Online travel agents (OTAs) have become hugely popular in recent years, thanks to their ability to present travellers with lists of properties that suit their needs, all in one place. For many hotels – particularly smaller, independent properties – they can seem a huge threat in terms of leaching away revenue and potential guests.
However, it’s important to remember that although OTAs might have an advantage on things like presentation of prices, they can also be seen as having a big disadvantage: they don’t really know much about the hotels they feature and their destinations.This is where you as a hotel marketer can jump in and capitalise by providing what today’s travellers really want: experiences. You know about your city, village or resort and you can therefore say with confidence that your property is the best place from which to experience it. Experiences, not just holidays According to a recent study by TripAdvisor, 71 per cent of people were motivated to travel by a desire to enhance their perspective, while 62 per cent wanted liberation and 47 per cent sought immersion in their destination. It isn’t all about cheap rooms in perennial destinations as it once was.
Indeed, you might have noticed the phrase ‘travel like a local’ doing the rounds on hotel social media, showing that holidaymakers want to really enjoy unique experiences and not just be presented with the same old seaside fare, year after year.The best hotel marketers will cater for this new travel motivation by overhauling their traditional efforts and responding through selling their property as a real destination.What do guests want to do? The first thing to do if you want to take this approach is learn more about your existing guests. Ask them a few simple questions upon check-in and you should easily be able to find what has motivated them to come to you and what they’re planning on doing when they walk out of your front door for the day.
If you discover this, then you can apply it to future guests and increase room sales by showing your website visitors that you can cover their needs.Tell your story So, how can you persuade would-be guests that your hotel is a must-visit destination? It’s all about enticing them with engaging, relevant content – and the first thing you want to do is tell your story, not just list your amenities. Why not write an article about how you source all local ingredients for your restaurant, or take pictures of the sculptures designed by local artists and explain how you’re supporting them? You can also talk about your partnerships with businesses in the vicinity, which will help you to promote yourself through deals done with them too.When you’re coming up with this content, consider what guests can walk to from your reception area, where’s the best place to get a plateful of the local delicacy, who does the best cocktails in town, where the best hiking trails are and other useful ideas. These are the things travellers really want to know about where they’re holidaying, but which are hard to find – and nigh-on impossible from the OTAs. Don’t forget things like free parking, queue-dodging tips for local attractions and coupons for top stores either, as these topics can be big draws for some.What’s on and coming up Although your resort might have some attractions all year round, it will also undoubtedly offer certain things only at particular times of the year, whether that’s farmers’ markets, religious festivals or fireworks displays.
A recent study by the Travel Industry Association found that 61 million people reported taking a trip just to experience cultural events or activities, while 35 million acknowledged that their choice of destination is influenced by such happenings.Don’t underestimate the importance of short-term events in helping you to boost room sales, because people love to travel to see things like concerts. You can market these using short-term content such as blog posts and social media updates, rather than evergreen landing pages, as it will create more of a sense of urgency among would-be bookers. You could even offer money-off deals if people book within a certain time or go for a particular number of nights. Make everyone a travel guide Once you’ve attracted people to your hotel and they’ve checked in, you want the destination experience to continue if they’re going to go away feeling fulfilled and impressed. It’s therefore no good to have staff who don’t really know the local area and have to point anyone with a question to one concierge who is a native.
To avoid this, allocate part of your marketing budget towards making your entire staff body local experts who can demonstrate knowledge and enthusiasm about the nearby area, including snippets such as where the best place is to get a craft beer or which restaurant offers the best seafood.It’ll pay dividends in the long run and could result in some seriously good reviews from guests.
As you can see, making your hotel the font of local knowledge is a great way to beat the OTAs who might be a jack of all trades but not a master of this particular one.