Google Ads 101: A Hotelier’s Guide to Advertising with Google (Part 1)

If you’ve done any marketing at all, you’ll have heard of Google Ads. The advertising service provided by Google is used by millions of businesses worldwide. Which makes sense. Google handles billions of search queries every day, so it’s a platform with the potential to reach any target market you desire. And as the tech giant owns multiple popular platforms, Google Ads gives you access to customers using YouTube, Gmail, and other sites in its network—of course advertisers want to be on it. But it’s not something you can just sign-up for and expect good results. While there’s potential to see huge ROI with the service, a mismanaged account can quickly drain your marketing budget. So, it needs to be used wisely. With that in mind, here’s a quick guide to the powerful service:

How does it work? 

Google Ads is a pay-per-click advertising service. Businesses bid on the search terms that they want their ads to appear for, and then pay each time a user clicks on it. For example, a bed and breakfast in San Francisco might bid on the phrase “accommodation in San Francisco” so their ad will appear at the top of those search results. If a user clicks on the ad, the B&B pays their bid amount, but if the ad isn’t clicked on, the B&B pays nothing.

There are different types of ads a business can create with Google Ads. Search ads are listings that appear in Google search results. Those are the most popular type of ads, but businesses can also choose to use display ads (banner advertisements that appear on Gmail and other websites within Google’s network), video-based ads (which appear on YouTube), and App Ads (which appear within Google applications).

How are ads ranked?

There’s a lot of competition on Google, and you certainly won’t be the only business bidding on your chosen keywords. Where your ad shows up in relation to other businesses bidding on the same search query is determined by your advertising rank. And your advertising rank is determined by both your maximum bid and quality score.

Your quality score is a value that expresses how optimized and relevant your ad is to the searcher. The click-through rate of the ad, the conversion rate of your landing page, and how specific the ad is in relation to the search query all factor into an ad’s quality score.

It’s important to note that because advertising rank is a function of both your bid value and quality score, you can improve your rank without continuing to throw money at it. Always work on optimizing your ads first, so you don’t end up with an unprofitable cost-per-click.

Should I be using it?

Google Ads is a powerful service for businesses. But like any marketing endeavor, you should assess your budget, availability, and the platform suitability to decide if it’s right for you. First, research the average cost-per-click for your industry. And, using your conversion rates, determine a rough estimate for your cost-per-conversion. Is this an acceptable number? If yes, you should next consider the time you’ll need to invest in managing your account. For Google Ads campaigns to be successful, you need to be regularly evaluating and adapting your bid maximums, search terms, ad types, and so on. If you don’t have an employee that can dedicate at least a couple of hours a week to this account, you may want to consider working with a consultant.

Google Ads is a robust marketing tool. If you’ve decided the service is right for you, read our next blog for a step-by-step guide to getting started.

5 Hospitality Trends to Look Out For in 2019

A new year is beginning, and it’s the perfect time to take stock of what’s working, what isn’t, and start making a plan for finding success and wowing customers in 2019. Need a change but lack inspiration? Here are a few hospitality trends that will dominate in the new year:

More Mobile

The transition to an all-mobile world continues. It seems like every year there are new steps hoteliers must take to stay mobile friendly. In the beginning, that just meant ensuring websites were optimized for mobile devices. Oh, how far we’ve come. Moving into 2019 and beyond, mobile will be an important part of all aspects of the guest experience. Many hotels will allow guests to make and manage bookings through hotel apps, check-in and out on their mobile devices, and access rooms with a mobile key. Rooms will be equipped with smart technology that allows lighting, temperature, and entertainment to be controlled via personal devices and room service orders and other requests will be made over text messaging. Mobile technology has found its way into every aspect of our lives, and that includes travel. So, consider ways to make your business more mobile friendly. This is a trend that isn’t going away.

Health and Well-Being

Moving into the new year, wellness tourism (travel with the intent to maintain or improve health) will be even bigger than it was in 2018. In fact, the industry is forecasted to reach $919 billion in revenue by 2022. With numbers like that, there’s good reason to incorporate health and wellness into your hospitality business. And there are a variety of options for accomplishing this: from installing fitness centers, health spas or saunas, to hosting retreats and serving healthy food options. If you don’t have the necessary facilities on-site, consider partnering with a local business. You could provide a health and wellness package that includes passes to a nearby studio.

