hotel destination marketing tips | hotel upselling

A question for you: is your hotel the main reason for guests to be visiting your area?  Perhaps you have a spa and run relaxation weekends.  Maybe you host major events.  It would be nice to think that your venue is the epicentre of your guests’ weekend, but for many, it’s probably more a matter of convenience.

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Regardless of how you might feel about the significant interest placed on millennials by seemingly every media outlet, the biggest generation in existence is definitely in the driving seat when it comes to the economy.This year they’ll outnumber baby boomers, so it’s important for businesses across all industries to cater to their needs in order to attract millennial customers.

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Some hotels try hard to be unique so that guests are more likely to come knocking, but the biggest influence on booking numbers will often be location, location, location. This doesn’t mean that all your other marketing efforts are in vain; it just makes it important to emphasise that your hotel is the gateway to an amazing destination.

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By going the extra mile as a hotelier, you’ll create experiences that guests share far and wide.

It’s a super-simple yet highly effective marketing strategy; you do what you do best and let guests do the talking. Thanks to the power and reach of social media, their effort alone will ensure your hotel lands in the news feeds of countless potential guests without a penny of marketing spend.

All that’s required is some time and ingenuity. Oh, and the following list of small yet brilliant touches that create a great, personalised guest experience:

1. Destination tips

Destination promotion is increasingly being used by hotels across the world to boost occupancy.

By talking about the area in which your hotel is located and providing insider tips on how to get the most out of a stay, you’ll attract the attention of guests who are seeking an authentic, local experience.

This strengthens your brand reputation, proves you’re about far more than just a bed for the night and raises your authority online.

You needn’t spend any money on destination promotion, either, just blog regularly about things to do in your town, city or village and include destination tips in your welcome packs.

2. Provide customer care on Twitter

This might sound a bit too corporate for your independent hotel, but customers expect businesses to respond to their criticism or praise on Twitter - no matter the industry.

For instance, if a guest has a less than enjoyable stay at your hotel and decides to make their feelings known on Twitter, they’ll probably mention you in their tweet. And this is great (no, really!), because it gives you the opportunity to jump into the conversation, reply and show the world that you care about the service you provide.

Be active on Twitter. Complaints will hopefully be few and far between, but aside from dealing with incoming flak, make sure you thank people who say nice things about your service. Search for hashtags relevant to your area, too, and get involved; demonstrate your knowledge of the area and give your hotel that all-important personality online.

3. Leave handwritten notes

In an age of social media, instant messaging and smartphone addiction, handwritten letters are unique, satisfying traditional and - most importantly - engaging.

Why not delight your guests by leaving handwritten notes in their room? If you’re abiding by GDPR rules and ethically collecting data about them, you could say happy birthday, invite the guest to try an update to the restaurant dish they enjoyed last time or simply thank them for staying at your hotel.

This requires minimal effort, yet is the kind of gesture that might make its way onto the social media feed of the guest you’ve delighted.

4. Surprise guests with in-room treats

During the booking process (be it online or over the phone), ask guests if they’re celebrating anything during their stay. Engagements, anniversaries and birthdays are common reasons for getaways, therefore if you’re aware of the special date, you can grab the opportunity to leave a little surprise in the room.

A complementary bottle of champagne, flowers or box of chocolates won’t break the bank, but will put a huge smile on the faces of guests who are in the mood for celebration.

And they won’t forget it!

5. Use a modern PMS

All four tips above can be undertaken without technology, but you’ll save considerable time if you have a modern PMS from which to gather the required data.

Personalising a guest experience starts with their profile on your PMS. The more you know about a guest, the more you can build a stay for them which will feel entirely their own. Old PMSs that don’t offer comprehensive guest profiling, GDPR compatibility or integration with guest feedback platforms simply don’t cut it anymore, and you don’t need to spend a fortune to upgrade, thanks to cloud computing.

Wrapping up

What have we missed? If you’ve experienced success by personalising your guests’ experiences and don’t mind sharing them with the world (hey, we’re all in this together, right?), let us know in the comments section, below!

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The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is set to lurch into life on May 25th, and the chances are, you’ll already have spent a lot of time and effort preparing for its arrival.

Despite this, and with such a big change to regulation, it’s always sensible to run through some final checks to make sure that you’re not missing anything obvious before the new rules come into effect.

