It looks like a prosperous beginning of the New Year for hotels in US. As per PwC US reports, there will be a high demand for hotel rooms. Hotels will witness high occupancy levels that are expected to reach 64.9% (the last highest was recorded in 1984).
PwC reported that there was a huge demand seen from group travelers in the third and fourth quarters of 2014 which will continue to grow in to 2015. The hotel industry made significant revenues from both leisure and group travelers in the first nine months of 2014.
(Image Source: PwC US, based on STR data)
Scott D. Berman, principal and US industry leader, hospitality & leisure, PwC, says that “Group demand improved significantly in the third quarter, leading to stronger-than-expected occupancy levels. Despite an evolving supply pipeline, industry demand trends are expected to remain robust, giving confidence to the operating community to drive room rates higher in 2015.”
Increase in occupancy is definitely good news for hoteliers in US, especially the small and independent hotels who can take advantage of this improving economy. Higher occupancy means more money but this also means more work for the management and staff. If hotels don’t plan well, they might end up losing potential guests and put their reputation at jeopardy.
Before you start planning your annual strategies, take some time to look at the success and failures of the previous year’s strategies. Small and mid-sized hoteliers have a busy schedule with multiple operations running at the same time and limited staff at hand. In such a scenario, use tools that will streamline operations, reduce dependency on staff, free up staff time and provide exemplary guest experience. This year, focus on increasing direct bookings, build a strong presence online, personalize guest experience and market your property well to attract group bookings.
Use the Billboard Effect to your advantage
Most of the travelers use OTAs as research tools to then book directly on your website. Hotels should focus on making the most of this billboard effect to draw travelers to your website. According to a study, it was found that a hotel’s direct bookings almost increased to 20% when listed on Expedia. It is a good idea to be more present on the OTAs and maintain rate parity across all channels as it is the requirement of the industry.
Tnooz reported that, when four hotels in US appeared on the first page of destination results of Expedia, they saw a rise in reservations through their own websites. The hotels experienced between 7.5% to 26% uplift in direct bookings due to the billboard effect.
Optimize your website
Now that you’re going to push the traffic to your website, make sure you have a prominent booking engine with a strong ‘Book Now’ call-to-action. SalesCycle reported that, “13% of the 1000 consumers would abandon booking online because the booking process took too long and the checkout was too complicated.” Therefore, provide an easy and satisfying experience to the visitor on the website. Be sure to provide a mobile optimized website because your visitors can come in from various sources and mobile is becoming a popular device for booking among the Millenials.
Don’t ignore Social Media
Apart from the website, take advantage of your social media accounts to attract guests and promote your marketing strategies. Social media is a free yet powerful marketing tool for hoteliers. Utilize it to interact with guests and build your network.
You can collect your guest’s social media details and in exchange, offer them a discount in your restaurant. Once you have their details, capitalize on this by connecting with not just your guests but also their followers.
Personalize the Guest Experience
Small and boutique hotels have an added advantage over big brands. Really! Small hotels can provide personalized service to guests to impress them during their stay.
I would like to cite a personal example: I stayed at a budget inn recently and their service took me by surprise. The time I checked-in, the staff addressed me by my name and offered me a welcome drink. I was guided to my room. After some time, I got a call asking if I would like to place an order at the restaurant or wish to make a massage reservation and what were my plans for the day so that they could suggest some local attractions. Every day the hotel staff left a newspaper outside my door. The manager used to sit with all the guests during dinner and share information about the latest performances happening in the locality. He also made sure to arrange a cab for us to watch a performance. All these gestures gave me a feeling of being at home and made me feel so special. You bet that I left a strongly positive review about the hotel on TripAdvisor and I was not surprised that I was not the only one.
Little things like remembering the guest’s name and their preferences make a huge difference to your guest. There are tools available in the market that will record your guest’s personal information and have the guest history so that you can provide a customized guest experience during their next stay.
Take guest personalization to a whole new level. Take cues from this innovative strategy used below. This hotel printed a custom chocolate bar wrapper with the guest’s name on it and requested for reviews on the back of the wrapper. Witty yet powerful, isn’t it?
(Image Source: Smartguests.com)
Utilize and Market your Property for Group Travelers
Since a significant part of the occupancy levels will be pushed by group travelers, take advantage of it. You can utilize an unused space of your property to rent it out for corporate meetings, parties and weddings. Advertise your property as a destination for groups on your website and social media channels.
To sum it up, it will become more important than ever in 2015 for small and mid-sized hotels to increase their outreach on various devices and enhance their presence on the channels they own.
I hope you have a successful 2015!