While the industry won’t return to pre-pandemic business levels over night, these creative and effective ideas might help bring a variety of traveler types to your hotel one by one.
Let’s talk about things hoteliers can try right now to generate business for their hotels rather than adding to volumes of personal theories of commercial strategy or 30,000-foot perspectives of when "normal" will return to the hotel business.
There is no silver bullet that will return your hotel to pre-pandemic business levels. The opportunity right now lies in hunting down the needles in the haystack. That means doing the sometimes tedious but potentially lucrative legwork to find four travelers here and eight travelers there who can then turn into 60 guests and growing occupancy.
What follows are creative and effective ideas at work in hotels across the U.S. While not every idea is appropriate for every hotel, use this as a checklist of tactics to try. Each tactic might yield a drop in the bucket, but enough drops will eventually fill it up.
1. Contact colleges and universities that typically offer on-campus housing. Many dorms are only allowing single occupancy, which is creating potential housing shortages, and several schools have extended this policy into the spring semester.
2. Build business intelligence: Use your data and analytics tools to their fullest potential. For example, if you subscribe to TravelClick’s Hotelligence/Agency 360, consider using the “Next 4 Weeks” and “Next 13 Weeks” time frame tabs to see what travel is on the books with your competitors and go after accounts coming to your market.
3. Drive your competitors’ parking lots (or walk their parking garages) regularly to identify company vehicles, especially construction, sanitation and electrical contractors that may be staying in the area while working on local projects.
4. Build out a Zoom studio in an unused boardroom or guestroom. Add affordable lights and a green screen background to enhance the professionalism. Similarly, create a learning lab in a meeting room so that families can travel and handle virtual school at the same time.
5. Spend real time in the lobby. Watch for scrubs and suits as indicators of guests traveling for work. Talk to guests about their purpose of visit and ask how you can make their experience better. Ask if they are traveling with colleagues that your hotel can also accommodate.
6. Put a Local Offer on Nextdoor, a neighborhood-specific social network. Offer work-from-hotel, pool, or staycation packages to nearby residents.
7. Advertise on mapping apps (Waze is one example), particularly if your hotel is close to an interstate highway. While this type of placement doesn't have a built-in call to action that allows travelers to book, you can add text that offers a freebie (like an upgrade or free parking) when guests mention Waze at check-in.
8. Create packages that meet travelers where they are today: driving, taking local trips, and enjoying outdoor activities. Include a hiking kit with water and energy bars, offer a gas card or try a resident rate.
9. Increase the value of your existing guest traffic by providing a clear and easy way for front-desk agents to upsell upgraded rooms, early arrivals or additional nights.
10. Make it easy to make incremental revenue with pool and spa passes, to-go or pick-up food beverages.
11. Know the base business is in your market. Look at airlift (commercial and FBO) data, then find out where each travel company stays. Try train, bus, truck and vessel crews. Even if a travel company is not currently bidding out their crew business, they may be soon.
12. Track school breaks in your drive markets and create packages to correspond with them. Start early.
13. Pull any group bookings that went to contract (meaning, signed the agreement rather than traveled through the house) during the current month for the last three years, and contact them. Be empathetic and caring in these conversations, rather than transactional.
14. Weddings and special occasions are still happening, even if they are on a smaller scale. Consider offering a small celebration now with a discount on a larger celebration later.
15. Max out free money from Expedia, whether through their 20% match on Travel Ads or the Relief and Recovery Program for independent hotels.
16. Review your arrivals list every day with an eye toward guests with corporate email addresses or repeat stays. Call or email business travelers to ask how you can make their stay better and if they have colleagues you can accommodate.
17. Follow federal government infrastructure projects and contact the construction companies who are awarded those requests for proposals for potential accommodation contracts.
18. If there are manufacturing companies and plants near your hotel, find out if they have projects that were postponed in the early days of the pandemic that might be starting now. For instance, IT upgrade projects typically require outside experts who need a place to stay.
19. Since large groups can't gather in many cities, work with local funeral homes to accommodate celebrations of life.
20. If your hotel is located near the headquarters of a company whose employees are working from home, position your hotel as their go-to location for staff that need to travel to HQ. Consider offering a dedicated floor, tower or the entire building to help a corporate travel manager maintain safety standards for inbound staff travel.
21. Create a Hospitality Heroes package for fellow hoteliers in need of an escape. There are great groups on Facebook and LinkedIn where hotel people hang out—share a great offer there.
Here’s to filling up the bucket!
Susan Barry is president of Hive Marketing, Connect with her on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/susandbarry/.
The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or its parent company, STR and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to comment or contact an editor with any questions or concerns.