Independent hotels around the U.S. are boosting business outside of peak season through special events and promotions.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Whether it’s a hotel that’s open year-round or one that’s only open a few months during the year, hoteliers and sales-and-marketing experts at independent hotels have found ways to bring in business beyond their peak season.
The Grand Hotel in Mackinac Island, Michigan, opens in late April or early May and closes for the season at the end of October. Dan Musser, president at the Grand, said the hotel operates for 180 days or so each year.
To boost business toward the end of the season in September and October, the hotel hosts a jazz festival around Labor Day, sees good meetings business in September, and hosts other groups such as girls’ weekends and murder mystery dinners, Musser said.
“Usually our last weekend is our ‘Somewhere in Time’ weekend, which honors and celebrates the hotel’s role in that movie. It was filmed here in 1979,” he said.
The hotel staff recently came up with the idea to have guests help clean up the place on the last day it is open, Musser said. Guests bring in rocking chairs and other items, and help clean out the refrigerator by eating from a buffet of whatever food is left over.
Musser said it gives guests some ownership in the hotel.
At The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake in Geneva, Ohio, the hotel pads its shoulder seasons in spring and fall with events to keep business flowing around the peak summer season, said Daisy Hall, marketing manager at The Lodge.
The top event in the fall and spring is a five-course dinner paired with local wines, Hall said. A similar beer-tasting dinner also happens in the fall, which has become more popular than the wine-tasting event due to the growing popularity of craft beers.
The hotel also offers zip line courses during peak season and in the fall in conjunction with Lake Erie Canopy Tours, she said.
Golf packages and events
The Grand View Lodge in Minnesota has a few championship golf courses, which helps the hotel book rooms during its less busy season in the fall, according to Frank Soukup, director of marketing at Grand View.
“The golf groups really come up a lot in the fall, largely because the courses are in the best shape that they ever can be,” he said. “They’ve had all year to procure; plus, when the fall colors start to change, it’s really a beautiful place to be.”
The hotel also hosts a “Golftoberfest” the first weekend of October, he said, which includes unlimited golfing for three days, free beer, food and live music performed by big bands.
While many hotels see summertime as their high season, the Sundara Inn & Spa in Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, sees the bulk of its business in the fall when kids are back in school and parents might have more time and help to get away for a relaxing weekend, said Alyssa Mullin, director of resort operations at Sundara.
The hotel is a truly year-round destination, Mullin said, which has various pools, spa treatments and other amenities that are available throughout the year. But during the hotel’s offseason, more business is brought in by re-promoting the amenities offered, as well as highlighting different specials, packages and select rates.
At The Woodlands Resort in Texas, the property is working on programming for community classes “including mixology experiences and cooking (demonstrations) with discounts to stay for dinner at Robard's Steakhouse,” Wendi Gelfound, area director of marketing at The Howard Hughes Corporation, which manages the property, said in an email interview.
Summer business at The Woodlands is more family-oriented, Gelfound said, while “the resort targets couples in the fall for romantic getaways.”