|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:
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
The sales transaction involves cash or credit procedures that must be meticulously
The certificate is a gift to be given with anticipation of flawless execution
by hotel staff.
The best hotels maximize the possibility of incremental holiday revenue
Preprint the certificates with sequential numbers.
Make certificates generic so that one can serve for anything a client may
choose to buy.
Maintain the inventory of certificates in the accounting department or
manager’s office with small amounts of certificates issued to the points
Keep a log book in the point of sale or selling department to record each
Columns should be made for the following items:
name of purchaser
telephone number of purchaser
name of recipient
address of recipient
type of certificate
amount of certificate
account number/confirmation number (computerized hotels)
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.
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.
Set up a procedure for posting an advance deposit to each certificate,
whether on the actual account or on a master gift certificate folio.
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.
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.
Develop a system to update the log book indicating the date a certificate
has been used.
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.
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.
Have ample supplies of certificates, credit card vouchers, envelopes, or
gift wrapping materials on hand for employees.
Be creative with special package offerings, but also be willing to assemble
whatever someone might want to give that special person this season.
designing gift certificate selling procedures that are easy for the
secure for the hotel.
(Brandt Ford is a regional vice president for Towne Park of Annapolis,
©1997 The Rooms Chronicle
Reprinted with permission from The Rooms Chronicle, Vol. 5, No. 6,
Pg. 7, Nov/Dec 1997.
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