Once the golden travel season of summer comes sadly to a close, September will arrive ushering in a crisp set of challenges and opportunities for hotels.
If you’re a hotelier who has systems in place, important dates marked on the calendar, and an eye for repeat business cycles, then you know what happens come autumn. For those of you who don’t (we know you’re working on it), here’s three challenges sure to fall on your desk in September and how to deal with them:
1. The End of Family Drive Market As School Season Begins
Cue the violins. Summer often brings full occupancy and F&B outlets bustling with business. It’s no wonder then that once school starts, kids aren’t the only ones feeling glum.
As easy as it is to see this as a loss, grab onto this transition as an opportunity to try something new with your hotel internet marketing, spread goodwill with your brand and leverage a family’s different reason to travel. It’s the perfect time to consider:
a. Host Freshmen and Parents
Don’t forget the older kids. Parents will soon be making treks to universities to help their college student move in and spend one last family getaway. If you’re a university town, create school-related packages for visiting family and friends.
b. Feed the Shopping Frenzy
Back to school shopping is a season in itself. And, those without children see autumn as the perfect reason to invest in new fall clothes. So, join in and create retail stay & shop experiences, such as Hotel Abri in San Francisco, located just two blocks from Union Square shopping. Starting at $275/night, the hotel’s shopping valet would pick up your purchases and deliver them to your room. Plus, guests received a $100 to Westfield San Francisco Center, as well as a backpack with a pencil kit and notebook.
2. Corporate Rate RFPs for 2016 Travel
Along with the fall of autumn leaves, comes the flurry of RFPs from corporate travel planners seeking annual rates for their traveling colleagues. This RFP season is a boon for hotels, as these business travelers consume a sizeable portion of room nights throughout the year. Here’s how to reap your share of the market:
a. Dedicate the Time and Staff
Don’t expect your already busy sales staff to have the time and focus to respond effectively to these RFPs. That is, unless you’re okay with haphazard copy-and-pastes and hurried writing riddled with errors. Empower one person – whether full-time or part-time – with responsibility to review and respond to the RFPs. Then, assign a second staffer to review and approve all responses before they are sent to the client.
b. Don’t Assume You Don’t Qualify
Don’t be so quick to take your hotel out of the running for a bid just because you think your rates are too high or you’re not what the planner wants. Because, truthfully you don’t know what they want exactly. You don’t know if they’re now tired of their budget options and now want more sophisticated accommodations. Or, if there’s a new planner in place who sees things differently from the planner before. So, always respond.
c. Trace Last Year’s RFPs
If you haven’t already, document when you receive an RFP and your response. Then, each year go through that file to make sure an RFP you received last year is in this year’s pile as well. If not, follow-up. Like noted above, planners change jobs, and the replacement may not know you as well as their predecessor. So, keep track of every RFP you respond to, along with rates, client responses and questions, etc.
3. Obsolete Vendors and their contracts
Most of your contracts with marketing vendors, including those companies who oversee and manage your advertising campaigns, website, booking engine and digital marketing, are set to auto-renew at the end of the year. Which also coincides with the holiday season. When you’ll be busy with December deadlines, holiday parties, family events, vacations, shopping… No wonder you often find yourself stuck with vendors for another year, whether they produced a substantial ROI for your hotel or not!
Smart hoteliers get an early start. dust off those 2015 contracts and review your vendors’ performances. For those producing sneaky January auto-renewals pop up.