Social, Social, Social

This will likely come as no surprise, but social media will continue to play a significant role in 2019. This year we will see a shift towards more ephemeral content, with live-streaming and social media stories gaining momentum across many popular platforms. And behind the scenes, social listening will become a more prevalent marketing practice—allowing businesses to monitor online chatter about their brand for more effective lead generation and reputation management.

Cool Tech

The futuristic tech that we’ve blogged about in the past will begin to gain traction in the hospitality industry this year. It’s predicted that chatbots will be involved in more than 85% of customer service interactions by the year 2020—which isn’t surprising. AI can provide 24/7 service while significantly reducing cost. And there is little customer resistance as consumers adjust to the use of chatbots and other digital assistants in all aspects of their lives.

Though still in its infancy, the use of robots in hospitality will also continue to climb this year. What began as an exciting novelty, has become an essential piece of the customer service puzzle in a few larger hotels across North America and Asia. Like chatbots, they have the potential to maximize service while reducing staffing costs.

Other tech trends to look out for this year include the use of biometrics and virtual reality.

Adults-only

While many hotels invest in amenities that cater to the whole family, there is a growing subset of properties doing just the opposite. Adults-only properties (all guests must be 16 years or older to stay) are seeing an upswing in popularity recently that will likely continue into the new year. As more and more adults seek out the tranquility of a kid-free holiday, middle and budget properties are participating in what used to be the exclusive territory of luxury resorts in the Caribbean.

The hospitality industry is always evolving. It’s important to stay abreast of changes in design, operations, and technology, so you don’t get left behind. Keep these current and emerging trends in mind when looking to make changes this year.

A Hotelier’s Guide to the Holiday Season

You’re probably just beginning to take down your Halloween decor, but pretty soon you’ll have new decorations to put up. Christmas is fast approaching, and you need to be prepared. The holidays are an excellent time for hotels to increase occupancy, up-sell bookings, and delight guests. So, it’s time to start planning.

Here’s a quick guide to help hoteliers get ready for (and get the most out of) this holiday season.

Special packages

Like all special occasions, you should take this opportunity to curate themed packages to offer your guests. These could include things like Christmas dinner, gift-wrapping services, holiday cookies—family packages could even feature a visit from Santa.

When building packages, consider partnering with local businesses. You might not have the ability to put on big holiday events at your property, but you can still include tickets to local events and attractions in the community. Things like sleigh rides, light displays, holiday concerts, and ski passes make great additions to a holiday package.

In addition to creating new packages, look at existing ones and tweak their descriptions to give them a holiday spin. If it includes spa services, for example, you could rename it “Holiday Bliss” and invite them to “have a stress-free holiday this year.”

Seasonal cocktails

If you have a bar or restaurant at your property, the drink menu is an excellent place to add some holiday flair. There’s nothing like the smell of mulled wine (maybe next to a roaring fire) to make it feel like a cozy Christmas haven. And seasonal cocktails like peppermint martinis, eggnog, and hot buttered rum are sure to spread some holiday cheer.

Holiday events

There are all sorts of holiday events you can host at your property. They can be as extravagant or as simple as you want so long as it fits your brand and clientele. Among a long list of holiday offerings, Fairmont Empress is hosting multiple turkey dinners, will have Christmas carolers in their lobby and a life-size gingerbread house on display. Last year Woodmark Hotel invited families to decorate cookies with a local chef. So, get creative. You can hold a snowman building contest, plan a card-making workshop, host movie nights with holiday classics—whatever you think will get your guests enjoying the season.

Decorations

No holiday venue is complete without decorations. These should go up around the first week of December and can include garlands, lights, ribbons, wreaths, ornaments, and, of course, a Christmas tree.

