stopwatch on money implying hotels can take advantage of short booking windows to generate revenue

There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic is changing how consumers around the globe are thinking about and booking travel.

NB: This is an article from Revinate

In past trend articles on the subject, we have discussed how travelers today view air travel as risky but are loading up the car for staycations or workations within a few hours of their homes. We have shared how travelers are expanding their booking criteria, looking beyond price to examine the safety precautions that hotels are taking for their employees and customers. And now, we want to dive into the latest hospitality industry trend that has everyone scrambling: Booking windows are shrinking to one or two days. In this article, we share five ways that hotels can make the most of mega-short booking windows.

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Share Cancellation Policies

What if I get sick? What if a family member gets infected with Covid-19 and I’m forced to quarantine? What if my local government issues another shelter-in-place order and I’m unable to travel? What if I don’t feel safe leaving my home as the time gets closer? There are too many risks today around booking travel if you’re not guaranteed a refund or a credit if you need to cancel your trip. That’s why booking windows for hotels are shrinking.

Help guests feel confident booking with you in advance by being transparent about your cancelation policies and procedures. Keep the language easy to understand, even if you have to link to ‘legalese’ for more details. Be sure that your email campaigns and social media posts contain cancelation information front and center. This will dramatically help with hotel direct bookings. For a great example of how to position a worry-free booking policy, check out this email example from Resident Hotels.

Don’t rely on historical data

As you think about your 2021 sales and marketing strategy, don’t try to leverage past trends. There is no data that you have on hand about your past guests or trends that will set you up for success this year. In a recent PhocusWire article about summer travel trends, Katie Moro, vice president of data partnerships for hospitality at Amadeus, says, “As consumer confidence fluctuates with states moving in and out of phased recovery, relying on data from last week or last year to drive a future revenue strategy will not be beneficial. Because of COVID-19, there is no time in history we can compare to what’s happening in the industry now.” 

Instead, hoteliers should double down on their own guest data and focus on creating micro-segments to send highly personalized promotions to past guests. To create drive-to segments, for examples, Revinate Marketing customers can use geo-location data to isolate past guests that live within a four hour drive. To make the segment even more targeted, marketers can use and/or statements to isolate families or single travelers or loyalty information.

Maintain rates. Sell safety

Mega-short booking windows for hotels make it very hard to predict revenue, which is hard, especially for hoteliers trained in hotel revenue management. Some hoteliers might be tempted to drop rates. However, it will be a race to the bottom if hotels start discounting to drive bookings. The most important thing to remember during the pandemic is that guests aren’t staying home because of budget: They’re staying home because of safety concerns. They would love nothing more than to take a vacation and be pampered but they need to ensure that it’s safe before they take the plunge.

Hoteliers should continue to share their safety procedures with guests in emails, on the website and across all channels. Most brands made huge investments in safety in 2020 and guests still need reassurance that the hotels they’re looking at have their safety in mind. Here’s a great email example from Noble House. As you can see, the Teton Mountain Lodge & Spa includes this safety section in its newsletter to keep its (branded) commitment to safety front and center.

Include your safety precautions for hotels booking windows best practices

Upsell your guests

With hotels still operating at low capacity, hoteliers need to focus on the bookings they do have. If hoteliers want to make the most out of every guest on property, they should think about upsells or upgrades targeted at guests with upcoming reservations, even if the reservations are for the next day. Pre-arrival emails have proven to be a revenue workhorse so make sure you add some great, creative options for driving additional services or amenities for your guests.

Here are some ideas:

  • Book a side meeting room for focused space to spread out and work
  • Boxed lunch, delivered to your door every day
  • Free parking
  • Solo time at the gym, if you have a reservation system set up 

As we reported in our Hotel Email Marketing Benchmark Report, open rates of pre-arrival emails are 60.53% and CTRs are 30.26%. In fact, this email sees the highest conversion of all hospitality emails so it would be a missed revenue opportunity to not include offers in this email.

Wow your guests

What’s the best way to wow your guests upon arrival, even if they only booked yesterday? Spend some time reviewing the arrival report and get to know your guests before they check-in. This allows you to welcome the guest personally and ensure their expectations are exceeded during the stay with personal attention to their details.

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