Hotel Gift Certificates 
Can Boost Revenue
by Brandt Ford

With the winter holidays approaching, this is a great time to think about how the sale of gift certificates might boost December revenues. But the potential for this incremental revenue is often limited by poor organization within the hotel for selling the certificates.

The process of selling gift certificates works best when proper controls are in place. Controls are important for two reasons:

  1. The sales transaction involves cash or credit procedures that must be meticulously documented.
  2. The certificate is a gift to be given with anticipation of flawless execution by hotel staff.
Many people who become recipients of the certificates are going to have great expectations for their “Weekend Getaway” or “Dinner for Two.” The more organization, tracking, and communication in place, the more effective the hotel will be in meeting guests’ expectations and controlling revenue.  Following are some general suggestions to consider in evaluating the gift certificate process:
  1. Preprint the certificates with sequential numbers.
  2. Make certificates generic so that one can serve for anything a client may choose to buy.
  3. Maintain the inventory of certificates in the accounting department or manager’s office with small amounts of certificates issued to the points of sale.
  4. Keep a log book in the point of sale or selling department to record each certificate sold. 
  5. Columns should be made for the following items:
    1. certificate number
    2. date sold
    3. payment method
    4. name of purchaser
    5. telephone number of purchaser
    6. name of recipient
    7. address of recipient
    8. type of certificate
    9. amount of certificate
    10. account number/confirmation number (computerized hotels)
  6. Ensure that certificate theft controls are in place. How will accounting know when one is missing? One hotel includes certificates in the banks issued to cashiers and audits them as part of counting the bank.
  7. Set up all certificates, whether for rooms or food and beverage, on a computer account for a future arrival date, perhaps 12/31/99, and utilize a special guest type, package plan, or some tracking data that allow all certificates to be monitored easily. Again, this account/confirmation number should also be written on the certificate as it is sold.
  8. Set up a procedure for posting an advance deposit to each certificate, whether on the actual account or on a master gift certificate folio.
  9. Track certificates as they are redeemed so it is clear exactly which certificates are outstanding. When a recipient calls to make arrangements to use the gift, remind the guest to bring the certificate to surrender at check-in or in the outlet. 
  10. Check the guest in as follows: Properties with computers access the ac-count, change the date and other necessary information, and confirm that the deposit is in place. Hotels without computers usually begin a new folio for the guest by transferring a credit balance from the master gift certificate folio. In either case, it is a good idea to verify exactly what the guest will be given so there are no surprises at check-out. For example, a “weekend” package may only be one night.
  11. Develop a system to update the log book indicating the date a certificate has been used.
  12. Certificates can have an expiration date, usually one year. If they expire without being used, they can be purged from the system. Since many people inquire about using their certificate after it has expired, it is important to establish a guest-friendly policy that works for the hotel. One property transfers deposits to an “Expired Gift Certificate” account and as people request to use them the deposit is transferred back to an active account.
  13. If management decides to do any special advertising promoting the certificates, or if the hotel historically has a high demand for certificates, allow adequate staffing to handle the demand to minimize inconvenience to purchasers and other guests. 
  14. Have ample supplies of certificates, credit card vouchers, envelopes, or gift wrapping materials on hand for employees.
  15. Be creative with special package offerings, but also be willing to assemble whatever someone might want to give that special person this season.
The best hotels maximize the possibility of incremental holiday revenue by 
designing gift certificate selling procedures that are easy for the guest and 
secure for the hotel. 

(Brandt Ford is a regional vice president for Towne Park of Annapolis, MD.)

©1997 The Rooms Chronicle
Reprinted with permission from The Rooms Chronicle, Vol. 5, No. 6, Pg. 7, Nov/Dec 1997.


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Also See: Taking Time to Meet with Rooms Competitors Can Result in Profits for the Hotel / NMRG/
Golden Opportunities Lie in Handling the Cranky Guest and the Next Guest in Line / Brandt Ford
Welfare-to-Work Clients: A New Source of Help / Mary Friedman 
Quick Six Inspection Is A Way for the Busy Manager to Stay In Touch / Gail Edwards 
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