If your property is family-friendly, consider adding an Elf on the Shelf into your decorating strategy. This popular toy can be moved every night and set up in a new and entertaining pose (look here for inspiration). And you can turn it into a contest with your guests. They can take a picture when they find him, upload it to social media, tag your property, and be entered in a contest. It’s a lot of fun for the guests and great marketing for you.

Marketing

Speaking of marketing, once you’ve planned all your holiday festivities you need to promote them. Whatever packages and events you have planned should be featured on your website and across social media channels. And consider creating a seasonal events calendar on your site that highlights your own activities as well as those in the community. Offering current, relevant information will help SEO and add value for your guests.

Once you’ve decorated your propertyand when events and activities are going onbe sure to take professionally shot photos and footage. They’ll be a valuable marketing asset this time next year.

 

The holiday season is an exciting (and profitable) time. Start preparing your property now so that you can make the most of it.

If You List It They Will Come: A Hotelier’s Guide to Google My Business

Most people planning a vacation start with a Google search. That’s why you work so hard to optimize your search results placement with SEO strategies. And you should. But it’s not all you can be doing to make the platform work for you. Managing your Google My Business listing is an important step for staying competitive on the powerful search engine.

What it is

Google My Business is a free, online tool that allows you to control how your business appears across Google. A listing for your property, curated by you, appears on Google Maps and in the Knowledge Graph (the info-box on the righthand side) of search results. It’s like an online storefront. Users can see your property, and relevant information about it, before clicking onto your websitemaking your business more visible and more accessible to potential guests.

Where to start

The first step is to search for any existing listings for your business. While you may not have created one yourself, an unclaimed listing may exist—in which case you’ll need to claim it. Otherwise, visit the Google My Business page and click ‘Start Now.’ From there you’ll need to create an account, verify your business, and then begin managing your listing.

Managing your listing

Categories >> You’ll need to choose a primary category that represents what type of business you are. This helps Google list your business appropriately and gives you access to category-specific features. Hotel listings, for example, can add class-ratings and amenities to their entries. In addition to one primary category, you can choose up to nine others if appropriate for your business.

Business information >> This is obvious, but you’ll want to ensure all your business information is accurate and up-to-date. That includes things like your contact info and website URL as well as a description of your business. If you choose to upload a description (you should), it must be less than 750 characters and adhere to Google’s description guidelines.

Photo and video content >> Listings with photos experience 35% more clicks through to their website. So, don’t skip this step. Upload as many professionally shot photos that you need to tell your property’s story and inspire prospective guests. Within the bunch, you can identify a profile photo and cover photo so Google knows which ones you’d like to display first. Click here for Google’s full photo and video guidelines.

Reviews >> Google is always encouraging customers to leave reviews after visiting a business. It has turned the online juggernaut into the #1 review site in the world, and those reviews are included in your Google My Business listing. That’s a good thing because user feedback is significantly more trusted than traditional marketing. So make sure you are responding to these reviews as part of your reputation management strategy.

Updates >> Make listing updates a regular part of your management strategy. In addition to ensuring the accuracy of all information, and responding to reviews, you can post special offers and promotions directly on your listing. Keeping your Google My Business page fresh will help it stand out to potential guests.

Optimization >> Google My Business includes an analytics feature (called Insights) that allows you to understand how people are interacting with your listing. You can use it, for example, to determine how people are finding your listing, how many times they view it, and how often people ask for directions to your property.

Google My Business is a powerful marketing tool. Make sure you’re claiming and managing your listing to maximize its potential. And consider downloading the platform’s app to make the job as easy as possible.

Pillow Mints and Pumpkins: A Hotelier’s Guide to Halloween

The summer is ending here in the Northern Hemisphere. We hope it was a good (and profitable) one. But there isn’t any rest for a hotelier, so it’s time to turn your attention to the fall. With the busy season slowing down you should start thinking about new ways to boost occupancy and generate buzz for your property. And there’s a holiday around the corner that could help you do just that: Halloween! Just like Valentine’s Day and Easter, with a little imagination, this occasion can be a great marketing (and revenue-generating) opportunity for your business. Read on for ideas on how your lodging operation can make the most of this spooky holiday.

