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

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

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

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

 

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

The Personalized Experience

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

The Trained Employee

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

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

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

Technology’s Role

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

 

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

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

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

Accounts

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

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

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

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

Content

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

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

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

Engagement

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

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

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

Celebrate Spring with Style: A Hotelier’s Guide to Easter

The last of Valentine’s Day chocolate has barely been finished and there’s already another sweet (and potentially profitable!) holiday around the corner. Easter is celebrated by 80% of all Americans, and if you play your cards right, they could be celebrating with you. Here’s a quick guide to help independent hotelier’s make the most of this Easter holiday.

Host Events

Easter weekend is all about spending time with family. Hosting events and offering Easter-related activities for all ages is a great way to not only score over-night guests but build relationships with local families as well.

Easter brunch >> If your property has an on-site restaurant, hosting an Easter brunch is a no-brainer. You likely already offer the trendy meal on regular weekends, which means all you need is a little Easter-themed spruce for the special occasion. Think about using spring flowers in your centerpieces, including hints of pastel, and maybe even folding the table napkins into little Easter bunnies.

Easter egg hunt >> Interested in going beyond a traditional Sunday brunch? Easter egg hunts are an excellent activity to get the family outside and moving around after filling them up with eggs Benedict. And they can be exactly as elaborate as you choose to make them. Depending on the time and resources you want to invest in the event you can go as simple as hiding plastic eggs filled with candy on-property or as complex as an off-site, technology-mediated hunt.

Other ideas >> Looking for other ways to make the holiday special for your guests? Egg decorating and petting zoos are always a hit with the kids (and many adults!). Regardless of what activities you decide to offer, make sure to take pictures! They can be used for social media posts just following the holiday as well as in marketing collateral for the next year.

Create a Special Package

Whatever events and activities you decide to offer at your property (or even if you aren’t offering any), you should consider creating a special Easter package to capitalize on the holiday. If you’re hosting an event, include tickets to it. If not, spruce up the package with Easter chocolates and breakfast at your restaurant.

Promote

Once you’ve done all the hard work of putting together special Easter events and packages, you need to promote them! As usual, promotional efforts should include strategies for social media and email.

Social media >> As the holiday gets closer, begin sharing Easter-themed content that shows how excited your property is to celebrate. This can even include behind-the-scenes photos or videos of staff preparing for the weekend (social media is all about personal content after all). In addition to posts that promote your special packages and on-site activities, you could also hold a social media contest (where participants must like and comment on your content for a chance to win).

Email campaign >> Never miss the opportunity for a good email campaign. Holidays are a great reason to send a note to all the guests in your database. Wish them a happy Easter and invite them to come down and celebrate with you.

Decorate

Decorating your property is the final (and most fun!) step for Easter weekend preparations. The guests have committed, so now you just need to make the place festive. Embellish the front desk and guest rooms with fresh flowers, Easter eggs, and complimentary chocolates.

 

Holidays are an excellent opportunity to attract overnight guests and build strong local connections at the same time. Whether it’s a special brunch or an extravagant egg hunt, offering families a place to spend the Easter weekend together can be great exposure in your community and a lot of fun for everyone.

It’s Time to Get Personal: Delighting Guests with Individualized Experiences

Ever since the introduction of Big Data, individualized experiences have become the new status quo. Advertisements online highlight products we’ve previously shown interest in, video streaming services suggest content catered to our tastes and preferences, and google searches return results that reflect our location and online history. Personalization is no longer a perk; It’s a convenience we’ve come to expect. And in the hospitality world, there’s nothing more important than meeting (and exceeding!) the expectations of your guests. Make sure you’re doing what you can to personalize the guest experience at your property and win guest loyalty.

Gather Information

The first step in creating a personalized experience is knowing your guest. And to do that, you need data. PMSs and CRMs allow you to create detailed profiles for every guest. So use them. Any information you learn (whether it’s their profession, preferences, or interests) should be added to the system in order to be leveraged later. How do you get that information? A lot about your guests can be learnt from the following sources:

Special Requests >> Giving customers a chance to make special requests for a booking is standard practice and one of the best opportunities to learn valuable information about your guest. Whether it’s a room preference or a dietary restriction, any special requests should be preserved in the guest profile so needs can be anticipated for future stays.

Ancillary Services >> The services they use, and the products they purchase can tell you a lot about a guest. Do they buy a tea and bagel every morning? Spend most of their time at the spa? Taking note of their habits and preferences gives you a lot to work with when it’s time to surprise and delight a guest.

