Summer has been brilliant, particularly for our Irish hotels, with great staycation business, high occupancy rates and fabulous book direct levels.
NB: This is an article from Aro Digital
We’ve even seen some overseas tourists returning.
As Autumn approaches and the kids go back to school, those occupancy levels will inevitably drop and once again hotels will be competing to fill their rooms.
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In this blog I’m going to look at five strategies which will help hotels maximise their chances of maintaining their occupancy through the autumn and into the shoulder season.
Each of these is part of our overall book direct strategy which looks at over 180 key performance indicators.
When all these are ‘going to green’, we can be sure that over time, more than 50% of a hotel’s room bookings will come via their own internet booking engine.
1. HOTEL BRANDING AND BRAND AWARENESS
Here I’m not just talking about your logo, your colour scheme or the font on your website – our recent blog covered this in detail.
These are an integral part of your brand but it’s so much more than that. Your brand is everything that touches your target audience and is an absolute reflection of what your customers should expect from you.
It comes from your staff the hotel itself what you post on social media and how you position yourself to customers in the marketplace.
Everybody in the hotel should understand not just what they do but why they do it and how that reflects the values of the hotel stands for.
As these factors start to coalesce it will become much clearer to the marketplace that what you offer is an authentic coherent luxury product.
You are also more likely to hit the sweet spot where you are top of mind for prospective customers and that potential guests understand that what you offer exactly aligns with what they’re looking for.
2. PAID ADVERTISING
Although it is essential that your search engine optimization (SEO) is bang up to date in order to drive organic (non paid) traffic, it can only do so much for you. The OTAs such as Booking.com and Expedia will be bidding on your brand even if you’re not signed up with them.
If you are running both brand PPC and Google hotel ads, and also have a well optimised website, then on the results page your result will appear in the ads section, your hotel should be top of the organic listings and your booking engine will appear as an option in the knowledge panel.
Clearly in this situation your hotel is occupying a lot of real estate on the search engine results page and this in itself makes it more likely that somebody will click through and book with you.
There are many more things that can be done to optimise your paid ads and I would suggest working with a specialist agency such as Aró to help you with this.
The key metric for paid ads is return on ad spend (ROAS) and over the last six months we have been averaging over 50:1 return on our brand PPC campaigns and 12:1 return on our Google hotel ad campaigns.
3. SPECIAL OFFERS
For luxury travellers, staying in a hotel is much more than the property itself however fantastic it maybe.
It’s more around the experience and creating stories that they’re able to tell their friends and family on their return.
Special offers enable you to curate these experiences and by promoting them on your website, you are showing prospective guests exciting and fresh new content; and making them feel that they are availing of something out of the ordinary.
The key to driving direct bookings with special offers is ensuring that you have a great landing page to display the offers on.
And also that you place a special offer call-to-action directly on the homepage with a link to the booking engine.
You can also use offers as great content to send out in our next strategy.
4. EMAIL MARKETING
Email marketing is often overlooked these days in favour of social media or paid marketing.
However, it’s a great way of driving direct bookings and also even converting OTA bookers into direct bookers.
It’s not just about informing guests of your services by sending out ezines or pre and post stay emails.
To send out emails you can use your own content management system, a third party platform such as MailChimp but to really turbo charge your email marketing we recommend using customer relationship management (CRM) software.
A good CRM system will connect directly to your hotels PMS and enables you to correspond directly with all bookers not just those who came via your own booking engine.
For example, you can use it to pull in email addresses via the PMS from bookings which came from a non-direct channel.
You are then free to email these customers directly and offer them a value add if they subscribe with their personal email.
To put some figures on this we have found that clients who use our own email system generated about $0.70 per email sent, so for example if you send out 10,000 emails you would expect to get about €7000 back in direct bookings.
5. HOTEL LOYALTY
Loyalty, or to give it another name retention, is critical for growth, no matter how many new customers you sign up.
If you can’t keep hold of your existing clients, then you will never grow your business.
All the social media giants know this and that is the reason why they have retention teams whose sole focus is to ensure that users don’t leave their platforms.
It’s also the reason why Booking.com have their Genius programme, TripAdvisor have just launched their new ‘trip plus’ offering; and also why they encourage you to use their app rather than a web browser.
They know that once people use the app they are much more likely to stay in it.
We have recently launched our own Aró loyalty system which our hotel clients can avail of to improve retention.
It’s a simple add on to our internet booking engine (IBE) and direct bookers can choose to sign up to the loyalty programme at the time of booking.
As with any loyalty system the more transactions a user makes, the better the rewards with increased discounts and superior value adds.
A brilliant side effect of loyalty is advocacy where these satisfied customers tell their friends and family about how great your hotel is and that they should consider booking.
Autumn and Winter of course are not without their own attractions and there are special occasions such as Halloween and Black Friday, there’s a school mid-term and of course there’s Christmas.
However, implementing these five strategies will help you to maintain occupancy with high levels of direct booking right through Autumn and into the shoulder season in January and February.
They will also remain effective as you move through 2022 especially when they form part of an overall comprehensive book direct strategy.