neon sign saying it is now o clock reflecting the importance of developing strategies to avoid needing last minute bookings

Imagine this scenario. As the general manager or revenue manager of a luxury destination hotel, you are checking your occupancy and you still have significant room availability for the week ahead. What do you do – announce a flash sale? Send a last minute email to your database?

NB: This is an article from ARO Digital

It is essential to be clear about what segments you are targeting to fill your rooms. Think about tours, weddings, MICE, FITs, corporate and then consider for each of those segments what channels they can book via e.g. direct, OTA, GDS etc. Throughout the year this is likely to change so it is important to be flexible, and be able to pivot your organic and paid content to suit.

This is where a website which authentically represents your brand with great user experience, constantly updated SEO, high domain authority and a high converting booking engine is your greatest ally. In the summer months for example (depending on location) you may be able to shift room bookings away from corporate to more profitable independent travellers who book direct (the most profitable channel), stay for longer and tend to have a higher discretionary spend.

In whatever way the year pans out, with careful planning and a relentless focus on the numbers, the aim is not to be left panicking that occupancy is low with a week to go. This can lead to bad decisions which can be counterproductive.

If you lower the rate suddenly, existing bookers will cancel and rebook at the lower rate. The OTAs will pick up on the reduction and highlight it so you are then not only getting a lower rate but high OTA commission too. Worse, you risk diluting your brand long term if you become synonymous with sending out serial ‘last minute offer’ emails to your database.

A value add is always a good way to promote unsold rooms. Rather than reducing the price, maintain it and add a complementary bottle of wine or dinner offer. Use your social channels to promote this rather than emailing and then you come across as proactively adding value. Paid social media campaigns are effective in this situation and have a good ROI.

What happens if a tour group does cancel at the last minute leaving you with multiple rooms to fill? This is where not having overused your email subscriber list repays you. Email your guest database first to give loyal past customers first refusal (filtering out any booked guests for that month in case they cancel and rebook). Then go out to general subscribers (who may not have stayed previously) and also put it on social media if need be.

An email to guests who have booked for one night in the period of the group cancellation, offering them a special offer to extend their stay to two nights, can also be effective. Achieving occupancy targets is never going to be easy so all the more reason not to make it any harder. You do not have to do this in isolation. A great website, careful planning and a proactive digital agency with targeted strategies will help plot your way to smashing your goals.

Read the full article at ARO Digital