As the summer leisure season nears its end, hoteliers in the U.S. said they have strategies in place to help get that last push of business through the early fall to extend a period of high demand.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Hoteliers in the U.S. know the summer leisure season is wrapping up soon, but with a few strategies in place early on, it’s possible to keep business on the books to extend the season.
Hotel News Now asked experts via email what strategies they are implementing.
Destinie Collins, GM of the Hampton Inn & Suites in Destin, Florida, said her property’s summer season typically runs from the end of May to the middle of August once schools are back in session.
Her team starts thinking about the end of the third and fourth quarters at the beginning of each year because they know that time of year needs the most attention, she said. They then will put rate strategies into place to make sure they are in line with where the hotel needs to be to capture what is coming to the market, she said.
“At the beginning of each year, we review the chamber events calendar and go after any sports events that are coming to the area,” she said. “We also prospect any festivals or concerts that will be bringing in large amounts of people.”
Looking back at past groups—ones they’ve both won and lost—is key, Collins said, and the strategy is to go after repeat business ahead of time.
However, repeat groups aren’t the only ones that her hotel tries to re-book, she said. Her team will also reach out to guests that stay at the property over key holidays and invite them back.
Offer discounts, weekend packages
Collins said Destin is the backyard to multiple military bases, and her hotel uses that to its advantage. Her team will visit the bases throughout the year to get in front of different decision-makers for incoming groups and will target needed dates, she said.
“We also stay involved with military family events to keep the families informed of our property and what we have to offer them, such as military discounts, or even remind them that we are a good option for incoming visiting family members,” she said.
Since most states in the U.S. have tax-free holidays, Collins likes to use that as a way to help get that last push of business. This year, Florida’s tax-free weekend is 2 to 6 August. To advertise that, her team will publish ads and flyers that will offer a discount off of the room rate during the tax-free weekend, she said.
Many hotels offer long weekender rates, too. For the Hampton Inn & Suites Destin, long weekender rates are valid for members of the Hilton Honors program. If a guest books Friday and Saturday, this allows them to get 50% off of Sunday, she said.
Collins said partnering with local chambers of commerce allows her hotel to have links available on their sites, which will take the traveler directly to the hotel’s site to book directly. She said her hotel is also listed with the AAA Tour Book to help capture AAA members.
“Packages have also really helped us extend the season,” she said. “For example, we have offered a ‘weekend getaway package’ that include daily breakfast, late check-out and premium Wi-Fi. When guests book this package, they feel like they are getting an added bonus that really doesn’t cost us anything.”
Jason D’Agostino, director of revenue management at Rochester, New York-based Visions Hotels, said his company focuses on packages, points promotions, leveraging opportunities set forth by brand partners and holidays during September and October to help extend the summer season.
He noted that results are always better with strong group business, but sometimes that doesn’t always happen.
“When it doesn’t, it comes back to the basics—price correctly, online visibility, guest satisfaction,” he said.
However, each hotel is unique, so it’s best to understand the market and competitive set before executing any strategy. At Visions Hotels, D’Agostino said his team looks for a mix in business as a demand mix will “result in optimized revenue.”
When it comes to discounting, he said having multiple rates on the shelf is beneficial in creating a solid base.
Peter Lawrence, owner of Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn, New York, said in an email interview that creating interesting experiences for his guests and community members has always been important, but even more so when extending a season.
“Our team recently collaborated with (a record label, creative agency and visual art studio) to develop an amazing performance series for Lemon’s—our new rooftop bar,” he said. “Planning performances through September helps us extend the summer all the way into October. People are back in the city, and the weather is still amazing in Brooklyn. We want to celebrate that with our guests.”
Get in front of the audience
Today’s traveler is constantly relying on their smartphone, Collins said, so a hotel needs to stay up to date with social media marketing. Advertising in real time is the most beneficial way to stay in front of an audience, she added.
“We will publish multiple posts throughout the day to help grab the attention of our diverse drive market travelers,” she said. “Posting photos that allow our customers to relate to and immerse in the experience that is happening now only wants to make them pack up and head to the beach.”
She suggested posts that point to local attractions and focus on what makes the hotel’s surrounding area unique.
On a more personal level, Collins said each October Destin is home to the Destin Fishing Rodeo, so in September “you can find the sales team and myself down at the docks chatting it up with the charter boat captains, handing out treats and discount cards for our property.”
Those early-morning visits a month before the event helps capture referrals for the captains when the tourists call to book their fishing trips, she said.
Lastly, Collins said implementing a competition among the staff is a fun way to encourage them to find out more about guests and potentially capture future bookings.
“We put in place a hot leads competition,” she said. “This allows the front-desk (staff) to talk to the guests who are checking in and find out more information about them. It allows them to find out what they are here and if they are returning. Turning in a lead information sheet to the sales team earns that desk agent points in the competition and then possibly money.”