Seasonality can be a big pain for the hotel industry. We all know this. No matter how hard you try to get a steady flow of traffic to your premises throughout the year, there are still some distressingly sluggish months.
In my last post, 5 Off-Season Hotel Marketing Ideas to Spice Up your Autumn Campaigns, I gave hoteliers a recipe for success to sustain them through the fall. Now I’m back to help you weather the winter months.
Should you hibernate, pause your marketing endeavours, and wait for the cold months to pass? No way! We’re resilient in this business, and if it makes you feel better, it’s not just this business that often struggles through the cold times—lots of industries take a hit in winter.
Do what smart hoteliers do: Instead of lamenting the reduced bookings, take advantage of this time as the chance to show off your hotel’s uniqueness, expand your audience, and improve your services and reputation.
Rethink your hotel’s target audience
Even if your regular guests are, let’s say, families with kids; when you experience a decrease in your number of visitors, it’s time to consider targeting different types of guests.
If you’re located next to a city centre, or if your hotel offers exclusive business facilities, focus your online activities on targeting business travellers. You could offer special deals for conferences or business events. You could also offer discounts when many guests book as a group, which will attract business event organisers as well.
If your hotel is located next to winter adventure parks, then create and promote snow-activity packages. Your target guests would now be young adults who love travelling for adventure and new experiences. Such guests would be happy with a three-day getaway, making them an ideal persona for you to target at this point of the year.
Another example would be to target baby boomers or any other age group without young children. This type of traveller isn’t restricted to vacationing during the summer when school is out, and will be just as likely looking to travel in the winter.
You can attract a whole new audience with the services you can offer—just by rethinking your target consumers and appealing to their wants and needs.
Turn locals into business partners—or guests
There are two ways you could involve the locals in reviving your business this winter. The first is by working with local businesses and tourism agencies to pool your resources and marketing initiatives for your mutual benefit. After all, they’re in the same position as you, especially if your hotel is located in a popular touristic area. Therefore, cooperating to attract travellers to the area would sound fantastic to them as well. Whether you’ll be promoting one another’s services or organising new activities together, be prepared to invest your energy into such partnerships, as they require work.
Another way to turn the local community into a source of revenue is by treating locals as your special guests. Whether it’s by enjoying your restaurants and bars or using your gym and wellness centre, locals can bring some serious profit to your business in winter. Offer them exclusive offers, make them feel special, show them that you appreciate them, and remind them that you can host events for their important occasions.
Welcome their feedback
You’re already aware of the importance of your online reputation—it can be a deal maker or deal breaker, in fact. You also understand how difficult and time consuming it is to handle reviews. So take advantage of any lulls in business and use the guest email database culled from the peak season to ask for reviews. You’ve got a better chance of getting a response now than when your guests were enjoying their holidays.
Send past customers an email asking for a review. Since sometimes people are too busy to bother, you should give them some small incentive (a contest, discount, or gift). Even if you feel that it’s not the right moment to offer deals, trust me: Getting reviews will return results more valuable than what you might expect. Travellers are heavily influenced by reviews when making their hotel choice.
Moreover, since your team is less busy now, you can work on handling reviews you might have missed. If you’re not outsourcing your online reputation management, then you should scan the most popular (if not all) review websites and make sure that you use every bit of information to your benefit—find out what you’re doing well and leverage it online; learn what you can improve upon to make your reputation shine.
So do you feel better about off-season marketing now?
Even if you remain a bit doubtful that there’s still time to boost your hotel’s online presence, and with it, your online bookings, I’m sure you can see the marketing potential of this time of year. You don’t have to apply all the tips I’ve given all at once: Every hotel business has its own strengths and weakness, and I’m sure you know what yours are. Start with the techniques and applications that are closer to your needs, and then move to the other ones.
When you do, I’m confident that you’ll see an increase in your traffic during off-season months. And in the process, you’re building a defence against the lows of seasonality that will benefit your business in the long term. So while you’ll never be able to speed up the cold months so that they’re as busy as the high-season months, you’ll definitely be able to make them far less glacially slow.