Personal Accounts >> With everyone documenting their lives and engaging with friends and brands on the internet, social media accounts are treasure troves of data. It’s common to get a customer’s email at the time of booking. Why not their social media handle as well? Not only can you connect with guests online, but it’s easy to get a feel for their likes and dislikes. Do they obsess over coffee? Have a bag of local beans waiting in the room. Are they huge sports fans? Let them know what games are going on during their stay.

Surprise and Delight

Now that you’ve gathered information, it’s time to put those meticulous profiles to use. Wow your guests with unexpected gestures that show you care. They don’t need to be big. A hot chocolate on arrival for the guest with a sweet tooth, waived WiFi fees for the business traveler, restaurant recommendations for the foodie. It’s the little, personal touches that stand out in our memories. They are also the details that will likely be documented on social media and shared with friends—ensuring you’ve not only earned guest loyalty but expanded your marketing reach as well.

Keep in Touch

A personalized guest experience isn’t restricted to on-site interactions. With a customer’s email (or social media handles) you can continue the relationship long after they’ve checked out. If you’ve noted a guest’s birthday, why not send them a quick message wishing them a happy day? If you know a customer loves live music, let them know about an event in town that might interest them. People like to be remembered, and in return, they’re sure to remember you.

Hospitality is a hard industry to stay on top of. Competition and guest expectations continue to grow, and you need to keep up. Focus on creating a memorable, personalized experience for all your guests in order to win their hearts and loyalty.

Micro-Moments: The Future of Digital Marketing

American consumers spend an average of five hours a day on their smartphone. These powerful devices provide us with constant connection and instant access to the entirety of human knowledge. So, it’s no surprise that the prominent role they now play has fundamentally changed the way we relate to the world around us. And that includes how we interact with brands. Gone are the days of traditional advertising and a linear customer journey. We’re playing in a new arena. So, what should you be doing to keep your marketing game strong? Google says: focus on micro-moments.

What are micro-moments?

With infinite information at our fingertips, consumers have become accustomed to finding answers and taking action the moment the need strikes. A quick internet search can find nearby restaurants, research a destination or book a hotel. These intent-rich moments are what Google refers to as micro-moments. Our lives are full of them. Moments when we want to know something, moments when we want to do something and moments when we want to buy something. They’re frequent, they’re specific, and we’ve grown accustomed to them yielding high-quality results in a short amount of time.

What does this mean for hoteliers?

The expectation for instant payoff—whether it’s the answer to a burning question or making a purchase—and the fact that people are inundated with information and advertisement all day long, means marketers need to make sure their content is both concise and valuable. You need to provide the right information at the right time, so the customer gets something out of engaging with your brand.

Capitalizing on micro-moments

Google identifies four types of micro-moments specific to the hospitality industry. To market your property effectively, you should think about how you’re catering to the following:

“I want to get away”  moments >> These are the moments a browser begins to think about a vacation. At this point, they are unattached to accommodation or even destination. It’s the perfect time to make an impression and leave them dreaming about a stay at your property. To capitalize on these micro-moments, create content that inspires (think #travelinspo-worthy visual content) and informs. Photos and online videos are critical to travelers choosing where to go, and 67% of browsers are more likely to book with a property that’s provided useful information abut a destination.

“Time to make a plan” moments >> The destination has now been chosen, which means the next micro-moments for the browser are all about plan-making. Getting noticed at this stage in a buyer’s journey is about showing up on the appropriate internet searches. This means doing what you can to optimize placement for searches like “hotels in [destination],” “hotels with [amenity],” and so on. In these moments you should also be providing specific information about your property including pricing and amenities.

“Let’s book it” moments >> It’s finally the moment a browser decides to make a booking. At this stage, a customer has likely settled on a brand but a seamless and credible booking experience is necessary to ensure customers follow through. Your site should be set up to take mobile bookings with as few steps as possible and provide fast load times. People are quick to switch sites if the booking process is too complicated or too slow.

“Can’t wait to explore” moments >> Don’t ignore the customers that have already booked with you. You can still take advantage of their exploration micro-moments in order to nurture customer loyalty. At this stage, browsers are making decisions about what to do on their trip. Offer useful information about local attractions, activities, and weather leading up to (and during) their stay.

 

Smartphones have changed the way guests research, plan, and purchase. The buyer’s journey has been fragmented into distinct moments of specific intent. Start catering to these micro-moments by being available and useful at every stage.

