REPORT FROM THE U.S—Hotel chains, online travel agents and coupon sites like Groupon and LivingSocial are all competing to make their Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions stand out this year.
While most hotel chains have added Black Friday and Cyber Monday specials during the past couple years, they are now competing with online marketers such as LivingSocial, Groupon Getaways by Expedia and Hotels.com – which has run a profitable Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaign for the past four years.
This year, hoteliers have stepped up their game with unique promotions, such as InterContinental Hotels Group’s “Gotta Get 100” campaign and Red Roof Inn’s “24-hour Cyber Monday Sale.”
IHG’s campaign offers travelers who uncover the “Gotta Get 100” link on the company’s Twitter feed and register for the promotion from 1 November through 28 November eligibility for US$100 off any flight when they book two consecutive weekend nights through 29 April. The promotion ends at the end of day 28 November, which is considered Cyber Monday.
Manager, leisure travel and U.S. marketing for IHG
Last year, IHG offered a US$50 airline credit for those who stayed one night on a weekend, and the promotion was very popular, according to a company executive. “The results were more than anticipated, and this year we are trending above what we did last year for registrations,” said Doug Dixon, manager, leisure travel and U.S. marketing, IHG.
IHG executives also expanded this year’s promotion to include both Priority Club and non-Priority Club members; last year, it was restricted to loyalty members.
“We wanted to celebrate the kickoff of the holiday season with an offer that is more lucrative than last year. This delivers a lot of value to the customer,” Dixon said.
This is the second year IHG is running a Black Friday/Cyber Monday promotion.
“We have seen how much retailers have benefitted from Black Friday. There is no reason why travel companies cannot benefit from this as well,” Dixon said.
Many hoteliers and online travel retailers are running the same campaigns that have been successful in past years.
Red Roof Inn’s “24-hour Cyber Monday Sale” produced such great results last year the company is running the same campaign this Cyber Monday. Last year’s 24-hour sale produced a 32% jump in online bookings and a 19% increase at the chain’s reservations center, compared to Cyber Monday the year before.
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“Last year was the first year that we ran a Cyber Monday promotion. We saw the trend on the retail side and how the media was picking it up,” Marina MacDonald, senior VP of sales and marketing at Red Roof Inn, said of the retail Cyber Monday promotions.
Again this year, travelers who book a room from 12 a.m. through 11:59 p.m. on 28 November receive a 15% discount on their next stay at participating Red Roof properties. Based on the success of its two other annual 24-hour sales, Red Roof executives anticipate a healthy spike in sales for Cyber Monday 2011.
“We are anticipating that online will be closer to a 40% increase, and our call center—which h has really increased this year from mobile—will likely be in the 20s,” MacDonald said.
Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions are popular, MacDonald said, because travelers are seeking value. “Our customer wants to travel, but make their dollars stretch. We want them to know they can travel and still have money in their pocket to go to shows and restaurants,” MacDonald said.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide is running its Cyber Monday Sale for the third year in a row. Travelers can receive discounts of up to 35% off at participating properties. Starwood Preferred Guest members receive exclusive access to Starwood’s pre-sale featuring a “stay one night and the next one 50% off” deal when they book a suite. Or, they can get discounts of up to 35% off standard rooms during the pre-sale.
Director, field marketing at Starwood
“Our sale last year drove significant revenue during the five-day sale period and drove incremental rooms, especially for our major urban destinations. This year, with more hotels participating along with more flexible offers, we are projecting to outperform last year’s results by about 20%,” said Sean Brevick, director, field marketing at Starwood.
Starwood executives opted to simplify this year’s Cyber Monday program. Instead of a multitude of unique offers for several properties, the hotel chain Is offering more consistent offers across properties. In addition, they added last-minute travel deals for stays in December, instead of just including stays from January through April 2012.
Third parties get involved
Meanwhile, Hotels.com is going back to the same promotion that has been profitable for the past three years: a four-day sale that runs from Black Friday through Cyber Monday. From 12 a.m. on Friday morning until 11:59 p.m. on Monday, more than 200 properties will be discounted by 50%. In addition, the first 500 customers receive a camcorder.
“There are so many kinds of deals out there. We want to establish ourselves as a key provider of travel deals in the marketplace,” said Miguel Oliveira, director of merchandising for the Americas at Hotels.com.
LivingSocial Escapes, meantime, is waiting until after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday hubbub dies down to feature a week of “Sunny Escapes.” From 30 November through 7 December, customers will be offered 50% off or more on vacation packages for stays in Mexico, the Caribbean and other warm locales. “We think there is going to be a lot of noise over those (four) days. We just want to give people a few days to get back from the madness of that weekend and get into their routine,” said Doug Miller, senior VP, new initiatives, for LivingSocial.