If you are a new hotelier, then you probably know that, by opening a new hotel, you are entering a very competitive and saturated market. You are going to have to stand out apart from the crowd to succeed. Excellent service and, depending on your target audience, comfort, great menus, and reasonable prices are only part of the equation. You will have to get noticed first. That means marketing - pure and simple. Fortunately, today there are many ways to handle this. Here are some guidelines on how you can successfully penetrate an already inundated market and thrive.
Find your niche
You can’t appeal to everybody. Segment your market: decide exactly what types of guests you want to attract, and develop your unique sales propositions (USPs) accordingly. Here are some possibilities:
Families may be the perfect guest profile for you, because they tend to travel often. But there are many different types of family customers, for example:
- Traditional: One or more parents and one or more children
- Multi-generational: Grandparents, parents and kids
- Variable: Grandparents may take grandkids on vacation; or adult siblings and spouses may travel together without their kids
Develop a family-friendly offer. Be sensitive to children’s needs. Those personal touches count. For example, give children something to do while the parents check in: coloring in, action figures, selected TV programs to watch, or even a “kiddie cocktail” – ice cream floats, fruit juice, or “Chocatinos”.
Millennials, or Gen Y, are young, hip and now represent 20% of international tourism.
This target audience is tech-savvy and they know how to search for and find good hotel deals. They’re also very vocal and will not hesitate to share their honest opinions on review sites and social media if your facilities and services do not come up to expectations.
Make sure you provide online convenience. This means having a great, easy-to-navigate website, and a very visible social media presence. Allow them to learn about your establishment, read reviews, view pictures, and easily and securely book with online payments, from any device. Perhaps you can even integrate an online payments solution like Direct Pay Online to offer even more convenience and give your guests the feeling that you are modern – like they are!
This type of guest is constantly connected to his or her social networks, and they will actively post to them while they travel: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and you can expect them to share their experiences – positive and negative – online, immediately, with thousands of contacts all over the world.
Free Wi-Fi is a must. Make sure it’s a good, stable connection with a lot of bandwidth. It’s becoming even more important than having a TV in the room.
Business Travelers account for a third of business flight passengers in the US (according to Tourism Review). Convenience is the most important priority for them, along with excellent customer service, cleanliness, and comfort.
Again, free Wi-Fi is an absolute must because they need to check their emails and work online much of the time.
Solo Travelers seem to be mainly in the older age brackets, with 44% of travel agency solo clients being 55 or older. Older travelers also have more time and money to take solo trips.
Make sure they can book a room in your hotel through a booking engine or OTA (online travel agent) in their country or one that manages the language translation for you, like TripAdvisor, Booking.com, Hotels.com, etc.
Cater to older guests by providing a quieter environment, great service, high quality – but inexpensive – food and a few small touches, like a welcome note from the manager, a fruit basket, chocolates on the pillows, etc. Let them know they are appreciated and that you’d love to see them – and their friends – return.
Build hotel brand loyalty
Ensure that your brand is present in every single thing you do in your property. Branding is not just a visual identity and what your reception area looks like. It flows through every single fiber of your establishment.
Focus on customer service; your sign-in experience can be the most important and impressionable part of a guest’s entire visit. Offer loyalty programs and be creative with incentives: Free Wi-Fi goes without saying these days; offer spa and gym vouchers, complimentary meals, discounts for guest referrals, touring information, “frequent flyer” stays, and so on. These are a few ways you can build loyalty to your brand.
Differentiate your hotel from others. Pay close attention to your decor and have a unique interior design theme; for example, a “retro” look; maybe a “green” theme, in which the lobby is a living garden...be creative, be different, stand out from the crowd.
Use social media effectively
Use it effectively to create awareness and prioritize personal interaction; allow guests to book directly from social media pages and make sure you have social media links on your website to drive more bookings.
Another idea is to incorporate social elements into your existing mobile app so your hotel guests can connect, ask questions, and share photos, like The Marriot and Ritz Carleton have done.
User-generated content from Facebook and Twitter can be leveraged to strengthen lead generation, marketing, and guest engagement. You can display user-generated content on a centrally located display screen in lobbies or each room, like how the Four Seasons Dallas does.
Potential guests not only research online before they book, but are also heavily influenced by reviews and recommendations. Aggregate positive social posts about your location and brand right next to the reservation page. Use your own branded Facebook page to keep your visitors up to date with the latest news and discounts linked directly to your site. Information like this should always be front and center so the guest does not need to search. Check out this blog post for other tips on how to design your hotel website.
Using social media correctly, can lead to strong marketing opportunities. Apply it to other amenities as well. For example, ordering room service via direct messages on social networks by providing a dedicated hashtag to tweet members of the concierge staff with requests.
Keep on top of trends
Constantly research new trends which you can leverage to promote your establishment. Take advantage of changes and fill any gaps in the market. For example, make it known that you only use eco-friendly cleaning materials; build your reputation as a hotel that caters to people with specific dietary needs – vegetarian and vegan menus, gluten free dishes, and so on.
The wider you spread the story of your hotel, the more interest you will gain. Ensure you follow hotel marketing best practices, and make sure that whatever you say and claim can be backed up by your actions. In today’s socially connected world, any false claims will be discovered – and spread throughout social networks – almost immediately. While the hospitality business is one of the oldest ones in the world and, thus, is very saturated, there are many ways to start and operate a successful hotel, today.