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It is every hotel manager’s goal to achieve a complete handle on their occupancy rate, diminish last-minute cancellations and prevent unnecessary overbooking. A particular sore point is a low occupancy in the slower months of the year when guest retention is crucial in order to keep a steady profit margin.

Planning for the off-season is a task which often spreads out throughout the year, and with the help of various marketing plans and promotions (and a bit of luck) you may make it through without incurring major losses and possibly making a profit.

Undoubtedly it can be quite frustrating to realize that something could have been done months prior to boost room bookings or to increase on-premise transactions for additional services. The following tips are worth revisiting in order to guarantee your establishment the best chances of increasing occupancy.

Create a Guest Loyalty Program
Loyalty programs have been part of the hospitality industry for decades, with some of the most illustrious establishments in the business using their programs as a powerful branding tool. A loyalty program is the best upsell you can give your establishment. It is a great free way to make guests feel exclusive and as such, they are more likely to sign up for additional services and maybe even upgrade to a better suite.
Read more: Upselling as a Way of Improving Guest Loyalty
The off-season is the best time of the year to make a great first impression, if occupancy is low then you can easily upgrade guests for no additional charge. This puts guests in a good mood from day one but it also leaves them with the impression that they are being cost-conscious by signing up for a bonus system which rewards them for their spending. In reality, this triggers the reverse effect and they are much more likely to splurge on additional services, allowing you to maximize your auxiliary revenue sources.
Set Room Rates in Accordance to Demand
Having a flexible room rate plan can be quite challenging for even the most seasoned hospitality provider which is why many choose to outsource the job to their property management system. Nowadays there are tools such as the integrated channel manager, which are specifically designed with the task of keeping your rates competitive and up to date with seasonal demand. This allows you to keep your room pricing progressive with very little effort on the part of your staff and management.
Read more: Essential Hotel Key Performance Indicators Hoteliers Must Track
Basing room rates on active data rather than historical data keeps your hand on the pulse of customer demand. Due to the oversaturation of alternative accommodation opportunities guests are often wary of low pricing, which can play a nasty trick on your establishment if you automatically slash prices in favour of occupancy. The result may leave you with empty rooms and empty pockets.
Set up an Event Planning Service
Offsetting your expenses during a low-profit season is never easy and is the main reason for hiring predominantly seasonal hotel staff. But many establishments rely on experienced hotel personnel to keep the daily operations of their business smooth and to further guarantee a respectable service to their guests. Having too many people on shift when the hotel is half-empty can seem like an unnecessary expense, but at the same time, no quality service provider wants to be caught understaffed by a last-minute check-in rush.
Read more: 3 Tips on Advancing Your Hotel’s Event Marketing Strategy
Such circumstances, however, do allow for the growth of new opportunities. Event-planning is an industry in and of itself, but it is often out of the financial reach of many people. If you were to retrain your indispensable personal to double as event coordinators and couple this with a marketing campaign focused on affordable event planning you could find yourself with another busy season. To further help with the task there is an event management tool integrated into Clock PMS+’s property management system which could allow your staff to communicate preparations more fluently while planning events.
Seek Out Corporate Partnerships
While you might be used to waiting for guests to seek you out in some cases the opposite approach might be necessary in order to secure a more profitable partnership. Businesses of all sizes often need venues and rooms for travel and event purposes. If you were to personalize a list of services with an appropriate corporate discount for low occupancy months you can both drive up business and secure a loyal customer, as corporate clients are more likely to seek you out if they know that you would be willing to offer them a better deal than your competitors.
Offer Package Deals To Encourage Last Minute Bookings
If you are strapped for time and need a quick marketing gimmick to increase bookings you could try limited time offers combined with Facebook advertisements. This kind of marketing campaign relies on drawing in local guests rather than focusing on tourists and business travellers.
Choose a focus group, for instance, couples in their mid-20s or 30s, and build an advertisement around a couples’ activity, such as a spa day, or a dinner date, something that could grab their attention. It is important to note two things here:
  • You are selling the service with the room being noted as a perk but still considered in the pricing of the package.
  • The offer is limited, be it in the number of reservations possible or the time frame it can be purchased in. Exclusivity creates demand.
  • Limited offers can give your establishment a much-needed revenue boost during a difficult season, and you can always diversify them, with a new kind of offer every week, giving guests something to expect if they were to follow your brand on social media.
    Build a Social Media Relationship with Your Guests
    It is news to no one that if a business wants to stand out and appeal to guest prospects they need to have a certain following online, also known as having clout. But clout is not something you can ask from your guests, and you simply cannot spam them with unnecessary queries and reminders to follow you on social media.
    Instead what you can do is to encourage them to post about their stay in less direct ways. Selfie-walls are a great way to build a following amongst your guests. You can have a specific corner set up in your lobby where guests can take pictures and post them on their social media, tagging your establishment in the process. It is something they were likely to do in the first place but they now have done so through branded content.
    Read more: 4 Social Media Marketing Tips for Hotels
    A social media following can be indispensable to improving room occupancy during slower months as it gives you a direct marketing tool to appeal to an already loyal customer base, with the added bonus of them sharing, tagging friends, or commenting on your posts which only broadens your campaign’s reach.
    At the end of the day there is no single fix that will instantly create more demand for your establishment's services during a slower period, so you must rely on diverse tactics to create interest where there might be none, to begin with. By being more flexible and trying new things you will find that you now understand your establishment’s role in meeting guest demand better than ever before, allowing you to capitalize on this knowledge for the years to come.

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    About Clock Software

    Clock Software is a global provider of cloud-based property management systems (PMS), integrated online distribution, online & kiosk hotel self check-in solutions and mobile & in-room guest engagement systems with customers in more than 65 countries.