Promotional Strategies in Hotels
Independent hotels are small businesses, and as such they do not have the same abundant resources and corporate guidance enjoyed by the major chains. Instead of benefitting from a nationwide hotel brand marketing campaign, independent hotels must devise and carry out their own marketing strategies based on the quality and style of the hotel, its price point, and who the target consumers are.
Large-scale online travel sellers have the reach and the marketing power to deliver big numbers when it comes to room nights sold. They have names that nearly every travel consumer knows, with dedicated websites supported by advertising campaigns in markets around the world. They contract both large chains and independent properties, selling hotel rooms at a discount online. The exposure they provide can be invaluable and well beyond the means of any small-business owner to attain independently.
People searching for a room in a given location will look up the available hotels, and yours will pop up as an option. Online travel sellers select properties based on their location, the selection of available amenities, and the ownership's willingness to provide commissions and special rates.
The use of travel agencies as a selling tool tends to be more of a targeted effort than national mass sellers. Agencies have had to develop in new ways to compete with large online sellers, and as a result, they have turned their focus more toward specialties or market niches in many cases.
For example, some agencies will specialize in a given region, such as an area known for winter skiing, and will provide agents who know that region inside and out: where to stay, what to eat, how to save, and where to shop. These specialized agencies are often a place for independent and lesser known properties to make their case as a viable option versus major chains and costly luxury brands. Specialized agents will take the time to learn the property and convey its unique marketing message to the traveling public in a way that mass market sellers will not be able to.
Discounting works much the same way in the hotel business as it does in any other: Potential guests are promised rates that are lower than normal for rooms booked under certain conditions. A hotel might offer discounts for extended stays or frequent visits, for example, or during slow periods. In theory, these promotions all lead to more room nights sold and to customer loyalty. They fall short with pass-through travelers who will visit only once, and who cannot, therefore, benefit from long-term rewards. In this case, the use of a one-time special-rate discount is key, no matter the season or the potential for a future stay.
Independent hotels that work with local government tourism boards to promote special rates on tourist maps and in welcome-center brochures stand to gain a lot of traffic even from the one-night-in-town set. The costs of ads or sponsorships in tourism literature is relatively low, and the potential for return is high.
Promotional strategies that incorporate the needs of more than one business are often cheaper to put together than solo marketing efforts, and appeal to a broader audience. For instance, if you sign a partnership marketing agreement with a local surf shop, you will gain an audience of surfers that you might not otherwise have been able to reach. The surf shop in turn gains the attention of all of your guests, some of whom may be considering their first board purchase or lesson. When the two businesses go half on the costs, the expense is reduced and the reach of the strategy can extend further than an individual campaign would have been able to. Promoting local businesses is always beneficial to local business as a whole, and the same goes for hotel marketing.
Value-added promotions are appreciated by sellers and clients alike. They provide rewards to the customer for a basic night's stay and help make your property easier for travel agents to sell. For example, if your competition is offering a double room for $100 per night, and you are offering a comparable room with free breakfast, airport transfers, and Internet access, your property just jumped to the top of the list of options for many travelers. You probably already have Internet service at the hotel, airport transfers will only apply to some guests, and breakfast is inexpensive to put together. The cost is low but the potential for return is high. Value-added items can be customized to fit the style and amenities of the hotel, and can include such amenities as spa treatments, dinners, champagne or free parking.