Here are a few steps you can take to prepare your hotel for the GDPR and to help you avoid the fines that might hit hard if you ignore it.

1. Refresh staff on the GDPR’s requirements

The people who need to be most on top of GDPR-related issues are your staff.

It’s a good idea to gather up your team, go over the implications of the new data regulations and make sure they’re up to speed with the changes.

2. Check with third-party partners

Stricter privacy rules don’t just apply to the way you handle guest data in-house; it’s also important that any third-party platforms used to take bookings and manage your hotel are compliant.

Get in touch with whichever OTAs and PMS providers you use to ensure that they’re all set for the GDPR (if you haven’t heard from them already – no news isn’t good news when it comes to the GDPR).

3. Engage guests to build trust

Once the GDPR is enforced, it’s a good idea to keep your guests abreast of the changes and demonstrate that your hotel is aware of its new obligations.

The easiest way to do this is at check-in, when you can let guests know that their personal details will be protected once they’re in your care.

Because this regulation has been so highly publicised, with most people encountering the effects of it in their own workplaces and email inboxes, a hotel which doesn’t showcase GDPR-savvy policies might raise concerns.

4. Update your website

All of the information about how you manage guest data should be available to review online, but don’t just rely on third party platforms to take care of this responsibility.

Check your hotel website and make sure that it features a revised privacy policy which reflects the rules of the GDPR.

5. Contact customers

Most independent hotels will have a mailing list or loyalty scheme aimed at keeping customers informed of news and offers.

You should get in touch with everyone on your books to let them know of any changes to your policies and practices that have been motivated by the GDPR.

This is also a great opportunity to ask your customers to confirm that they still want to be subscribed to your mailing list, while simultaneously reminding them that your hotel exists and that it’s now fully compliant with the new regulations.

6. Plan for problems

Data breaches are unavoidable, and if one of the third-party platforms you use is hit by cyber crime, your hotel will be required to let its customers know.

It’s a case of planning for the worst-case scenarios before they happen so that you’re prepared, rather than being struck by a data security disaster without having contingencies in place.

Wrapping up

Feeling panicky about the GDPR? It might seem daunting, but by this point you should only need to do a few final checks to stay on the right side of the regulations.

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Welcome Systems is fully backing the Cut Tourism VAT campaign, because we absolutely agree with its request for the Government to reduce VAT on tourist accommodation from 20% to 5%.

Thirty-one European countries already enjoy the benefits of reduced tourism VAT. It results in more business investment and savings passed onto consumers, while UK tourism firms battle with a VAT rate which is almost double that of the European Union average.

This isn’t right; it needs to change. And although we doubt you need convincing, we thought we’d take this opportunity to summarise the campaign:

The main benefits of a reduced VAT rate

Everyone would benefit from a VAT rate reduction in tourism; there are no losers.

Even the government would enjoy greater tax revenue, with experts predicting that in the third year after its implementation, the policy would raise over £363 million for the Exchequer.

There would likely be an increase in exporting, too. Tourism is the UK’s sixth largest export earner, and a rate reduction would increase the number of exports while improving the country’s trade balance by £23 billion over ten years.

Here’s three more compelling benefits the reduced VAT rate would bring:

  • Higher employment: 121,000 new jobs would be created over the course of ten years, along with far-reaching social and economic benefits
  • Stronger regional investment: more investment will be generated for businesses across the country, particularly in tourist hotspots such as seasides
  • Stronger international competitiveness: cheaper UK holidays should incentivise more foreign tourists to choose this country for their vacation

What role will Brexit play?

Brexit isn’t a barrier to the change of VAT rate - it can be brought into effect immediately, because there’s no requirement for legislation at EU level.

With the hospitality industry determined to respond to the challenges of Brexit, a reduction in tourism VAT may also help businesses counter the impact of loosing certain freedoms associated with EU membership, such as access to the Single Market.

Will a VAT cut help growth?

Put simply - yes! Tourism benefits communities and the economy quite unlike many other industries. In some places, it’s a primary source of employment.

A reduction in tourism VAT would support 2.4 million jobs outside of London, assist regions that haven’t recovered from the recession and offer vital support to SMEs.

The latter is particularly important, because SMEs make up 80% of all tourism and hospitality businesses. They need help from the government if they’re to grow, and a VAT cut would have a near immediate, positive impact on their ability to do so.