 

 

 

4 Considerations for Choosing the Right OTAs

Online travel agencies (OTAs) have taken the hospitality industry by storm. What began as a platform for selling excess inventory when demand was low, has grown to dominate the entire booking landscape. Today, the majority of reservations worldwide are made via these online platforms, which makes OTAs an essential component of all lodging operators’ distribution strategiesoften accounting for the majority of a property’s revenue.

While the cost to play the OTA game can be steep (commissions range from 10-30%), the benefits of exposure on these platforms are many. Not only does an OTA distribute your business to a wider audience than you would be otherwise capable, but it can also act to promote direct bookings on your website due to the billboard effect. And it’s worth noting that OTAs can aid international customers in understanding and booking with your property. Offering details in the appropriate language and currency helps open your doors to guests from all over the world.

When it comes to your OTA strategy, it’s a good idea to diversify. Don’t rely on 1 or 2 agencies; you want your property to be visible across multiple channels. But there are a lot of different platforms to choose from, so how do you know which OTAs to use? The right distribution channels will vary for each property, but here are a few things to consider when choosing the right OTA for you:

Cost

Obviously, one of the biggest concerns (and most important things to consider) is the cost of partnering with an OTA. There’s quite a bit of variability in the commissions charged by various OTA platforms, and some can be prohibitively high. When determining if an OTA is worth the cost, remember to account for the customer lifetime value (CLV) of guests brought in by the channel in question. If your landing high-spending, returning guests, steep commissions may ultimately be worth it.

Target Market

OTAs are not all the same. Just as individual lodging operators cater to different types of guests, OTAs have their own demographic sweet spots. For a productive partnership, ensure you choose an OTA that aligns with your target market. Platforms that cater to hostels (like Gomio and Hostelworld) are not the ideal distribution channel for boutique properties; and OTAs designed for vacation rentals (like Airbnb) would do little for a chain hotel. The same can be said for geographic region. While many of the major players (like Booking.com and Expedia) are prominent worldwide, others focus on a more specific region (like Ctrip).

Experience

The experience of an OTA should be considered when choosing the platforms on which to sell your inventory. How many bookings do they facilitate? How long has the OTA had a presence in your market of interest? Does the channel in question have a history of serving properties similar to your own? While you may choose to take a chance on a newcomer, it’s wise to prioritize reputable channels with a demonstrable history of success.

Functionality

Finally, ensure the platforms you choose have interfacing capabilities with your channel manager. Any changes to availability made over an OTA or on your property management system should update automatically. Avoid any situation that would require you to input inventory changes manually. It’s a waste of your time and could result in overbookings.

 

Deciding on a combination of distribution channels that compliment your property is an important job. You need to sort through a lot of available platforms to find the ones whose cost, target market, experience and functionality meet your needs. And it doesn’t end there. While OTAs expose your brand to a massive audience of potential customers, they also do the same for your competitors. If you want to get noticed on an OTA, you need to manage your profile in a way that maximizes exposure.

 

 

 

A Hotelier’s Guide to Valentine’s Day

Ever feel like you’re in a marketing rut? It can be challenging to find new and exciting ways to connect with customers and improve your bottom line. Fortunately, there are moments sprinkled throughout the year that offer unique opportunities to mix things up: Holidays! Whether it’s New Year’s Day, Easter or Halloween, public holidays are an excellent occasion to stretch your creative mucles and create fresh promotional content for your lodging operation (an imperative in the age of social media).

Of all the holidays throughout the year, Valentine’s Day has some of the greatest potential for maximizing revenue. In fact, consumers spend around 18 billion dollars on the holiday in the United States alone. So take advantage of it! With February 14th fast approaching, here are a few ways hoteliers can make the most of Valentine’s Day this year:

Offer Special Packages

When it comes to Valentine’s Day, guests are looking for a special way to celebrate with their special someone. Offering packages exclusively for the occasion adds an element of luxury often associated with the holiday. While tried and true features like Champagne and chocolate will never go out of style, you don’t need to limit yourself to the classics. Why not prepare all the fixings for a romantic picnic for two? Or partner with a local business (think carriage rides, wine tastings, etc.) to curate a date night to remember? Standing out from the crowd will land you more bookings and nurture loyalty with your guests.

You also needn’t limit yourself to Valentine’s Day packages designed for couples. Broaden your reach with offerings that appeal to singles as well (perhaps a “Girls’ Night In” package equipped with movie rentals and popcorn).