Throw a party

This one’s a no-brainer. Everyone loves a good Halloween party. And you can go as big (or as small) as makes sense for your property. Looking for a little bit of inspiration? The Fairmont Hotel Vancouver hosts a 6-ballroom party at their historic property. In the past, they’ve had haunted mazes, amusement park rides, illusions, and even a comedic conjuring of the hotel’s famous ghost—The Lady in Red. Ace Hotels Los Angeles has included Tarot card readings, aura photography and costume contests at their past events. And Hotel del Coronado in San Diego hosts an annual “Hallo-wine and Spirits” party. It’s a fun holiday with unlimited potential, so be creative!

Host a murder mystery

If you’d like to plan an event that’s a little smaller in scale, why not host a murder mystery dinner? The Stanley Hotel in Colorado (known for its role in the movie The Shining) did just that in 2017. Guests dressed up to compliment the 1920’s mafia theme of the event and partook in a 4-course dinner and murder mystery activity. It’s a great way to celebrate the spooky occasion. And if it’s a hit, you can always turn it into a weekend-long affair like these hotels.

Screen a spooky film

If you’re looking for another way to deliver a festive fright, consider screening a scary movie at your property. It’s an activity that can be enjoyed by the whole family. And depending on your space and location, you could set up the screen indoors or out. But whatever you choose, don’t forget the spooky decorations or Halloween-themed treats.

Decorate pumpkins

Pumpkin carving is an activity you can offer to your guests (and community members) that’s appealing to all ages. And you can make it as extravagant as you want. A few years ago W New York offered guests the chance to have their selfie carved into a pumpkin by the famous pumpkin-artist Hugh McManon. But if that seems like too much, you could also create a pumpkin carving competition on social media. Participants can submit photos of their best creations, and the winners can receive a free night stay at your hotel. It won’t provide the revenue of hosting an actual event, but it’ll create some good online buzz for your property.

Offer a themed package

If you are going to offer Halloween-related activities and amenities, be sure to create a themed package for the occasion. In addition to a night (or two) stay, you can include tickets to the events, meals, complimentary candy—anything that makes sense for your property. The Hay Adams in Washington DC offers a stay in their “Transylvania Suite” which comes decked out in cobwebs, skeletons and other creepy decorations. The package also includes a selection of horror movies to choose from and 3-course meal.

Halloween is an exciting holiday with a lot of potential. It’s the perfect opportunity to get your creative juices flowing, so take advantage of it! You’ll be rewarded with new revenue streams and great promotional material for your website and social media channels. Have fun!

Remarketing: How It Works and Why You Should Do It

Of all the people that visit a hotel’s site, only 2% (on average) end up making a booking. So, while it might feel like getting traffic to your website is good enough, the job doesn’t end there. A huge percentage of people who show interest in a property don’t follow through. That’s a lot of missed opportunity. So, how can you mitigate the effects of website abandonment? Answer: remarketing.

What it is

Remarketing is when a brand attempts to re-engage with consumers who have already shown an interest in their product. If, for example, a user visits a website for a hotel and then leaves without making a booking, remarketing allows ads for that hotel to appear on other sites that user visits. The idea is that they’ll be reminded of their original interest and return to complete the booking. And it works. Website visitors that are retargeted are 70% more likely to complete a booking.

How it works

A small piece of code (called a pixel) on your website is used to install cookies on browsers that visit it. The cookie then “follows” that user around the internet and displays ads to them. Targeted ads can be displayed online, by email, or on social media channels. Depending on where in the booking funnel they were before abandonment, those ads can be simple logos to maintain awareness or specific offers for rooms and rates.

Why it’s a good idea

Remarketing is a cost-effective way to spend your marketing dollars. The money is being directed at consumers that have already shown an interest in your product, so ROI is high. It also allows you to offer differentiated offers. If someone has abandoned a booking, you can target them with a discounted rate without making it available to the general public. And for that reason, you won’t have to worry about rate parity issues with OTAs. It’s a great way to incentivize potential guests and win more direct bookings.

