While it’s great to attract new guests to hotels, the Holy Grail for owners and marketers is those people who stay once and then return time and time again, whether it’s for their annual holiday or as a reliable base for a business trip. This means a steady income and a stream of revenue that could make a big difference during some of those periods when new business isn’t particularly forthcoming.
However, in today’s competitive market, achieving repeat bookings is difficult. There is so much competition out there and would-be guests often use online travel agents (OTAs) such as Trivago to compare accommodation based on price, meaning they don’t build up an affinity with any particular hotel. Also, booking with a chain can sometimes appear more appealing due to the standardised experience they offer, whereas reserving a room at an unknown place might be perceived as taking a risk.
As a smaller, independent property, how can you ensure that you build up a portfolio of regulars? Here is some advice on what to do to make it more likely. Personalising your guests’ experience One thing that independent hotels can offer is a personalised experience, which makes guests feel valued and could encourage them to return.However, even at a small property, it may be necessary to employ some technology to ensure this effect is achieved.
Specialised technology such as a hotel booking Engine system for your website can be beneficial, as it offers functions such as collecting information on previous stays. For example, it can record if someone asked for extra blankets or a particular breakfast and then provide them as standard if that person returns, making them feel special and valued. Automated technology will also allow you to keep on top of emails, which can be hugely useful in incentivising people to make a booking. You could set it up so that a thank you email goes out to guests after they have checked out to tell them you appreciated their business – and provides them with a discount code to use for their next stay. Occasional emails when holidays are coming up or conferences are in town might also work effectively if they are received when past guests are already thinking about their next trip and where they might like to stay.
We’ve written before about successful email marketing, so take a look at our advice and see how you can tailor messages to previous hotel residents for the best results.Don’t forget to make the most of social media either though, as this is now an important channel when it comes to marketing messages. You could use it to publish promotional codes or special offers that appeal directly to prior guests. Rewarding loyalty many independent hotels don’t offer loyalty schemes such as those proffered by the bigger chains, as they can be perceived as expensive to run.
However, they don’t have to eat into your profit margins too much, as it doesn’t take a lot to make people feel special and valued as a customer. You could provide them with a card to stamp that gives them their fourth stay half price, but loyalty initiatives can be as simple as free newspapers or complimentary shuttle bus rides for anyone who has stayed more than once. The good thing is that if these guests are prompted to make repeat bookings, then they will probably do so directly via your website – and that means you won’t have to pay third parties such as OTAs commission fees, which can result in savings that will cover loyalty schemes. Don’t neglect more old-fashioned ways of attracting repeat business either, such as promotional pens or keyrings given out to everyone. They might just keep your brand name at the forefront of people’s minds, and that can be ideal when it comes to them making their next booking.
Ensuring security Even though making bookings and buying products online is now the norm, security can still be a problem when using credit cards and other methods of money transfers. The hospitality industry is no different to any other in that it is frequently targeted by cyber thieves – and the potential for getting hold of information is perhaps higher, since hotels are likely to be storing more data about customers than most. If you are a small independent property, would-be guests need to know that you are as safe and reliable as the bigger chains or they won’t get their wallets out. You need to reassure them by investing in and advertising secure technologies such as secure online payment portals and displaying SSL certificates, plus you might want to consider offering PayPal for people to use if they are in any way apprehensive.
By using these tips and showing you have as much to offer as the bigger properties, you could get your guests coming back for more – and that means plenty more revenue.