The economy, the economy, and more about the economy - Enough already!! I don't know about you, but I have had it up to here with a constant barrage of stories about earnings reports, the failure of our banking system, business travel cutbacks – actually cutbacks of all types – and foreclosure rates.
We are all well aware - we are in a recession!
What I would like to talk about is how we may improve the situation, specifically for the lodging industry. Certainly, the travel sector has been hit particularly hard and is a cause for concern among many of my clients – hoteliers and vacation rental managers. The few consumers (business and leisure) that are traveling are looking for a deal and in some cases, a steal. It really has come down to price and value, a complete 180 from when consumers would book with a particular hotel because of brand loyalty alone.
So in this economy, when you cannot afford to discount (and really, you should not be because that is just putting you in a tough position once the market does recover, and it will), how do you make your property stand out? Which perks and value-adds should you push and which ones should you avoid (like the swine flu)? How should you feature these perks on your site to make sure that consumers find your hotel or vacation rental property when surfing through the options online?Free Wi-Fi
In the past, travelers went on vacation to "get away" – away from work, away from family, away from the drama and stress of their everyday lives. But Gen X/Ys do not want to get away, instead they want to travel and still be connected to their friends, family, Facebook… the list goes on and on. Free Wi-Fi is almost a necessity today for anyone hoping to bring in that valuable demographic.Tickets to Area Attractions
When budgets are tight, many travelers have to choose – go away or spend money on tourist attractions. So why not make it easy for them to do both? When they stay at your property, offer them promotions or discounted tickets to shows, parks, restaurants, or other nearby attractions. This can give you a huge advantage over other properties where they would have to pay full price for their attractions.
Cross marketing and promotions with local businesses both provides an opportunity to get to know your neighbors and community better and also leads to more business! Also, consider offering complimentary on-site perks like visitor access at a gym, a bottle of wine in the room or beach chair rental. Free Nights
If you were booking a trip and one hotel that you were considering offered you nothing special but the second hotel offered you a free night, would you think twice about choosing the latter property over the former? Probably not. Right now, consumers are looking to get the best possible deal.
They love any value-added service but the biggest perk is getting something for free so offer them an extra night for free when your availability allows. While they may not have been planning to stay that extra night, who would not choose to extend their vacation for free? And just think, during that extra night, they will spend money at your property on things like food, drinks and amenities, which will help to cover the costs for this perk.Loyalty Programs
We have all heard that it costs substantially more to gain a new client than to entice an existing or past client to come back. So focus on the people who have already experienced your property and who (hopefully!) enjoyed their stay. Many hotels and vacation rental properties to encourage repeat business are using loyalty programs. They are not expensive to implement or run and often, consumers perceive perks earned through a loyalty program as being much more valuable, placing them in ‘VIP' status.And now the important part
– how to feature these perks on your website to make sure that a viewer notices them? We have found that by studying a consumer's booking behaviors we may utilize that knowledge to display perks attractively in plain view, with minimal clicks to get there, and never leaving your site and your brand, providing a ‘one-stop-shop' for the consumer. All these measures prompt calls-to-action and translate into increased bookings.
So forget discounting and embrace the perks that will increase bookings, but without putting your brand (and your future revenues) at risk. Your property will thank you for it long after the recession is over.Rob Käll is the president and co-founder of Bookt, a comprehensive web services provider to the global vacation rental and hotel industry, delivering seamless integration and turn-key web solutions. The company provides a complete range of services for vacation rental managers, hoteliers, tour operators, developers and larger travel organizations, from sophisticated website development, online marketing services, search engine optimization and CRM strategies. For more information or to take Bookt's interactive quiz to gauge your website's effectiveness, visit www.bookt.com Rob Käll
Phone: 305.760.4576 ext. 901