Seize the Opportunity to Upsell

Valentine’s Day is an opportunity for upselling that shouldn’t be missed. Guests are looking to make the occasion exceptional, and they’re more than willing to splurge. After bookings are made, offer additional amenities like a couples massage, a room upgrade or a nice bottle of wine. These upsells will enhance their guest experience.

Host an Event

To really seize the day, consider hosting a Valentine’s Day event (or events) at your property. You can plan a party, offer dance classes, or schedule a Paint Nite – anything that suits your brand. In additional to being great publicity, you’ll also boost food and beverage revenue and likely increase overnight bookings. If you choose this option, make sure to advertise locally and include tickets in Valentine’s Day packages.

Celebrate on Social Media

However you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day at your property, don’t forget to include a compelling social media campaign. Whether it’s on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, it’s a good idea to:

Highlight the romance>> Leading up to February 14th, begin sharing content that showcases the romantic aspects of your property. A candlelit table set for two, a suite adorned in rose petals, a bottle of Champagne on the beach – post images that let your guests know your hotel is the idea spot for the Valentine’s Day of their dreams. And be sure to use words that evoke romantic imagery. On Valentine’s Day, guests are looking for an experience that is “cozy,” “luxurious” and “intimate.”

Encourage engagement>> Like all social media campaigns, you want your guests to interact with your content. Consider creating a Valentine’s Day hashtag that increases brand exposure through user engagement. You could even choose to host a giveaway for those who share your holiday-related posts or use your hashtag.

 

Valentine’s Day has enormous potential for those in the hospitality industry. It’s an opportunity for hotels to both maximize revenue and increase guest satisfaction by delivering an extra special experience that lives up to all the expectations of the day.

How to Sell Hotel Rooms Without Offering Discounts

Slashing room rates can feel like an obvious and easy solution to a decline in bookings. However, your marketing strategy should not appear obvious or easy. Low prices invite the idea ‘you get what you pay for’ and discounted rates can indicate a hotel-in-trouble. For many, price determines quality, and price is likely to determine a potential guest’s first reaction to your hotel. If rates were the only factor in selling a room, the hotels with the lowest rates would always be fully occupied. So, while discounts may lead to some short-term bookings, they rarely lead to the long term goal of establishing a sustainable and flourishing business. But the question is: how do you sell rooms without slashing rates?

1. Be Distinct.

It’s laughably obvious, and of course, what everyone and every business desires to be. But it’s worthwhile to spend time and repeatedly revisit the following questions: What makes you different than other hotels, inns, and B&Bs in your area? Why should someone book with you instead of with the hotel down the street? Who are your ideal guests? What do they value? Be specific. You cannot build a successful marketing strategy without understanding who you are. Get out a piece of paper and jot down ideas. If your hotel’s unique qualities and distinct assets do not come quickly to mind, this is where you need to spend time and energy because the following pieces of advice rely on your answers to these questions.

2. Add Value.

Instead of discounting prices, maintain your rates and add services and products. Your potential guests will perceive and then receive increased value, which not only sells rooms but strengthens your brand by providing another opportunity to highlight your assets.

Add value in two ways:

Offer hotel products, amenities, or services. Consider offering unlimited access to your onsite gym, a complimentary massage at your spa, free laundry services for business travellers, or whatever services or products that make your hotel unique. This takes some creative thinking, as you want to ensure you’re offering something that your guests find valuable but also keeps costs low.

Collaborate with local businesses. Approach restaurants and music venues to offer a combined price for a night or weekend away. Collaborate with museums to bring out-of-towns guests to see the opening or closing of an exhibit. Create packages with sports teams or theatre companies that offer season passes that would bring guests back multiple times a year. Understand what experiences your ideal guests desire and work with local businesses to offer mutually beneficial packages.

3. Enhance your Online Presence.

Website. Your property’s website is vital. It offers a powerful first look at your hotel and should immediately present the feel of your establishment. Your website should make someone want to stay at your hotel. Currently, minimalism is the trend for websites, which is particularly effective for hotels because it gives a clean and calming impression. It’s important to understand that a website should be updated regularly, not just for its content but to keep it looking fresh and modern. This is especially important if your brand incorporates these traits. A website should be easy to navigate, responsive (so that it can be viewed on every possible screen), feature high quality images, and offer information that’s readable and concise. It’s recommended that you hire a professional. A good website designer, writer, and developer can help you tell your brand’s story through images and concise words, and can also ensure that your website is easily found through online searches.