Tips for success

Choose pages carefully >> When you’re choosing pages of your website to put pixels on, pick ones that are relevant to the booking process (at least in the beginning), so you can target the customers that are the most serious. This can be landing pages for special offers, the availability calendar, booking engine, etc. And then target them with ads that make sense for where they are in the marketing funnel.

Use frequency caps >> When remarketing to potential guests, you want them to be subtly reminded of your property, not feel inundated by it. So use frequency caps to control how often your ad appears to a guest.

Personalize the emails >> Email ads feel a lot more invasive than those displayed on websites, and social media feeds. So when you send them, they need to be valuable to the guest. This can be achieved by making the emails personalized. If a guest abandons a booking after selecting a room and dates, the email can include the relevant information. For example, you might send an email that says “we noticed you were interested in a [UNIT] for [DATES]” with a “Continue Booking” call-to-action button. It’ll make the email useful to the recipient and feel less like spam.

Send them soon >> If you are using email retargeting, send the first one within three hours of booking abandonment. Emails sent in this time frame average a 40% open rate and a 20% click-through rate.

 

Remarketing is a powerful strategy to increase customer engagement and drive bookings. Consider giving it a try, so you don’t miss out on any potential guests. Good luck!

A Hotelier’s Guide to Creating Effective Video Content

When creating digital content for your website and social media channels, video cannot be overlooked. It has become the key to online engagement. In fact, video is expected to account for more than 80% of all web traffic by next year. So, if you want to stay competitive, you need to hop on board. Here’s a quick guide to creating compelling video content:

Content

For marketing collateral to be effective today, it can’t look like it did in the past. People no longer trust overt advertisement, and video content is no exception. So steer clear of anything too “sales-y.” It’s not going to land, and users will simply scroll by or click away. If you want people to watch your video, it needs to be valuable for them not just promotional for you. That means making it entertaining, moving, or educational. Curious what that looks like? This video for La Sirenuse and this one for Bugatti Hotels and Resorts, are both excellent examples of the kind of content that works in today’s climate.

Length

There’s some debate about how long a marketing video should be. And it’ll vary depending on the type of video you’re producing and the platform you plan to publish it on. Instagram videos, for example, should stay around 30 seconds as it’s the channel that users scroll through the fastest. Content made for YouTube, however, can be longer. But try and keep it under two minutes as a rule of thumb. Attention spans are short these days and videos longer than that generally see large viewership drop-off.

Production

Thanks to social media, effective marketing material has a much more personal and casual tone. So, you can forgo a stiff, corporate feel but it still needs to be professional. And that professionalism comes from production quality. When making video content, you need to pay attention to things like lighting, audio, and editing (to name a few). If not done well, viewers aren’t going to take your brand seriously. All things considered, it’s likely you’ll want to hire outside help. But if you choose to do it yourself, make sure to use the right equipment and follow these product tips.

Publishing

Video content can be used on all your marketing channels. The length and content might need to vary a bit (as mentioned earlier), but Facebook, Instagram, and YouTube are all platforms where video thrives. So, take advantage of them. And be sure to embed it in your property’s website to encourage users to stay longer (making a conversion more likely). You should also consider including video content in your email campaigns and on your landing pages—which has been shown to significantly improve click-through and conversion rates, respectively.

Optimization

You invest a lot of time and money into making video content, so it’s imperative you do everything you can to optimize its impact online. For YouTube, this means creating a punchy title that grabs users attention, including a short but informative description, and choosing appropriate tags to help users find your videos in searches. If you’re embedding video on your website, you’ll need to create a video sitemap. This provides search engines with the necessary information they need (such as video title, description, URL, etc.) to index your videos appropriately.

 

Video is a powerful medium that has become an integral part of digital marketing across all industries. If you want to maximize engagement online, it’s something will have to invest in. But make sure you do it right. Poorly produced content that undermines credibility could be worse than no videos at all.

Selling the Experience: How to Market Effectively to Today’s Travelers

A recent study conducted by Expedia and The Center for Generational Kinetics, found that 74% of Americans value experiences over things. That’s great news for the hospitality industry as most of those people are planning to travel in pursuit of those experiences.

