It is a no-brainer that peak seasons are preferred by hoteliers as they can enjoy high level of demand and therefore reach full hotel occupancy more easily. However, this period does not last forever. That is why hoteliers need to be proactive and able to forecast when the low season will occur. Being prepared for low period season can help hoteliers to better allocate hotel expenses and therefore to optimize its profitability. Also, the hospitality landscape changed so much those last decades that low season does not rhyme any more with low revenue. At the opposite, this is the opportunity for hoteliers to rethink their business and to propose a new guest experience aligned with market trends.
Items to consider when creating a “low period business plan”
Before sharing some ideas to know how to boost hotel demand in winter, let’s go through few tips that can help hoteliers to create a relevant ‘low period business plan’ and go off the beaten track:
Broaden your horizons
Segmentation is one pillar of revenue management but can easily be made by automation rather than being challenged by the new customer’s behaviours of today. During the winter season, it is even more important to identify the different niche markets and be able to target their needs accordingly.
- Families with kids: families can help to fill up hotel occupancy whether they are domestic or international and are looking for both relaxing and friendly activities.
- Bleisure travellers: while also here for work, they will enjoy having some leisure activities included in their schedule.
- Pet-friendly travellers: currently limited to be accommodated in a certain hotel chain or Airbnb, 37% of families and 53% of all travellers take holidays with their pet (Condor Ferries, 2021).
- Boomers: currently in between their 57 to 75 years, boomers generally have a higher budget for their travels and contribute to 80% of all spending on luxury travels (Condor Ferries, n.d.)
Personalize your pricing
Personalized pricing is a pricing model which targets individuals rather than a group of people. By pricing by individuals, businesses aim first to determine the customer’s willingness to pay to determine, afterwards, the price matching their purchasing power. Adopting a more tailored pricing approach can help hoteliers to broaden their market during the low period season and better target the different willingness to pay of their different customers. Taking the example of pet-friendly travellers; setting a specific price for those who want to bring their lovely friend on their travel can help hoteliers to optimize revenue and engage with a new target audience, which if satisfied, can entice demand on long-term.
While loyalty programs help hoteliers to manage customer experiences, they become even more relevant during low season. Thanks to their database, hotel loyalty programs provide hoteliers with an extensive list of ‘contacts’ to welcome in winter. Implementing a relevant loyalty marketing campaign allow encouraging revisits and get better returns from repeat customers. Researches highlight that loyal customers are less price-elastic, book more frequently, have a higher average spending per stay and have a more valuable customer lifetime value than new customers.
Ideas to boost demand in your hotel this winter
One of the most challenging parameters for the hospitality sector is seasonal occupancy. Indeed, the arrival of winter for urban hotels is not as expected as for ski resorts. That is why hoteliers need to use their imagination and creativity to stay ahead of the competition even during low peak periods.
During the low season, the challenging part is to create new offerings. Staying engaged with other businesses around could help to entice demand. During winter, there are usually different categories of leisure or business events taking place. Also, during low season, hotels might have great empty spaces to be optimized. Therefore, according to your facility and property type, you might want to approach their organizer with the hope to create partnerships. This could allow you to promote your hotel for free as well as securing some bookings. Identifying the upcoming concerts, marathons, festivals, exhibitions, or conventions in your surrounding area could help your hotel to be the venue choice for those travellers. For example, why not renting a hotel lobby as a workspace or library? Or a meeting room for yoga classes or exhibitions? Let’s note that the use of technology can help hoteliers to manage fast turn-over and automated sales, and therefore to be more attractive for group bookings during the off-season.
Hotels have the capacity to increase the value of their services and proposed experience by promoting packages. Instead of offering discounts, providing a ‘winter package’ can help hoteliers to promote and optimize several outlets during the low season as well to elevate customer’s experience. In addition, combining revenue management techniques and package offers can help to promote extended length of stay and therefore boost occupancy. The package is a great tool to provide a personalized experience to niche market’s audiences. There is a long list of packages that could be offered based on the hotel facilities and targeted audience such as ‘Spa lunch package’, ‘ Stay & Cocktail Master Class’, or even packages with external activities such as ‘Stay and Exhibition’ package.
Keep an eye on the agenda
When it is more complicated to boost hotel occupancy, keeping a closed eye on the national and international agenda can help to find new marketing content and attract some bookings, such for example promoting national holidays and events. Having a marketing plan for those events can encourage direct bookings and long stays to all segment types. The key event during winter remains Christmas, but there are a lot of small events on the side that can help to fill up the occupancy during the low season, such as the Black Friday or Sport Events!
Launch F&B pop-ups
While international travellers might not come especially for your F&B offerings, your local community might do! Indeed, while businesses are recovering from the Covid-19 pandemic, we can already assess people’s tendency of travelling closer to their homes. What is right around us become more important as domestic demand is rising. As its name implies, pop-up restaurants are temporary restaurants with fun food concepts looking for the ideal location to showcase such as hotels. Pop-ups can be a good opportunity to reinvent hotel offerings and stimulate demand during the low season due to its temporary existence. According to Melissa Gonzalez, chief pop-up architect for retail strategy firm The Lionesque Group, the hotels welcoming its pop-ups registered a 20 per cent increase in the guest room and event space bookings (Skift, 2018). On top of creating great partnerships with Chef and famous brands, pop-ups offer hotel’s customer a more interactive and unique experience.
Cosy-up your rooms
During winter, people are looking for a cosy and comfortable place to stay. From the mattress of the bed to the pillow to the temperature and lights you chose, the perfect room is the result of a combination of details. More specifically, room amenities can play an important role in guest satisfaction and point of sales, as well as in providing simple marketing content during winter. Easily replaceable, room amenities can be changed according to the season and target audience and create the ‘wow’ effect. During the low season, they can help to increase room’s added value and boost demand if they are broadly promoted on social media and booking platforms. Making your hotel rooms cosy and attractive in winter can be simple and cheap, such as by including complimentary books or local products in the room. What about providing in-room work-out equipment for healthy travellers? Or Netflix film selection for families?
In a nutshell, the winter season does not always induce low occupancy and empty corridors. At the opposite, the low peak period can be the opportunity for innovative hoteliers to stand out of the crowd. By being proactive and adopting a flexible approach to segmentation and pricing, hoteliers can reverse the trend!
- Condor Ferries. (2021). Pet Travel Statistic 2020-2021. Retrieved from Condor Ferries
- Condor Ferries. (n.d.). Baby Boomer Travel Statistics 2020-2021. Retrieved from Condor Ferries:
- Skift. (2018, 05 15). Hotels Experiment With Pop-Ups to Attract New Audiences. Retrieved from Skift