How would the cut work?

As previously noted, there’s nothing holding the government back - they could reduce the VAT rate tomorrow.

What’s more, it was revealed by Treasury Advisor Professor Adam Blake that a cut in tourism VAT is “one of the most efficient, if not the most efficient, means of generating GDP gains at a low cost to the Exchequer”.

The cut would also increase competition in the industry by compelling operators to lower their prices. Indeed, Merlin Entertainment and Butlin’s have already both vowed to pass on every penny of the savings to customers.

Want to know more? Simply download the official Cut Tourism VAT factsheet, which is packed full of further details. 

Got something to say? Tell us what you think about the campaign in the comments section below. After all, the more noise we all make, the more chance there is that something will be done!

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The world is driven by the connectivity, content and methods of communication the internet has delivered. And it’s absolutely everywhere.

Virtually every public place and method of transport now has some form of connectivity that enables us all to enjoy high speed internet access on our devices, without paying a penny.

If you’re a hotelier, you can no longer get away with rubbish Wi-Fi. There - we said it. And, if you’re yet to upgrade yours, we’d like to offer five myths about hotel internet connections we feel compelled to dispel:

Myth 1: Your current gear will last for ages

Sorry - it won’t.

In the last decade, we’ve seen countless Wi-Fi standard and methods of security arrive, achieve adoption and then be superseded.

Things move on in tech - fast - and if you hang onto your same internet gear for as long as you can, guests will eventually suffer from slower speeds, incompatibility with newer devices and, worst of all, poor security.

Build a Wi-Fi refresh into your budget at least every three to five years.

Myth 2: You can set it up and manage it yourself

Even if you’re relatively tech savvy, you’re still the owner of an independent hotel, and that’s not the sort of job where you have five minutes spare to fix an dynamic IP address issue on your router.

Instead, make sure you invest in the services of someone who can set up and maintain your internet connection. It’ll be one of the best investments you make, because they’ll ensure your connection is configured properly and will be on hand when it all comes crashing down (which it will).

Myth 3: Guests will pay extra for decent Wi-Fi

Take a trip to your local shopping centre and there’s a strong chance you’ll be able to log onto Wi-Fi that’s fast enough for a bout of browsing and video streaming.

It’ll have been free, too, like most Wi-Fi connections these days.

Are you still charging for access to Wi-Fi or offering a paired-down connection for guests who aren’t willing to pay?

You won’t win many rave reviews if so.

Myth 4: Decent Wi-Fi will cost the hotel fortune

Good news: it won’t.

Speak to two or three providers and ask them to quote. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the packages they offer and the various ways in which you can finance the hardware.

Remember - great, free Wi-Fi will make your guests very happy indeed, and if they return, any investment you’ve made in your internet infrastructure will have played its role handsomely.

Myth 5: Guests will bring their own internet connectivity

Granted - most of your guests will have access to smartphones that have 3G or 4G internet connectivity, but don’t assume they’ll use it over free Wi-Fi.

Most simply won’t. Regardless of the connection symbol displayed on their phone, they’ll usually seek an alternative that won’t cost them anything or eat into their data allowance.

Furthermore, people still use laptops and tablets that don’t have built-in cellular connectivity, and they absolutely need a route into the digital domain.

Wrapping up

If we still haven’t convinced you to review the Wi-Fi connectivity you provide guests, there’s one last thing you can try.

Take a look at a few random TripAdvisor reviews and make a note of how many contain negative comments about poor internet connectivity. Do you want to number among them?

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Large hotels often benefit from dedicated revenue managers who’s job it is to scour the market, looking for opportunities to maximise room rates for profitability and occupancy.

If you’re running a small hotel, we’re going to take a wild guess that you probably haven’t got a revenue manager.

It’s you, isn’t it?

Only, you’re the gardener, too. And occasional chef. Oh, and because Michael’s decided to take the week off and head to Corfu, you’ve got to run reception, as well.

Every hotelier (ok, most) are busy - particularly at this time of year - but that shouldn’t make it impossible to work on pricing strategies that ensure the hotel remains full for the rest of the year and beyond.

Here’s five ingenious pricing strategies for small hotels:

1. Go for a super-low rate

The proverbial ‘dropping of one’s trousers’ when it comes to room pricing might feel somewhat demeaning, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with occasionally offering a super-low rate.

