tough to do. That’s why many businesses provide an incentive (in the form of contests) for likes, shares, follows, and comments. In fact, accounts that run regular contests grow 70% faster than those that don’t. So consider hosting your own giveaways to build followers and increase engagement. You’ll need something to give away (think a free night’s stay, complimentary bottle of champagne, dinner for two at your restaurant, etc.), terms and conditions, and a way to enter (tag a friend, use a hashtag, or upload a photo).

Creating content for social media is a big task, but it’s a necessary one for marketing effectively. Give these posts a try and don’t forget to use analytics. When you find out what works, repeat it (just not too often). Good luck!