So how can you capitalize on the emerging “experience economy”? For these travelers, the memory is the product. You need to adapt your marketing material to reflect that. It’s not enough to simply advertise a luxurious bed or first-rate amenities. You need to showcase the unique travel experiences that guests will have at your property. Here’s how:

Create video content

Video has become a powerful marketing medium across all industries. It improves SEO and boosts conversions—one study even suggests that including video content in a landing page can increase conversions by 80%. It’s also an ideal tool for showcasing experiences. If used correctly, the dynamic medium can inspire viewers and help them imagine what a stay at your property would be like.

Create videos that portray people experiencing everything your property has to offer (with #travelinspo footage of events and other highlights) and post them across your digital channels. Once viewers start picturing themselves laughing with friends over a drink on the patio, or kayaking peacefully on the lake out front, for example, they won’t want to book anywhere else.

Promote your destination

For most travelers, the destination is the draw. They’re looking to explore and experience the local culture. So, you should promote your locality as well as your property. Sharing helpful information about things to do and see in your area shows a commitment to experiential travel that guests will appreciate. And demonstrating your local expertise will earn their trust. Guests want to stay somewhere connected to the community with insider tips for getting the most out of their holiday.

Share UGC

User-generated content (UGC) is a big deal in today’s marketing landscape. And for good reason. Consumers are much more trusting of their peer’s reviews than traditional marketing material. And, as it’s the real-life experience of your guests, UGC is particularly well-suited for marketing in the experience economy. So, when a guest posts about their stay at your property, use it. It’s the most authentic promotional material you could hope for.

Considering the value of UGC, you should do what you can to encourage guests to post online. This can be done by creating a strong social media presence, hosting contests, and including calls-to-action on other marketing collateral.

Partner with influencers

For high-impact UGC, consider partnering with social media influencers. These are people with a significant number of followers whose content generates considerable engagement. Unlike traditional UGC, these posts will cost you (either in fees or free stays at your property). But if you choose the right influencer, it’ll likely be well worth the investment. 81% of marketers that have tried influencer marketing considered it effective.

Be authentic online

Part of selling the experience at your property is showing off your unique personality. Travelers today aren’t interested in generic accommodation. And if your digital content is uninspired and formulaic, they’ll assume your property is the same way. So make sure you’re being authentic on your website and social media channels. Avoid an overly formal tone and steer clear of canned responses to guest posts.

 

Today’s travelers are seeking exciting experiences they’ll remember forever (and can share on their social media pages). Make sure you’re creating effective marketing material so you can capture their imaginations and ultimately win their bookings.

 

Bleisure Travelers: How Hoteliers Can Capitalize on this Travel Trend

In the past, vacationers and those traveling for work were distinct demographics. And they were marketed to in very different ways. But a new type of traveler has emerged that merges the two worlds. More and more, business travelers are extending their trips in order to get in some sightseeing and leisure time (hence the moniker “bleisure”), in addition to their work duties. And it makes sense. If you’re going to take long flights to exciting locations, why not take the opportunity to enjoy it. It’s a trend that’s here to stay, so make sure you’re doing what you can to capitalize on this growing market.

Facilitate their business

Provide the necessities >> At the end of the day, business comes first for the bleisure traveler. They need to be able to check emails, work remotely, and video conference. It’s their primary focus, so you need to make sure your property is equipped for their work needs. Today that means offering fast and reliable WiFi and workspaces in rooms or communal areas.

Prioritize convenience >> For people rushing to meetings and working hard to stay on top of their work, convenience is critical. Their time is limited, so anything you can do to make their lives easier will be a huge draw. This means things like offering complimentary breakfast and early/late checkout.

Facilitate their leisure

Extend the corporate rate >> To encourage guests to extend their business trip, offer them additional nights at the same rate that their company paid. The guaranteed occupancy is worth the reduced room rate.

Make it easy >> When it comes time for the bleisure traveler to enjoy the destination, they’re still crunched for time. Typically, trips are extended for 2-3 days, so finding the most efficient way to see the sights and experience the community is a necessity. This is where you can help.  Provide a city guide with local highlights and recommendations to help guests narrow down their choices. And be sure to include activities and attractions that appeal to various interests.