Make it clear that this is an incredibly rare occurrence and that you’ve implemented it to give as many people as possible the chance to check out how awesome your hotel is, and you’ll inevitably raise occupancy levels.

Just make sure you hike the prices back up sharpish and work hard to retain your new customers’ business in future (at standard rates!).

2. Justify a price hike

If the thought of super-low rates has made you feel faint, there’s another option.

Jack them up!

Feels better, eh?

If you can raise the price of your rooms above that of the competition, you have the perfect opportunity to explain why yours are worth the extra spend.

Throw in a few extras, by all means, but be bold enough to point out that your hotel is worth more than the lowly-priced competition.

3. Capture the middle ground

If you align the prices of your basic rooms with the cheapest market pricing and set the rates for your other rooms closer to your competitors’ base level pricing, you should put your hotel squarely in front the middle market.

Oh, and you’ll still be capturing the lower and higher markets, too - thus killing three birds with one stone, as it were.

4. Take a leaf out of the retailer’s book

When you buy something in a supermarket, it’s rarely a rounded price. Rather than £10, it’ll be £9.99.

You can do the same with your room rates. And, yes, this may feel a bit ‘cheap’ and ‘retail-y’, but that’s the point; we know consumers react well to such pricing strategies, so why not take advantage of them in the hospitality industry?

5. Price match

If all else fails - go for the jugular and price match your competitors.

This is what revenue managers spend a great deal of their time doing, because it remains an effective pricing strategy for most hotels.

If you’re forever cursing the hotel down the road that seems to be overflowing with guests, there’s a reason they’re doing so well, and it may be because you’re either too cheap or expensive by comparison.

Equally, if they’re that busy, there are clearly a great number of new guests to be had, therefore you’ll stand a far better chance of competing if you do so on a level playing field.

Wrapping up

You’ve got time to work on the above, we promise. And, if you don’t think you have - make time, because if you don’t, the competition will gain a significant lead.

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Get a FREE 2 month trial of the Welcome Anywhere hotel booking system and RateManager by BookingSuite!

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Independent hoteliers failing to take control of their online presence and bookings this summer could be missing a massive opportunity, according to John Jones, MD of Welcome Systems Ltd.

“For many, staying in a hotel is no longer an extravagance,” he explains. “It is much more affordable and frequent, meaning there is huge potential for hoteliers to capitalise on the summer period.”

However, despite the latest stats indicating 16 million more nights were spent in European hotels than the previous year, the UK has seen the biggest fall in bookings with a drop of -15.4%.

While the growth of ‘industry disruptors’ like Airbnb may bear some responsibility for these figures, John believes that it is up to hoteliers to raise their game in an increasingly competitive market.

He continues: “This isn’t about just competing on price, but also on services and experience. Our research shows that booking a hotel room is often viewed as the least enjoyable part of a holiday.

“We’ve found there are hundreds of online booking systems on the market, all with one common problem - confusing web layouts, a mass of options and text-heavy pages.”

As a result Welcome Systems Ltd is launching its new ‘Book Yourself Full 2017’ summer campaign, designed to help hoteliers achieve maximum occupancy with the least amount of work and stress.

“By signing up for our weekly newsletter, hoteliers will gain exclusive access to a wealth of top tips and hacks on achieving the ultimate booking simplicity and efficiency,” adds John.

“We’ll be covering everything from developing social media campaigns, improving in-room experiences and accepting contactless payments, through to mastering hotel websites and dealing with negative reviews, plus webinars and podcasts with key industry players and special guests."

Too busy to plan ahead?

We often hear that hoteliers are simply 'too busy' during the summer to do anything more than oversee the daily running of their business.

Unfortunately, this leaves a whole raft of opportunities untapped and means planning for the quieter months takes a back seat.

That gave us an idea...

“We’re offering the first 100 hotels to register for Welcome Systems’ newsletter before the end of July 2017, a free two-month trial of our Welcome Anywhere PMS and its integration with RateManager by BookingSuite," explains John. "However, we appreciate how busy hoteliers are at this time of year, which is why we're suggesting they focus on their business during the summer and have the system installed in September. We're even providing them with a free stress buster to get them through this period!"

To find out more and sign up for two free months* of Welcome Anywhere and RateManager by BookingSuite, click below:

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