“OTAs actually offer many different channels, and understanding the booking windows associated with those channels can be key to hotels looking to increase off-peak demand,” said Traci Mercer, vice president of hotel market management for Expedia. “Every hotel typically has distinct and predictable slow periods that are challenging to fill. Expedia data shows that different channels deliver different demand profiles, so they can be utilized by hotels to fill gaps in demand and yield rates in all demand environments.”
To build off-peak business, Mercer suggests this timeline:
50+ days out
Offer OTA package rates to attract the brand agnostic domestic and international vacationer, who plan their trips on average 50 to 70 days in advance. These rates are opaque and do not compromise advertised rates, and package bookings will build your base well in advance.
30+ days out
Introduce value-add offers. Leisure travelers who book standalone hotels book on average 30 to 45 days out, and find value in a competitive rate that comes with extras, such as free breakfast or free parking.
10 to 20 days out
Value-conscious consumers looking for the best room at the last minute enjoy the element of surprise and the thrill of finding a great deal on an opaque channel. These customers book on average 10 to 15 days ahead of arrival for mainland US destinations, 30 days out for Hawaii.
3 days out
Mobile shoppers are looking for next-day or same-day deals, so when inventory is available, a hotel always should have a same-day offer posted.
365 days a year
- Optimize OTA content with timely information, good photography, and access to all room types and room packages. In addition, encourage happy guests to submit a review on TripAdvisor® or their booking site, where it will be seen by other travelers.
- Remember to adjust rate based upon occupancy forecasts.
- Keep your highest volume and most yieldable channels open for as long as possible. Maximizing demand provides the greatest opportunity to yield rate up across all your channels.
Mercer points out that with ski resorts and warm weather destinations heading into their peak season, now is the time to begin planning the spring shoulder season.
Resort owners can take a page from the playbook of the Hilton Galveston Island. In the spring of 2010, Shelley Tuttoilmondo, revenue manager of the Hilton Galveston Island, turned to Expedia to drive business during her greatest need period, the fall. She used 48-hour sales, early booking offers and length-of-stay promotions to increase her room nights by more than 300 percent over the previous year. Using the same strategies in 2011, she’s already more than 150 percent ahead of last year.
“Expedia promos, especially the 48-hour sales, have helped my hotel with incremental bookings, increasing occupancy by 320 percent year-over-year for Q4 2010. By partnering with Expedia, our biggest need periods were met with effective revenue solutions,” Tuttoilmondo said.
For the Anaheim Marriott, booking window insights and dialing up leisure channels helped save the day when group business fell off. City-wide group business was down 14 percent, and the Anaheim Marriott needed to fill in the gap with leisure room night bookings. The hotel utilized a mix of competitive rates, value add offers and aggressive bundling to boost the average length of stay from 3.4 nights to 3.7 nights. By increasing package room nights by 85 percent, the property also saw a 99 percent increase in revenue over the previous year.
“Changing market conditions dictated a need to adjust our channel mix, and Expedia helped us make that transition,” said Brenda Ciampa, director of market strategy for the Anaheim Marriott.
Airport hotels typically need help on weekends, when business travelers are off the road. “Room packages paired with deals on public transit like San Francisco’s BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) help bring in travelers who find San Francisco’s tourist-area hotels cost-prohibitive. Park and fly packages also perform well for airport hotels,” said Kelsey Miller, Expedia market manager in San Francisco.
“There isn’t a single hotel that doesn’t have soft periods or shoulder seasons,” Mercer noted. “Understanding how booking windows vary across channels within the OTA marketplace can make the difference between a winning and a losing season.”
For more information on the successful strategies employed by the Hilton Galveston Island, Anaheim Marriott and other Expedia partner hotels, please go to: http://press.expediainc.com/index.php?s=64&item=41
© 2011 Expedia, Inc. All rights reserved. Expedia is either a registered trademark or trademark of Expedia, Inc. in the U.S. and/or other countries. Other logos or product and company names mentioned herein may be the property of their respective owners. CST # 2029030-50