Be family-friendly >> When business travelers extend their trips for leisure, they will often bring family or friends with them. Make sure your property is family-friendly by offering dining options for children, rentable strollers and highchairs, and kid-centric activities.

Make sure they know

Partner with the right distribution channels >> Businesses often make hotel bookings through corporate booking agents. To score those reservations, you need to be connected to the Global Distribution Channel (GDS). It’s also a good idea to build relationships with booking agents (local and international), so they think of you first when dealing with corporate clients.

Feature it online >> If you have a business service section on your website, include information about how you cater to bleisure travelers. And post about it on your social media pages. Promotion is an essential part of any hospitality campaign.

Include it in emails >> Once a corporate booking is made, ensure guests know about your special offers right away. Include information about special rates (and other services relevant to the bleisure traveler) in confirmation and pre-arrival emails. You want to give them the opportunity to extend their stay as soon as possible. And for existing corporate clients, consider creating a targeted email campaign promoting your property as the ultimate bleisure-friendly accommodation.

Millennials have changed a lot about the hospitality industry. Their expectations for hotel operations and communication are a substantial departure from the past. And their expectations for business travel are no different. There’s a growing trend of mixing work with leisure that is here to stay. Make sure you’re doing what you can to cater to this new demographic.

An Independent Hotelier’s Guide to Hosting Private Functions

Large hotels have been in the private function game for a long time as they had the traditional banquet halls typically favored for weddings and holiday parties. But tastes are changing. Many people planning weddings (and other parties) today are searching for smaller, unique spaces to host their special celebrations. That puts independent hotels in a unique position. And it’s one you should consider taking advantage of. Not only do the events themselves provide great revenue opportunities, but they’re also an opportunity to land group bookings, expose your hotel to a broader audience, and generate more marketing fodder.

Interested? Here’s a quick guide to hosting weddings (and other private functions) at your independent hotel.

Use what you have

Take stock of the spaces and amenities that you have to offer. You might not have a large banquet hall, but you don’t need one. On-site restaurants, outdoor gardens, even a picturesque dock can make for an ideal ceremony or reception. Your individuality is your greatest asset. So find the locations on your property that scream #weddinginspo and come up with a plan. Where would the tables go? How many people can it hold? This will vary depending on the type of reception. A formal sit-down dinner requires more space per person, but a cocktail-style reception allows for a higher capacity. Have numbers ready for both.

Create packages

Once you’ve determined what spaces you have available—and therefore what type and size of events your property can host—it’s time to create packages. Every event is different so you should have a variety of options. When it comes to weddings, for example, some couples might be looking for a venue for the ceremony and reception, while others might only need a location to shoot photos. Some clients will require a hotel room for the wedding parties to get dressed, in addition to a honeymoon suite for the newlyweds. Whatever packages you offer, do something to make your clients feel special. It doesn’t have to be big—a complimentary bottle of wine or even a hand-written note will go a long way.

Make connections

Event planning is a big job. To help make it a more seamless experience for your clients, consider connecting with other local businesses in the industry. Juggling all the moving parts of a big event will be easier if you have a pre-existing relationship with caterers and photographers. You’ll already have a point of contact, and they’ll be familiar with your property. It’s also an excellent way to drum up more business as you can cross-promote one another.

Promote

Speaking of promotion, that’s the next big piece of the puzzle. If you want to break into the private function business, you need people to see you as an event venue. Create a page on your website dedicated to private functions and promote it across social media. You want people to fall in love with the space, so professional photos are a must. In fact, you might want to consider staging a wedding photoshoot so prospective clients can imagine their own weddings at your property. And when private functions are held at your hotel, don’t let the opportunity for great user-generated content pass you by. Ask for feedback and then use it in your marketing collateral. There are few things better for your reputation than a happy bride.

 

As an independent hotel with unique spaces, you’re in the perfect position to host intimate, personalized private functions. And given the potential for additional revenue streams and promotion, it’s an opportunity you should certainly consider.