Hotel Rating Websites. Websites like TripAdvisor have become a necessity… and a thorn in the side of many service oriented businesses, even the ones who consistently get good reviews. You cannot stop people from posting negative reviews, but you can respond to them, giving potential guests an opportunity to see how you resolve issues. Here’s a helpful guide to maintaining online reputation.

Social Media. Social media is a good medium for showcasing your carefully curated packages, but mostly it’s a storytelling platform. Many modern travellers seek individualized experiences, and one way to show that you can fulfil their desires for individuality is to be unique yourself. Tell and show the behind the scene stories of your hotel through original photographs; highlight the people who work for you or the people who stay with you (with their permission); and feature your surrounding area’s attractions. Remember, too, that social media is meant to be social. Don’t focus solely on presenting your story. Interact with other businesses and members of your community; engage with former and potential future guests; and respond quickly to inquests.

Cultivate Repeat Business. It’s easier to encourage repeat guests than to attract new ones. To do so: think small. Small gestures have a big impact. Ensure the front desk staff know and address repeat customers by name. Walk around at breakfast and briefly chat with guests about how their enjoying their stay. Send handwritten thank you notes and birthday cards. Offer complimentary champagne upon the arrival of a repeat guest. Also, consider starting a customer loyalty program based on the number of nights booked or referrals made.

Empower your Staff. While their main role is not to sell rooms (although staff members are potentially your hotel’s greatest ambassadors), they can upsell. Whenever the opportunity arises, your front desk staff should have the knowledge and freedom to offer room upgrades – the suite with the oceanfront view, the room with the king size bed or garden terrace – for a suitably enticing price.

Welcome Pets. More and more people desire to travel with their pets, especially dogs. This is particularly important for guests travelling within a 300-kilometre radius. These are the clientele who are most willing to pick-up-and-go for a weekend (or even mid-week) getaway, and they’re more likely to embrace spontaneity if they do not have the added complication of finding care for their four-legged family members. Need more incentive? It’s likely you can charge extra for a pet-friendly room. Here are some considerations for accepting four-legged guests.

Offer Discounts when Appropriate. Discounts have a time and place, but they should be offered for a reason. Guests become irritated when they discover that they could have found a reduced rate through another website or if they had waited longer to book. However, there are ways to offer discounts fairly and effectively. Consider offering discounted rooms for extended stays, for repeat customers, and for referrals.

If you offer discounts too frequently and without a specific purpose, you run the risk of having discounted room rates become your regular rates, which means your revenues will decrease, you will no longer be able to offer a high level of service, potentially driving away repeat customers. It’s a trajectory you do not want to instigate. When facing a slump, it’s natural to think ‘let’s try lowering prices,’ especially if other hotels are doing so. However, it’s best to maintain your rates, maintain your service, and return to the foundational questions: Who are you as a brand? What do you do well? Who are your ideal guests? What do they most desire? The answers to these questions will help you build packages, market your assets, tweak services, enhance communication with the public, and ultimately, sell rooms without slashing prices.

Pricing 101: A Guide for Independent Hoteliers

One of the most challenging things for hoteliers is determining how to price inventory. Charging too much will deter customers and increase vacancy, while charging too little can significantly undercut your revenue. It’s not an easy problem to tackle, and there are a few different approaches that can be taken. Here’s a quick overview of the various pricing strategies utilized by lodging operators.

Cost-Based Pricing

Cost-based pricing strategies are the easiest to implement. Hoteliers simply calculate the sum of all expenses involved in running their hotel, divide that cost by the number of units at the property, and then markup each unit based on the profit they hope to make. This is a logical approach to pricing that aims to ensure expenses are always covered, but there are certainly some drawbacks. Without accounting for the state of the market or the perceived value of what you have to offer, opportunities to maximize revenue could be missed.

Customer-Based Pricing

Taking a customer-based approach to pricing is a bit more labor intensive. This strategy requires a hotelier to understand who their customers are and determine what they are willing to pay for a particular room or package. Because rates are determined by the perceived value of a unit (as opposed to the actual cost), adopting this type of pricing offers the best potential for maximizing profit. But make sure your pricing decisions are backed by thorough analysis. If you over-estimate the perceived value of a stay at your establishment, customers won’t have a problem choosing a cheaper competitor.

Competitor-Based Pricing

Another approach for determining appropriate pricing is to base decisions on competitors within your market. Hoteliers that use this strategy do a complete audit of rates offered by similar operations in their area and then adjust their own accordingly. To use this method effectively, it’s imperative to make appropriate comparisons (single rooms to single rooms, and so on) and then decide how you want to respond. Depending on your property and the market, you may choose to:

Price match>> This strategy involves setting room rates at the same price point as a competitor offering a similar experience (although you don’t necessarily need to do this for all unit types). Price matching ensure you’re in the running for customers looking for the best deal.

Price high>> Setting your rates higher than other operators signals to browsers that your property has a higher value. If the customers in your market prioritize quality, this could encourage bookings and improve your average daily rate (ADR). If you use this pricing structure, make sure to justify your higher rates with superior service and amenities.

Surround the middle market>> Another strategy involves setting your most basic room as the cheapest in the market while pricing the rest similar to the first available rates offered by your competitors. This is called “surrounding the middle market.” Essentially, it allows you to get customers looking for the best deal while also snagging those willing to pay a little extra.

A Combination

Many operators use a combination of these approaches. You may start with cost-based or competitor-based strategies as a new operator but later transition to customer-based pricing once you have the means to do a proper analysis.

Psychological Pricing

Whatever strategy you choose, avoid round-number pricing. For example instead of offering a room for $100, offer it for $99. Instead of setting a rate at $150, set it at $149, and so on. People associate the number nine with getting a deal and studies have shown that room sales increase when establishments adhere to this commonly used structure.

 

There are many different approaches to take when setting pricing for a hotel. Each has its advantages and shortcomings and not all work for every type of property. As you play around with different strategies, use reporting to determine what works best for you.

 

Five Habits of a Successful Hotelier

Whether you’ve been running a hotel for decades or are brand new to the game, reflecting on your practices as a hotelier is always a valuable exercise. Nobody’s perfect, but taking the time to consider your methods, and making improvements where you can, will get you pointed in that direction. Curious if you’re doing everything in your power to help your lodging operation prosper? Read on to discover five habits of a successful hotelier.

Focuses on communication

Hospitality is an industry about people, which makes communication particularly important. It’s not just about being professional and engaging with your guests, but also being open and approachable with your employees. A hotel staff is a team, so everyone is (and should feel) valuable. Great hoteliers have safe, open lines of communication with their employees, offer regular feedback, and often involve staff in decision-making. A healthy company culture will directly affect the experience you provide for your guests.

Knows their customers

It’ll surprise no-one that prioritizing customer relations is essential to finding success in the hospitality industry. But it’s not just about having genuine in-person interactions with your guests (although that’s certainly important!).  Great hoteliers go above and beyond by learning about and keeping track of who their customers are as individuals. With a powerful PMS or CRM, it’s possible to log details about returning customers’ interests and preferences to surprise and delight. Is a guest consistently traveling on business? Throw in free Wi-Fi or offer recommendations for comfortable workspaces. Do you know a customer’s birthday? Send them a quick email wishing them a happy day. Personalized experiences make guests feel appreciated, and go a long way in nurturing loyalty.

Assesses the competition

Lodging operators have a lot of competition. But instead of seeing that as an obstacle to overcome, successful hoteliers use it as a means to make their operations better. Make a routine of checking out competitors’ websites, social media platforms, and physical property. What are they doing well? Where could they improve? Noticing patterns across successful operators (or similarities between unsuccessful ones for that matter) can offer critical insights which may prove exceedingly beneficial for your own business.

Keeps their head in the game

Even when their property is running smoothly, great hoteliers don’t get complacent. Hospitality is an ever-changing arena, and it isn’t good enough to simply play defense. Read articles and network with other professionals to stay on top of new trends, changes in the market, and emerging technology. And be proactive about evolving and improving your business. It’s important to set long-term goals and construct a step-by-step action plan to realize them. The most successful people (and businesses) are never satisfied merely resting on their laurels.

Recognizes the role of technology

There is a lot that technology can do for a business, and a good hotelier embraces that. Property management, reputation management, and revenue management software are only a few examples of what’s available to help streamline operations and maximize revenue. And let’s not forget the marketing potential of social media platforms. A hotel that shies away from all new technology misses out on some unbelievable opportunities to improve their business.

Now, that’s not to say you should be adopting every new system that crops up. Every business is different, and using tech for tech sake doesn’t do anybody any good. What makes an hotelier successful is their open, yet discerning, consideration of new technology that becomes available.

It’s never a waste of time to reflect on your habits as a business owner. If you’re looking to improve your practice (or are just starting out and need a few tips), consider adopting these five strategies of highly successful hoteliers.